Category Archives: Nutrition

Dessert Cookbook

Long time no post; what’s new? We finally finished a healthy-dessert cookbook without sugar/dairy/wheat. Writing the book is fun, but the other 90% (all the nitty-gritty of releasing a book) take a bit longer.. We’re sharing some stories from behind the scene at the JJCookbooks blog.

The cookbook is available at Google Books and hopefully soon also Apple. When that happens, we’ll post the link on JJCookbooks. Enjoy 😀

I’ve been asked how to define/find good food. We must navigate through a minefield of cheap and dangerous fakes.

Three simple guidelines:

  1. If it is a single-ingredient, unprocessed item (whole melon, not already sliced) – go for it!
  2. If it claims health benefits/vitamins on the packaging – be skeptical!
  3. If grandma wouldn’t recognize the ingredients (long chemical names) – avoid!

Examples:

  1. Anything from the fruit/veggie section is generally good (but those in EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list are full of pesticides and should be avoided unless organic).
  2. Bread from “healthy whole grains fortified with vitamins” – sounds good, but synthetic vitamins are often counterproductive and downright harmful. Berries and green vegetables don’t need a marketing department because everyone agrees they are good!
  3. Dried mango is fine (though high sugar), but “sodium [meta]bisulfite” isn’t. It’s important to avoid preservatives/artificial coloring/taste ‘enhancers’.

The good:

  • Fruit: organic! berries/apples/oranges; kiwi/passionfruit/banana; occasional pineapple/watermelon.
  • Nuts/seeds: walnut/pecan/cashew/almond; sunflower seed/pistachio/pine nut (all need soaking)
  • Beans: Lentil/chickpea (all need soaking)
  • Non-starchy vegetables: almost anything! Celery/capsicum should be organic. Try to maximize colors!
  • Starch: sweet potatoes should replace potatoes; cooking bananas (plantains) also OK.
  • Meat: antibiotic and hormone-free, e.g. from The Barbie Girls. Cannot do beef; lamb is generally better raised than chicken/pork.

The bad:

  • Sugar: avoid, replace with honey/maple syrup.
  • Grains: avoid gluten (wheat and others); some oats OK.
  • Rice occasionally OK; brown rice (with hulls) has more nutrients but also more arsenic; white rice pretty much ’empty calories’ without benefit.
  • Meat: farmed salmon and cheap chicken/pork very bad. Better to eat 5x more expensive meat 1/5th as often.
  • Dairy: quite bad _as currently produced_. Goat milk is better, cheese+yogurt sometimes OK.
  • Oil: cheapo vegetable oil very bad, but used in almost all commercial food.

In short, 99.9% of ready-made food violates these guidelines, hence we make everything from scratch. Vegetables and sweet potatoes always have a place, though!

Faster baking with muffins and vegetables?!

Christmas season means lots of baking! Time to share two quick lessons I have
learned over the past few months.

Much faster!

Muffins speed up baking time considerably – 15-20 minutes versus 60-90 minutes. They solidify faster than cakes because the volume/surface ratio is lower (more dough is closer to an edge). The results can still be nice and moist..

Potential problem: how to remove muffins and wash the molds? I’ve found food-grade silicon molds to be very effective – we can push the bottom and the muffins pop right out. They’re also super-easy to clean by pouring on some boiling water.

A broader question: is it safe? The temperature range is -40 to 200 degC [1]; I usually bake at 160-170. There is some concern about volatile organic compounds (organosiloxanes) migrating from the molds into food [2]. This can be minimized by ‘tempering’ or ‘curing’ the molds before use [3]. Simply put them (empty) into the 200 degC circulating oven for 2-4 hours.

Note that the molds also absorb some fats into their internal structure (cleaning doesn’t help), and these will eventually go rancid [3]. Better to use stable saturated fats (coconut oil, ghee) that don’t oxidize so quickly [4]. When the molds start to smell, it’s time to replace them..

Grain-free? Works fine!

Skipping wheat and grains makes a noticeable difference for me [4] but that need not hold back the baking. As a general template, I am having considerable success with nut flour (almond/cashew), ghee/coconut oil, and the main filler: banana/carrots/zucchini/beets/corn. It is very interesting to note that vegetables don’t taste as such. Beets make for excellent red velvet chocolate muffins with the added hidden bonus of vegetable goodness (phytonutrients).

