Bad Cholesterol

…is there no such thing?

I’m kind of amused by the commenter who fantasizes that he’s making some kind of point by claiming that “Eades is not a scientist.” What does he think a scientist is, or does?

[Update a few minutes later]

Speaking of nutritional science, this is junk nutritional science:

“Overall, we found that obese rats fed a high-fat, low-carb diet — comparable to that humans would consume — had larger, more damaging and deadly heart attacks than rats fed the control diet,” Lloyd says. “Our findings also suggest that, at the cellular level, a high-fat, low-carb diet impaired recovery of heart function in obese rats immediately following a heart attack.”

Only one problem. You can’t extrapolate dietary results for rats to humans. We have a different physiology and natural diet. Actually, there’s a lot of junk science based on rat research.

[Update a while later]

Link was missing. Fixed now.

39 thoughts on “Bad Cholesterol

  1. Bob-1

    What do you mean by “natural diet”? I think the idea of a human “natural diet” which indicates what works well for humans is just begging the question.

    1. Rand Simberg Post author

      I mean the diet to which we evolved. While we and rats are both omnivorous, they can handle grains better, both because they were available to them in the wild and they’ve had a lot more generations to adapt than we have.

      1. Bob-1

        I have two separate lines of thought

        1) People didn’t evolve with various beneficial medicines, and yet…
        The optimum diet for the human body might not resemble what people managed to scrounge up prior to civilization.

        2)Other apes don’t eat much meat – they are close to being vegetarians. I haven’t followed the argument for the paleo diet, so maybe I should go read up on it rather than comment here, but I wonder when people started eating more meat than other apes, and I wonder how different ape bodies are from human bodies with respect to processing meat, and I wonder how different current apes and humans are from their last common ancestor.

        1. Al

          We’ve had tools for hunting meat for at least 2.5 million years. We directly evolved dogs to assist. (Apparently, more than once.)

          1. Al

            I think it’s worth noting here that there’s a predator that puts the rest of the large predators into (a) the endangered species list, of (b) the morgue. Er, extinction.

            That is: There’s quite possibly a -reason- none of the other apes mess around hunting us or “stealing our food”.

            We evolved strong tribalism for a reason, troublesome as that might be today.

        2. Sigivald

          Indeed – but remember that “natural” does not mean “ideal” or “good”.

          Rand’s point was that rat responses to various diets have very little to do with human responses, because we evolved with different diets available to us.

          Our “natural diet” is not being presented as some Mystical Ideal, or the Most Healthy Diet – merely the one our adaptations are adaptations to.

          So, your point 1 is absolutely correct, but completely orthogonal to the point at hand.

          Point 2 is likewise interesting, but unrelated to the issue of extrapolation from rats.

      2. mrmandias

        This is still question-begging, since we’ve had agriculture for several thousand years now. Whether that’s enough time for evolution to act is a question to be investigated, not an assumption to be made.

        1. Rand Simberg Post author

          There is no evolutionary pressure to get us to adapt to grains, since it doesn’t affect our evolutionary fitness — it just makes us sicker than we need be as we age.

  2. Fletcher Christian

    Bob-1 – A reasonable answer to that might be the diet that humans ate for something like 99% of its history – or 90% if you don’t count early humans before Homo sapiens. Which is the diet often called the “Stone Age Diet” – just about no grains at all, lots of fruit (especially berries) and nuts and also some small game with, once in a great while, some large-animal meat from a naturally reared animal. Definitely not the typical Western and even more typically American diet of heavily processed grains, sugar, feedlot meat and chemicals. (Range-fed beef has a fifth of the fat of feedlot, and much more of that fat is unsaturated.)

    1. Al

      “lots of fruit (especially berries) and nuts”

      I keep reading this, but I still have trouble picturing year-round fruit. When you’re talking native, non-greenhouse fruit grown in the wild, the plausible harvest periods would seem to be quite a few months short of a year. The more storable fruits spread the time out.

      But I keep thinking that the distribution is more like -lots- of nuts, and fruit when available. In other words: the opposite of the modern distribution of fruit and nuts.

      Which is a problem in itself: Many fruit are mighty high in fructose for the amount of vitamins they provide.

    2. Bart

      “Range-fed beef has a fifth of the fat of feedlot, and much more of that fat is unsaturated.”

      And, is much tougher and stringier, which is why it is ideal for hamburger, but not so much for steaks.

  3. Rand Simberg Post author

    People didn’t evolve with various beneficial medicines, and yet…

    What is this supposed to mean? What “beneficial medicines” are you talking about?

    The optimum diet for the human body might not resemble what people managed to scrounge up prior to civilization.

    It might not, but I think the burden of proof is on those who think it’s not.

    Other apes don’t eat much meat – they are close to being vegetarians

    We aren’t apes.

