Thursday, May 14, 2015

Review of The New Evolution Diet: What Our Paleolithic Ancestors Can Teach Us about Weight Loss, Fitness, and Aging by Arthur De Vany

Art De Vany is an economist and friend of Nassim Taleb who writes an excellent blog on fitness, diet, "death by exercise", and other topics at the intersection of evolution, economics, and health.

He got interested a couple decades ago because his wife had type I diabetes and he doubted the physicians' recommendation that she eat primarily carbs and manage her blood glucose levels with insulin injections.

They tested the reaction of her blood glucose to various foods and recorded how much insulin was needed to bring her glucose back in range. This, of course, was simultaneous invention of a glycemic index, which was apparently invented in 1980, not long before De Vany's experiments.

His New Evolution Diet is a good summary of his thinking, which is quite valuable. He points out that early humans would have been exposed to practically no foods capable of triggering a massive insulin release. Each insulin spike puts wear on the body, and also lessens the insulin sensitivity of adipose tissue, which sets up an unpleasant positive feedback loop of metabolic syndrome.

How to avoid these spikes? My read is that there are a list of things that need to be avoided, and some measures that need to be taken. Exercising (power law effort distribution, not monotonous jogging), avoiding anything with sugar (soda, dessert, etc), avoiding fried or junk foods, and avoiding alcohol are probably 85 percent.

Of course, to make those changes, you need to figure out better how to integrate exercise into your life (don't commute to work in a car) and how to make these dietary changes. And that's the point of the book.



eah said...

I think it is vastly more important to avoid sugars -- carbohydrates of all kinds, ie including bread, but also fruit juice, and especially those found in abundance in many processed foods, eg high fructose corn syrup -- than it is to avoid fried food (eg meat). Although most oils used to fry food do have a poor Omega-3 vs Omega-6 balance.

Over the last few years, I have read literally dozens of very good books and blogs around this subject, all by people deserving of respect and attention, and the general advice here also generally matches the conclusions of these authors and bloggers re diet and exercise.

Dennis Mangain -- Rogue Health and Fitness

Perhaps the book that gave reconsideration of conventional diet advice (fat and meat = bad) a real impulse:

Gary Taubes -- Good Calories, Bad Calories

After all that reading, you have to come to the conclusion that government sponsored diet advice over the last 60 years or so has been absolutely wrong, and is the primary cause of the obesity and diabetes epidemics plaguing nearly all developed countries.

begob said...

One of the most respected bloggers on low carb is an English vet - here's what he eats:

James said...

Let me second Eah's recommendation of Rogue Health and Fitness. I assume that many Credit Bubble Stocks readers are already familiar with Mangan and his writing, but those who aren't owe it to themselves to check out his site.

CP said...

Here's a great De Vany quote I forgot to include:

"Bread is the ultimate poverty food – it exists only because grain is cheap, easy to grow and is less perishable than other foods."

CP said...

Eah, I agree with your points.

There are a number of great bloggers/authors who are synthesizing this research into a system one can use: De Vany, Mangan, etc.

The USDA has a budget of $140 billion; it should be shut down.

(About 80% of that is foodstamps - but the $30 billion would be enough for a Mars program.)

CP said...

Btw, I agree with this criticism of the diet in De Vany:

I'm not giving De Vany 5/5 for the diet but for the thoughts on power law distributions.

James said...

"Bread is the ultimate poverty food – it exists only because grain is cheap, easy to grow and is less perishable than other foods."

This is actually a point in favor of grains. Since they were so much easier to store than the foods hunter-foragers ate, agriculture gave people an incentive to think of the future for the first time. Stored food also acted as a primitive form of capital that allowed for division of labor-- once it became possible to store food, it also became possible to have craftsmen and others who could focus on technology/culture rather than feeding themselves.

Grains are inferior nutritionally, but they were a better technology in other ways and a necessary evil for civilization to develop.

CP said...

James, that's a good point - but I think you can compound your returns for longer if you eat salmon and spinach instead of bread.

CP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

I agree, the civilizational benefits of grains applied to society as a whole, not to individual people. There's no reason for anyone to eat bread if he can afford to eat healthier food.

Taylor Conant said...

Good point/counter-point on grains being ultimate poverty vs. ultimate capitalist foodstuff.

Another nuance to consider is that grains provided the opportunity for rainy-day fund nutrition. That is, they may not have been the primary source of nutrition at any time other than mass crop failure, at which point they were used as a bridge from one period of abundance to another. I would have to imagine, without knowing the anthropological history too well, that even after humans began growing, using and storing these crops that their diets did not become dominated by them but rather they still made use of fresh plant and animal life when it was available.

Finally, like most foods which have been genetically selected for mass commoditization rather than nutrition, the grains we eat today do not resemble the grains of yore in terms of protein, fat and carbohydrate content, nor in taste, nor in variety. Similarly, they are not laboriously prepared ("processed") in the way traditional societies typically prepared them, either, which also affects the aforementioned characteristics.

Maybe it is because of the acrimony over the "cultish" nature of this group or something else, but I am surprised no one has referenced the Weston A Price Foundation ("WAPF"). They are largely sympathetic to holistic paleo -- not fad/sexy paleo, ie, what people who also ignorantly perform CrossFit routines are into -- and incorporate grains through more critical analysis of sourcing, preparation and overall diet balancing. It's another resource to consider.

What all of these intellectual vendors have in common is that they petition their adherents to apply reason to nutrition. In other words, the question, "What to eat?" should be premised on information gathered from the question, "What is the nutrient and anti-nutrient content of this foodstuff?"

For laymen, you need to have a reason beyond "I am hungry" to ingest something.

Anonymous said...

I think we should ask for our money back that was spent on USDA.