Happy baking!

References
1: US patent 6,197,359
2: http://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00217-001-0484-8
3: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00573083/document
4: http://wassenberg.dreamhosters.com/blog/2014-01-30/four-foods-holding-you-back/

GMO: Get Me Outta there!

Friends have asked me about genetic engineering. After some research, I feel a mix of shock, horror, and rage. Vast hubris, primitive technology, blind faith, incalculable risks, deliberate lies, broken promises, billions of losses, thousands of deaths.

Why does all this happen? Simple: greed. Pesticide pushers gain market share if crops are engineered to mostly survive that particular poison. Seed providers (often the same company) rake in the cash when seeds self-destruct and must be purchased anew every year.

Meanwhile, we are taken for fools, exposed to known and unknown health risks, and sanctimoniously told that this is for the benefit of the hungry poor, who suffer the most from it.

I’d like to expand this into a larger article, but for now we will understand what’s going on, expose the lies, and see how to avoid the worst of the trouble.

Anything worth having requires effort and awareness. There is simply no alternative; luck is not a strategy, and sticking our heads in the sand won’t solve any problems. Onwards!

They sow the wind

In a nutshell, genetic engineering seeks to produce certain proteins, which are assembled according to DNA blueprints. The desired DNA gene is mass-produced by placing it inside bacterial DNA. Target plant cells are also grown in an artificial medium. The new genes are transferred by letting different bacteria infect the plant cells and insert their DNA, or by attaching DNA to metal particles and hoping they are spliced into plant DNA.

Because this process is highly unpredictable, an antidote is inserted alongside the other DNA payload and the cells are exposed to the corresponding poison. The few that survive probably got most of the intended DNA. These cells are allowed to grow into plants, though many do not survive.

Afterwards, basic weighings may be performed, alongside `studies’ in which a few animals are fed something similar for several days. Actually, those are optional, because the US regulatory agency allows seed companies to self-certify their products as safe for any use, which of course they usually do. What could possibly go wrong?

.. and reap the storm

As it turns out, lots. The proteins being produced are typically intended to kill insects, or resist pesticides dumped on the plant. Who can say they don’t also harm us? A few half-hearted and laughably small animal feeding experiments and trials were undertaken in the hope of finding nothing, and even these were enough to uncover a long list of problems: bleeding stomachs in rats, intestinal damage in mice, allergies in humans, deaths of cows.

Roots of the disaster

How can this happen? Crytoxins are a common class of target proteins. Their name derives from their crystal shape, which kills insects by quite literally poking holes in their guts. When companies bother to investigate whether we are similarly damaged, they claim the toxins are made harmless during digestion. Unfortunately, we have 1/1000th the amount of digestive enzymes, and nowhere near the acidity required to even partially break them down.

Those are just the known and intended proteins. Recall the gene insertion process is completely unpredictable: the payload may be inserted anywhere within the plant DNA, sometimes reversed, with parts of the participating bacterial DNA thrown in. The original DNA is also damaged by insertion and mutations from the growth medium. This means all sorts of unintended proteins can be, and are, produced. Afraid of finding something they don’t want to know, companies usually don’t sequence the genome to see what came out, and actively refuse to give researchers even tiny samples.

Even if the DNA arrives mostly intact, it might land in an unused region. Genes are forcibly switched on by so-called promoters from a virus. In addition to uncontrolled and permanent mass-production of the target toxin, this can also activate other dormant genes (including ancient viruses slumbering within our DNA). At the opposite end, a terminator is intended to halt copying from the blueprint, but it often does not work, which means all kinds of new and unknown proteins are produced.

This does not hinder the headless scramble to market, because the few tests are usually run with the protein that was _intended_ to be produced. Unfortunately, the blueprints came from bacteria, but are being built by plants. Proteins produced there can be folded differently or come with sugar molecules attached, which changes the way they interact. Those tests therefore cannot guarantee the safety of the actual genetically modified organisms.

To complete the picture of completely unpredictable chaos, the damaged and unstable DNA may mutate further, or be acted upon differently when growing conditions change. In short, we have absolutely no idea what is going on, beyond the near certainty that the resulting plant differs in terms of nutrients and toxins. Do you feel lucky today?