    1. Bob-1

      We get sidetracked talking about medicine, but it was an analogy. Lets skip the analogy — my argument boils down to this:

      An animal whose species has evolved for millions of years eating nothing but substance-1 might very well have a more healthy life if you feed it nothing but substance-2 instead. Evolving to deal well with substance-1 doesn’t preclude an even better ability to be sustained on substance-2. A “natural diet” might be a good guide to finding a healthy diet, but it won’t necessarily lead you to an optimal diet.

      ====

      You can’t make an evolutionary argument, and then dismiss evolutionary considerations with “we aren’t apes”. If we aren’t apes, then we also aren’t people from 20,000 years ago. You know as well as I do that biological taxonomy is for human convenience. If you want to agree that “we aren’t apes, but we are Hominoidea”, then fine, substitute “Hominoidea” for apes whereever I used it.

      In any case: the genus homo has been around a lot longer than modern humans, and the diet of the entire history of the genus might be considered if you’re going to entertain an evolutionary argument for a certain diet.

      But as I said, this is a separate line of thought. I think the first line of thought will be more profitable: it *might* be better to forget evolutionary history and just consider the human system as it is now if you want figure out what is the best thing to feed it.

      1. Bob-1

        I’ll just quickly add that my comment about 20,000 years ago wasn’t just sophistry: I’m lactose intolerant which has a profound effect on my diet, particularly when I’m trying to dine with many of you upstart dairy-eating mutants.

      2. Rand Simberg Post author

        You can’t make an evolutionary argument, and then dismiss evolutionary considerations with “we aren’t apes”. If we aren’t apes, then we also aren’t people from 20,000 years ago.

        Nonsense. We aren’t apes, from which we diverged millions of years ago. We are pretty much what we were twenty thousand years ago.

        In any case: the genus homo has been around a lot longer than modern humans, and the diet of the entire history of the genus might be considered if you’re going to entertain an evolutionary argument for a certain diet.

        Why would it be? The argument is that we haven’t evolved much since paleolithic times. We have evolved a lot from (say) Homo erectus. You’re making even less sense than usual.

        1. Bob-1

          We diverged from apes millions of years ago, but did the relevant metabolic systems diverge or not? What are the relevant metabolic systems?

          Analogy: we diverged from apes millions of years ago, but did our eyes diverge? Could ophthalmologists work on a chimp just as well as on a human without changing their technique? Because we understand the eye, I bet we answer this question.

          I think we need to understand human metabolism as well as the eye before we can determine whether what humans ate as we evolved is optimal for human health.

          1. Rand Simberg Post author

            We diverged from apes millions of years ago, but did the relevant metabolic systems diverge or not?

            Of course they did. Different lifestyles and diets over many thousands of generations are going to result in different metabolisms.

            Analogy: we diverged from apes millions of years ago, but did our eyes diverge? Could ophthalmologists work on a chimp just as well as on a human without changing their technique?

            A foolish and useless analogy. Eyes are not metabolisms, or diet.

            I don’t know whether it is deliberate or not, but you are being obtuse.

          2. George Turner

            Well Bob, are we talking about chimps specifically or any number of monkeys? Are we talking about Old World primates or New World primates, excluding howler monkeys and night monkeys? Among the new world monkeys, is it male or female? The males are dichromatic but some of the females are trichromatic.

            Yet vision genes are highly conserved (mammals being an exception because we used to be purely nocturnal – which we know because our color vision genes are all screwed up) whereas genes regarding diet are much more versatile and can cause rapid and observed speciation.

          3. Karl Hallowell

            We diverged from apes millions of years ago, but did the relevant metabolic systems diverge or not? What are the relevant metabolic systems?

            There’s some speculation that what makes humans human is our diet of cooked food. Apparently, we’ve been using fire for perhaps up to a couple million years ago. If true, that would make it one of our oldest tools (stone tools were used up to 2.6 million years ago, according to Wikipedia).

            In any case, humans supposedly have a much shorter intestine than the great apes, which could indicate an adaptation to cooked food. Cooked food apparently is easier to digest and hence, wouldn’t require as long an intestine as if your diet was mostly based on raw foods (animal or plant).

  4. Hal Duston

    A post from The Right Coast, several weeks ago:

    We should eat a plant based diet that is very low in carbs. So, no meat, no fish, no eggs, no milk, no bread, no pasta, no potatoes, no wheat, no corn, no berries, no apples, no bananas, no peaches, no pears, no plums, no raisins, no wine, no beer, no booze. Nuts in moderation. Dark green leafy vegatables OK. Small amounts of olive oil. I do not pass judgment on the problematic radish. Not clear what my attitude should be toward insects and grubs– they are said to taste good and so are probably too fatty.