Suborned government

How could this happen? Surely the government has an interest in ensuring public health? Apparently not enough. Perhaps they fear driving away the big companies and their taxable profits. Maybe they actually believed the demonstrably false tales of higher yields and lower pesticide use. There is another simple explanation: the revolving door between business and the government. A former GMO developer switched sides and became responsible for regulating her own product; conversely, regulators might remain silent to avoid endangering lucrative subsequent jobs within the industry.

Such corruption seems more common in the US, but the German government also allowed the reapproval of MON 810 corn despite public protests. These have had some success, prompting Monsanto to quietly pause their European marketing efforts, except in Spain, Portugal and Romania.

However, storm clouds gather. The TTIP being negotiated behind closed doors may allow the Americans to force their untested and dangerous GMOs on the EU. The US position is: “What’s good enough for American families to eat is also good for Europeans to eat”. That would be a disaster; although the EU delegation seems unprepared and inadequate, hopefully at least the German officials will remember the oath they swore “to avert harm to their people”.

Fixing it ourselves

Although governments have been suborned and co-opted, we are not defenseless. Ultimately, our well-being is our very personal responsibility; there are always options. The first thing to do is seek out organic food. Most restaurants and processed food sources do not, so it pays to cook at home (a delightful social activity).

In the US, the GMO cancer has spread so far and wide that even organic crops are contaminated with GMO through cross-pollination. The sad requirement there is to avoid soy, corn, canola, cotton, papaya and be careful with zucchini and squash. Interestingly, the top two GMO crops, soy and corn, are also among the top seven causes of food allergies – perhaps not a coincidence.

Canola is used to make vegetable oil, another important reason to reject any that don’t explicitly mention their source. Thankfully, EU organic rules forbid feeding animals GMO feed, but elsewhere they are given the cheapest and worst, and some toxins pass into milk and meat. We should seek out grass-fed beef (which has other health benefits), and eat less of it.

If this appears expensive or troublesome, how much would it cost to mitigate a food allergy, repair intestinal damage, or undo changes to the DNA of our gut flora? The cost and effort of choosing organic ingredients is far more manageable, and cooking with fresh (or fresh-frozen) pesticide-free ingredients is a delight. The results may be a pleasant surprise – who knew vegetables could taste so good?

Quick tips: four foods holding you back

People often ask why I don’t eat certain things. I jokingly mention “religion” because that’s easier than throwing around 6-syllable words. Here is a brief explanation, without the usual references (as befitting a religion).

Why does this matter? We are, quite literally, what we eat. Our cells are built from – and run on – components derived from the food we eat. When eating high-quality food, I feel happier, more alert and fit. That requires avoiding or at least reducing four problematic foods, in decreasing order of importance:

Gluten (a protein in wheat/barley/rye)

  • Intestinal permeability (via zonulin).
  • Inflammation and brain damage (from immune over-reaction).
  • Higher glycemic index than sugar (due to branchy amylopectin).
  • Addictive (acts as an opiate).
  • Toxic sodium azide (used to induce gene mutations).

Although grains lack nutritional value, I love baked goods (cakes and muffins) and use almond flour, buckwheat and coconut flour. Other grains are acceptable but harder to find: amaranth, quinoa, sorghum and teff, or arrowroot/tapioca/corn (but beware their high glycemic index). Note that whole grains do not solve the above problems. A mill is useful for grinding flour from gluten-free (and non-oily) grains.

Vegetable oil (sunflower, corn, soy, canola, peanut, cottonseed, grapeseed, margarine)

  • Chemical solvents (petroleum/hexane).
  • Unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Bleaching, deodorizing to mask rancidity.
  • BHA and BHT preservatives (carcinogens).
  • Inflammation and cell mutations.
  • Strong link to cancer and heart disease.
  • Omega-6 imbalance (interferes with DHA conversion).
  • Pesticide residues.
  • Genetic modifications.

Cheap vegetable oils are in just about everything we can buy in stores or eat in most restaurants. This alone is a powerful reason to do our own cooking; avoiding these oils is a huge win. Safe and beneficial alternatives: ghee or non-UHT cream from grass-fed cows, coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, palm oil, non-hydrogenated lard rendered from grass-fed pig fat. Note that Ghee is ‘clarified’ butter without the often problematic milk proteins, and can easily be made at home.

Simple carbohydrates (sugar, juice, bread/rice/pasta)

  • Blood sugar dysregulation (insulin and glucagon roller coaster).
  • Adrenal burnout and pancreas exhaustion (diabetes).
  • Painful gout from uric acid (by-product of fructose breakdown).
  • Loss of tooth/bone calcium (to neutralize acidity).
  • Protein damage via glycation.
  • Imbalance of gut bacteria, possibility of candida overgrowth.
  • Decreased dopamine sensitivity (indicates addiction).
  • Strong link to Alzheimer’s and atherosclerosis (heart disease).

It is best to reduce our hunger for sweets, but there are somewhat better alternatives. Date sugar, molasses, honey and maple syrup provide at least some nutrients. Stevia, erythritol and xylitol are the only acceptable non-sugar sweeteners. Note that citrus fruits and berries are fine, because their fiber content blunts the sugar rush. Juicing obscures the quantities and breaks apart the fiber. We should also avoid high-fructose fruits: mango, grape, watermelon, pineapple, banana, and apple.

Soy (most soy sauce, tofu, soy milk, edamame)

  • Phytoestrogens (equivalent to multiple birth control pills per day).
  • Phytic acid (reduces bioavailability of minerals).
  • Goitrogens (suppresses thyroid function by interfering with iodine metabolism).
  • Lower quantity and quality of sperm.
  • Decreased testosterone and fertility.
  • Increased calcium and Vitamin B12 and D requirements.
  • Link to Alzheimer’s, dementia, ADHD and breast/prostate cancer.

Soy was traditionally only eaten after fermentation, which reduces the above problems. Nowadays it is a waste product of soy oil production and cheap filler found in almost all packaged and fast foods; yet another reason to avoid them. “Naturally brewed” soy sauce and natto are acceptable.

Enough food for thought? I understand that this is a lot to swallow. For today, we’ll limit ourselves to these top four, though there are further common food sensitivities and additives to discuss.

Making these changes will drastically reduce risk of cancer and heart disease. Expect increased energy levels and mental clarity after a week. “Come to the dark side – we have cookies” – fine and good, or we can instead make cookies that do not destroy our health and happiness, nor drag down our vitality. Is the additional awareness and effort worthwhile? For me personally, having experienced both, the answer is yes.

Interestingly, these were all non-issues until the disastrous drive towards industrial, high profit margin agribusiness. I wish our food sources were trustworthy, but we are instead forced to choose between convenient, low-cost (or rather: the true costs have been externalized/hidden) toxic sludge, or more mindfulness and quality. What will it be?

What exactly is that flour doing to you?

Summary: commercial flour has numerous health/nutritional issues
Action needed: do our own milling, or at least use unbleached whole flour.

The book Nourishing Traditions emphasizes the importance of soaked and fermented whole grains. Today I did some reading in order to corroborate or reject this claim. Indeed we can find four problems with flour as available today:

Mold toxins

Contamination of grains by mold is a major problem, as evidenced by a multitude of papers on the topic. “Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring toxin produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus. This toxin is the most potent carcinogen found in nature.” [1] “The aflatoxins, particularly aflatoxin B1 should be regarded as a quadruple threat, i.e., as a potent toxin, carcinogen, teratogen and mutagen. AFB1 induces liver cancer in several animal species, and has also been linked to liver cancer in human beings.” [2] Metabolites of aflatoxin make their way into the milk of animals fed with contaminated feed, and survive pasteurization intact [2].

Unfortunately, small and medium farms might lack the equipment and knowledge for proper storage, leading to 3.2 and 1.75 times higher mold concentrations as compared to large enterprises [3]. Lest this study be dismissed as specific to Lithuania, US corn production also has a massive problem: “All of the commercial hybrids had high levels of aflatoxin accumulation […]. Aflatoxin levels for all hybrids greatly exceeded the FDA threshold level [by factors of 5 to 400].” [1]

What can we do?