    The first commenter

    In the Orthodox Church, this is called “fasting” and is the chief ascetical discipline in the observance of Lent. Take whatever action you consider appropriate.

  5. George Turner

    I’ve haven’t placed a whole lot of faith in cross species diet studies ever since I tried testing my cat’s food on my rabbits and my rabbits’ food on my cat. They seem to have different preferences and requirements.

    Oddly, the cat won’t eat chicken but likes tuna, and the rabbits prefer buffalo wings to salad – and go nuts for bananas. My conclusion is that cats evolved in the deep ocean environment where tuna was plentiful and rabbits evolved in banana-trees, where they hunted birds. I don’t own a dog, but from my observation they must’ve evolved around early tennis courts back when we played it with stitched leather balls stuffed with wooly mammoth liver.

  6. Schteveo

    I’m a big fan, but smaller fan of, the Stone Age / Paleo Diet style diets. When I periodically go back on it, I feel better in the first 36 hours, and my energy level goes up, hunger goes way down inside of 5 days. I personally attribute that like I would 93 octane in a muscle car engine.

    Better fuel for a particular engine means better operation.

    I’ve seen innumerable studies saying many of the diseases we suffer don’t show up in skeletons of hunter gatherer societies. Diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and plenty more, start showing up in the fossil record, AFTER we started making a living on farms.

  7. Josh Reiter

    I deep fried some chicken wings in lard over the weekend. *stares off into space*

    Sorry what what I saying?

    Oh yea, wings, in lard, epic, wonderful, the skin was crispy like; well, pork rinds. I soaked them for several hours in a brine. I drained and dredged them in a light layer of flour to give the sauce something to cling to. Fried them up in lard and then I tossed in them in buffalo sauce. I’ve made a batch of 14-20 wings in canola several times and I have devoured them in a heart clogging beat. But when I used Lard I noticed something well, odd. I became obscenely full after about 8 wings. I slogged through a few more but I actually ended up with leftovers. Unheard of with anyone who normally dines with me; especially on wing night. And the lard didn’t make it all soggy with fat either. They can out golden browned, the skin bubbled up crispy and airy and the meat falling off the bone. I read in another cooking forum that deep frying in lard is smelly though. So, I did it out on the back patio which is probably a good thing because at first it was a little porky smelling. But it subsided after it had a chance to heat up a bit. After I was done cooking, while the lard was still warm, I ran it through a strainer with a coffee filter inside into a bowl. I have it in the fridge right now ready to go for another batch this weekend. People say you can get 2-3 batches out of a filtered pot of lard. *stares off into lard space*

    1. Josh Reiter

      They can out golden browned…

      They came out golden browned. Like nothing a canola oil could ever do.

  8. Fletcher Christian

    Regarding apes and meat-eating; People used to assume that chimps in the wild were pretty well herbivorous – until someone decided to actually look. It turns out that chimps eat a fairly substantial amount of meat from small animals – mostly small monkeys, presumably because they are fairly abundant where chimps live.

    Chimps are our closest relatives as shown by genetic studies.

  9. Bob-1

    Lets put that in terms of a percentage. What percent of a modern-day chimp’s diet is meat, including insects? Most estimates are between 1% and 3%. Can anyone find a reputable source for a higher estimate?

    Given the overall topic, it might be worth distinguishing between mammal meat and other (termites – the other other other white meat).

    1. Rand Simberg Post author

      Lets put that in terms of a percentage. What percent of a modern-day chimp’s diet is meat, including insects? Most estimates are between 1% and 3%. Can anyone find a reputable source for a higher estimate?

      For the purposes of this discussion, it doesn’t matter. We are not chimps.

      1. Bob-1

        I don’t know if it matters or not, since I don’t know the manner in which our digestive systems have or have not diverged.

        But lets stipulate it does not matter. Don’t you have any monkey curiosity? Several other people have discussed the issue here ( “chimps and gorillas do eat meat after all!”), so now I’m curious about the numbers.

        1. Rand Simberg Post author

          But lets stipulate it does not matter. Don’t you have any monkey curiosity?

          Not enough to be interested in hijacking the comments section for it.

    2. Josh Reiter

      The secret is in the pelvis. The pelvis forms a sort of bowl that the gut sit down inside of. As we go back millions of years to the earliest known hominid fossil finds we see that the size of the pelvis shrinks in relation to increases in the size of the cranial cavity. It’s thought that as we shifted our diets more to protein and fat our small intestines shortened significantly from our leaf eating ancestors. Thus a smaller pelvis was required to support a smaller gut. Not only does a smaller gut takes less energy to operate but a significant increase in protein intake is what lead to our brains growing ever larger.

    3. Bart

      “termites – the other other other white meat”

      Lobsters, crab, and shrimp are basically just big, aquatic insects. Maybe termites would be good with hot butter.

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