  1. Storage conditions have a large influence; specialized granaries may offer better conditions than small family farms [3].
  2. Alternative types of grains may be less prone to contamination. The same study found that wheat was 3 to 8 times higher in toxin levels than barley [3].
  3. Toxin production also depends on agricultural practice. Stress such as insect damage predisposes plants to infection. Competition with other (beneficial) soil microbes also inhibits toxin biosynthesis [15].

The third point seems at odds with the first – industrial agriculture would tend towards unhealthy monocultures, but may offer better storage conditions. One thing is for certain: my previous assumption – that flour of a given type does not differ between brands – is incorrect. Unfortunately, it is unclear how we can differentiate between contaminated and safe flour.

Bleaching

Apparently driven by an irrational desire for ‘purity’ (at least in terms of color), most commercial flour is bleached white. Enter the law of unintended consequences: “increased levels of neurodegenerative disorders in humans may have arisen due to inclusion in the diet of methionine sulfoximine (MSO), a byproduct of the bleaching of flour by nitrogen trichloride. MSO acts directly to inhibit the production of two crucial molecules, glutathione (GSH) and glutamine. Decreases in GSH, a key antioxidant and free radical scavenger, diminish the body’s antioxidant defenses and may lead to increased oxidative stress.” [8]

The introduced chlorine is almost completely (99.3%) incorporated into the flour [9]. Although no concrete evidence of damage from chlorination was found, “the toxicological significance of chlorine-modified carbohydrates is not known. The potential formation of halocarbons from carbohydrates raises some concern about their production in treated flour.” [9] Indeed, “exposure to [higher levels of] chlorinated flour lipids in the diet for 2 weeks reduced the growth rate and increased relative liver weights in rats”. [9]

Sounds like we are better off avoiding bleached flour.

Rancidity

Flour rancidity (oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids) occurs within 10 days [5]; storage of flour for 30 days markedly reduces the protein quality [4]. Finally, rancidity results in mutagen and carcinogen aldehydes [4]. There is a simple solution: storage in whole-grain form slows rancidity development [5]; milling the grain immediately before use ensures freshness. Refrigeration would also slow enzyme activity [16].

Nutrients

The term “empty calories” is well-known. How does this come about?

  • Discarding the bran and germ to obtain “white” flour loses nutrients and antioxidants (even in the resulting bread) [18].
  • Storing flour over a period of weeks reduces levels of beneficial vitamins [6].
  • Heating grains inactivates enzymes [16].

The third point is industry’s “solution” to rancidity. A recent patent application by Kraft sheds more light on the motivation [13]. To the credit of its inventors, the text is remarkably clear and helpful (compared to my experience with software patents). However, its focus is entirely on industrial convenience and anything that might “deleteriously affect dough machinability”. There is not a single mention of nutritional value, the harm posed by rancid lipids, or that the enzymes destroyed in this process would be helpful if ingested.

How we can do better

We can solve all of these problems by sourcing high-quality grains and milling them to flour immediately before using them. As usual, more effort leads to higher quality. But is the proposed undertaking feasible?

Apparently, home flour mills are small, self-contained and quite convenient: grains in, flour out [17]. Let’s estimate the heat transfer: an 85 mm diameter ceramic millstone of roughly 3 cm thickness weighs around 340 g. A 360 W motor grinds 100 g flour in 1 minute. Assuming moderate load factor and varying torque, we have about 100 W of energy being converted to heat. With a specific heat of 1.09 kJ / (kg*degC), the millstone will end up 16 degC warmer. However, most of that heat remains inside the mill; an impromptu measurement found the flour is about 6 degC warmer than ambient temperature [17]. This is well within the safety margin; enzymes will remain intact. Note that continuously operated commercial mills run hotter, and depending on the millstone material, may cause temperature differentials of 36 degC (granite) or even 87 degC (marble) [19], thus destroying any nutrients.

The above research has convinced me that a flour mill is a useful investment.

Flour processing

We return briefly to the initial question: does soaking and fermenting flour help? Grains contain phytic acid, an “antinutrient” that reduces bioavailability of minerals such as calcium and potassium [10]. Fermentation reduces phytic acid by 12%, sprouting by 18%, and a traditional process combining both removes 68% [11]. “The synergistic effect of cooking and fermentation improved the nutrient quality. The antinutrients were reduced to safe levels to a greater extent than did any of the other processing techniques or their combinations employed.” [12] Finally, “protein digestibility was significantly improved when the processed grains were fermented for 12 h”; this “could be attributed to the partial degradation of complex storage proteins to more simple and soluble products” or “to the degradation of tannins, polyphenols and phytic acid by microbial enzymes [14].

We can consider the Nourishing Traditions book to be corroborated on this point. In summary: it pays to grind grains ourselves, and soak/ferment them overnight.

References

[1] http://msucares.com/pubs/researchreports/rr22-8.htm
[2] http://oar.icrisat.org/1185/1/RA_00407.pdf#page=72
[3] http://www.aaem.pl/pdf/10223.pdf
[4] http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF01104140?LI=true
[5] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002822395006753
[6] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jsfa.2740351113/abstract
[7] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-459X.2009.00254.x/abstract
[8] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306987798900676
[9] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1474307/pdf/envhper00440-0256.pdf
[10] http://staffcv.uofk.edu/agriculture/Food/Prof.Babiker/downloads/63.pdf
[11] http://www.aensiweb.com/rjabs/rjabs/2010/176-180.pdf
[12] http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF01091226?LI=true
[13] US patent 6,616,957
[14] http://www.pjbs.org/pjnonline/fin390.pdf
[15] http://ag.arizona.edu/research/cottylab/apdfs/Agriculture,Aflatoxins,Asp.pdf
[16] http://etd.uasd.edu/ft/th9821.pdf
[17] http://cooking.glassbrian.com/2007/02/03/komo-fidibus-21/
[18] http://www.aseanfood.info/Articles/11017174.pdf
[19] http://www.frischmahlen.de/en/docman/task,doc_download/gid,11/Itemid,57/

Can we undo the effects of eating too much?

Summary: brief exercise before eating shunts the resulting energy to your muscles, not fat
Action needed: 3-5 minutes of high-intensity, whole-body exercise soon before eating.

Why should we care?

Food is digested to glucose, a simple carbohydrate. The sugar either ends up in fat cells (bad) or muscle (potentially good). Because skeletal muscles account for 80% of glucose uptake [3], that is the obvious place to start.

Mechanism

Glucose uptake is rate-limited by GLUT-4 (GLUcose Transporter) [3], which carries it across cell membranes. There are two separate pools of GLUT-4 in cells [3]; transporters can only have an effect if translocated to the surface. One signaling pathway is via insulin (us laymen understand it regulates blood sugar – it is interesting to know exactly how this works) and “PKB” [10]. The other involves muscle contractions and “APMK” [10].

The good news is that exercise has an immediate effect on GLUT-4 gene expression [2]. Surface GLUT-4 roughly doubles [7, 11], with the exception of the calf muscle [8] and possibly others. These effects only last a few hours [1], but are similar to the maximum effective dose of insulin [7]. As a bonus, the action of the insulin pathway is also increased for many hours [6]. That is helpful because diabetes (an increasingly common problem due to our high sugar intake) is characterized by insulin resistance [1].

It was previously believed that GLUT-4 was maximized through several hours of low-intensity exercise. Happily, only a few minutes of fairly intense exercise – for example, 30x 3 second contractions of the quadriceps – are similarly effective [3].

This is the appealing picture painted by an excerpt from Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Body;
others have also taken up the message:
http://fitnessblackbook.com/diet-tips/gone-in-60-seconds-one-minute-of-activity-to-avoid-storing-calories-of-a-meal-as-body-fat/
http://jarmankinesiology.com/2011/04/09/exercise-might-be-able-to-make-it-ok-to-eat-a-bad-meal/

Reality Check

Unfortunately, it is an oversimplification. Serious exercise requires more energy than the normal glucose supply can provide. Oxidizing glycogen (a concentrated form of glucose similar to starch) is essential for endurance [4]. Unfortunately there are two interactions with GLUT-4 and eating.

First, muscle glycogen content, by a not yet fully understood mechanism, inhibits glucose uptake and reverses the increase in insulin sensitivity [9]. A full glycogen store inhibits GLUT-4 translocation [11] – both the PKB and AMPL signaling pathways are affected [10]. It is reasonable for the muscle to reject additional glucose when it is not required. The consequence is that anyone except maybe couch potatoes (with their untrained muscles) cannot rely on this trick to completely save them from over-indulgence.

Second, carbohydrate intake after exercise can lead to glycogen supercompensation [10] – a probably undesirable overshoot in glycogen synthesis. This has been reported for rat chow; one such formulation (though not necessarily the same) consists of only 4.7% sugar and a modest 58% of calories from carbohydrates [13]. It is probably good to avoid excessive carbs in general, and especially after light exercise – UNLESS glycogen reserves have been seriously depleted. A 90 minute soccer game uses up 70-90%, which are not fully re-generated even after 2 days [12] – hence the necessity of rest days when engaging in competitive sports.

Conclusions

Exercise is helpful for diverting calories from fat to muscle, and decreasing insulin resistance (a hallmark of diabetes). Reported increases of glucose uptake by factors of 2..3 assume fasting after exercise. Muscles with glycogen reserves will provide a more modest but still beneficial increase. It would probably be good to reduce carbs after mild exercise (and possibly in general, but that is a separate topic) to avoid glycogen supercompensation.

References

[1] http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/61/5/1090.full
[2] http://jap.physiology.org/content/88/2/794.full
[3] http://jap.physiology.org/content/90/6/2019.full
[4] http://jeb.biologists.org/content/212/2/238.full
[5] http://brage.bibsys.no/nih/bitstream/URN:NBN:no-bibsys_brage_14288/1/Dahl%20MedSciSportExcer%202009.pdf
[6] http://jap.physiology.org/content/94/4/1373.full
[7] http://www.jappl.org/content/85/4/1218.full
[8] http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/272/5/E864.abstract
[9] http://jap.physiology.org/content/85/1/133.full
[10] http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/279/6/E1311.full
[11] http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/277/6/E1103.long
[12] https://www.uni-ulm.de/fileadmin/externe_websites/ext.dzsm/content/Archiv2013/Heft_1/45_%C3%9Cbersicht_Niess.pdf
[13] http://www.bio-services.nl/en/docs/03_catalogue_rat_mouse_new.pdf

Intro, Spam and Eggs

Jan loves to eat! Working puts bread on the table, but home-cooking makes it so much more delicious – and nutritional. In this space, we’ll talk about development of efficient software (with an emphasis on SIMD-augmented C++) and appropriate fuel along the way. It has become increasingly clear to me that good food really has noticeable effects on mood, productivity and overall well-being.

This post coincides with some recent reading on the effects of dietary fat intake. I have long felt that low-fat (or worse, fat-free) food does not compare favorably with “the real thing”. Now, the question is, can we find some hard facts on whether a reduction in fat is helpful or desirable?

We have public access to a helpful article: http://www.jacn.org/content/20/1/5.long
Here’s the first surprise: short/medium chain saturated fatty acids (FA) are not “associated” with coronary heart disease (CHD), but trans FA are. That is bad news, because previously used animal fats with saturated FA have often been replaced by partially hydrogenated vegetable oil containing trans FA. Fortunately there has been a backlash and this is decreasing: http://www.bantransfats.com/

Second, eggs are also not linked to increased risk for CHD, provided the baseline cholesterol intake was not “very low”. Welcome news.

Finally, the total fat intake is less important than the type of fat. This contradicts prior guidelines, but rests on more solid footing (a larger set of studies). I feel it is therefore reasonable to outright reject simplistic measures of total “fat”. How many things in life are worth having and completely effortless? Quick fixes such as low-fat milk (resulting in reductions of only a few grams of fat, which as we now know are even less important than they might appear) are clearly inadequate. Given the lack of health benefits, and unknown downsides due to artificial additives, I will even more than before avoid unnatural low-fat junk.

There is plenty more to read. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy eggs – but later I hope to understand the reasons behind the misguided advice to avoid them.

PS: one of the catalysts for finally starting to write was
http://cbloomrants.blogspot.sg/2013/01/01-17-13-what-happened-to-tech-blogs.html

I hope to increase the signal:noise ratio and disseminate some quality information. Although this post is yet another written by a non-specialist – after all, I am a doctor of engineering (or rather informatics), not nutritional medicine – it is a good way to accompany the learning of something new, and I hope this and future articles prove useful.