Sunday, August 19, 2012

Highlights of the Ancestral Health Symposium 2012

After attending the Ancestral Health Symposium 2012 at Harvard, Ida (Thin) has made a personal commitment to a more Paleo low-carb diet. Please continue to check out the website as she shares her journey to optimal health in the days ahead!

Highlights of the Ancestral Health Symposium 2012

Harvard University

Joe and I attended the Ancestral Health Symposium at Harvard from August 9th through August 11th. We came away with much knowledge and information to share which has the potential to significantly improve the health of anyone who acts upon it.

In reviewing our notes, we found the following points relevant to our website. This is a small sampling of what was discussed. We would recommend that you watch the actual videos on YouTube.

General Points

Agriculture did not begin until about 10,000 years ago. Prior to this, the human diet consisted of mainly protein and fat from animal sources, nuts, seeds, and non-starchy fibrous plant sources. It is well established that hunting and gathering led to the increase in our brain size.

Once farming was introduced, the diseases of modern man began. Prior to this, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and obesity were non-issues.

All of the speakers were in agreement that grain, processed foods, sugar, vegetable oil, and all trans fats should be eliminated from the diet.

The recommendations generally included eating grass-fed meats, pasture fed poultry and eggs, wild-caught fish. All of these are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for brain health. We are also encouraged to eat unlimited amounts of healthy fats found in coconut oil, butter, and ghee. Olive oil and palm oil are also okay. Another unlimited group of foods includes non-starchy vegetables. There was some debate about the value of raw milk dairy (as opposed to no dairy), as well as fruits and tubers (including potatoes) which lead to spikes in insulin.

All pasteurized dairy products are discouraged. The process of pasteurization kills off the enzymes in the milk that help us to digest it. Raw milk and raw milk cheese are options.

Without proper digestion, we cannot absorb the nutrients from our food into our cells. Proper digestion is essential and is vital to disease prevention.

The importance of eating nutrient-dense foods was also explained.

Examples of some nutrient dense foods include grass fed meats (e.g. beef, veal, pork, and lamb), wild-caught fish (e.g. salmon and tilapia), and nuts (but not chestnuts).

The importance of physical activity and resistance exercise was stressed.

Here are highlights from some of the sessions we attended.

...Benefits of a Fat-Based, Ketogenically-Adapted Caloric Intake for Body and Brain

by Nora Gedgaudas, C.N.S., C.N.T.

Fat in of central importance to our primal bodies. We need to become “fat burners” as opposed to “sugar burners”. There are significant benefits from a fat-based, ketogenic diet for our bodies and brains. Psychological illnesses were virtually unheard of in fat-based early cultures. Our brains run better on fat. We were born to rely on fat as our prime source of fuel.

When the diet consists of primarily protein and fat, ketone bodies become the major fuel for brain development. There is mounting evidence that ketones can prevent Alzheimer’s.

Brain growth depends of dietary fats.

Early man hunted and gathered. His diet consisted of fats and proteins from animal sources. Starchy roots and tubers could not be eaten due to the extensive cooking that would have been involved in making them fit for human consumption. Wild fruit was only seasonably or climatically available, and the fruit was more tart than sweet. So, early man was on a very low-carb diet.

A low-carb diet can be used to prevent or ameliorate the following diseases: insulin resistance, diabetes 1 and 2, cancer, brain dysfunction, thyroid, and cardiovascular issues.

There is no research or evidence that a low-carb diet is harmful in any way.

Nora used a wood stove analogy in discussing fat vs. carbohydrates as fuel for the body. Whole wheat would be the equivalent of twigs, pasta like paper, and sugar like gasoline. The energy would be fleeting and gone. In contrast, fat would be the equivalent of a slow burning log, providing a slower constant, efficient flow of fuel.

With regard to cancer, it is known that the primary source of food for cancer cells is glucose. Ketones do not feed cancer.

She recommends a diet of grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, nuts, unlimited non-starchy vegetables, good fats, such as butter, ghee, and coconut (oil, milk, and cream), nuts, and some berries.

The Carb Controversy

by Andreas Eenfeldt, M.D.

Dr. Eenfeldt predicts that if we do nothing about it, health problems associated with obesity will bring the US economy to its knees.

A low-carb diet is good for weight loss, since fat accumulation is caused by insulin. Calories are irrelevant.

What Are Humans Adapted For?

by Dan Lieberman

We need to look at our ancestry to improve health.

Many illnesses are due to mismatched conditions with diet and physical activity. The human body is adapted for hunting and gathering, not for modern conditions.

Our ancestors consumed lots of high fat meat, small game, fish, roots, tubers, and fruit.

In order to hunt and gather, early man engaged in a tremendous amount of physical activity including walking (9 – 15 km per day), running, digging, carrying, and climbing. Farming and industry dramatically decreased the activity level of humans.

With this inactivity, a host of health issues have arisen. One example is osteoporosis. Inactivity leads to loss of bone mass. Over 50 % of women over the age of 50 are at risk for osteoporosis.

Another consequence is obesity. With a sedentary lifestyle, humans store their excess energy as fat.

It was also noted that with hunting and gathering, the size of the human brain increased significantly.

The EvoS Diet

by David Sloan Wilson, Ph.D

The Evos diet is essentially the Paleo Diet.

It recommends eating the following:

• Fruits
• Vegetables
• Lean meats
• Fish
• Some nuts
• Eggs
• Good fats

Those following the EvoS diet would avoid the following:

• Grain
• Dairy
• Refined products
• Salt sugar
• Vegetable oil
• Legumes (peanuts, cashews, and beans)
• Soy

The importance of evolutionary studies including the study of diet, exercise, and social organization is the focus of the EvoS Lifestyle Project.

A call was made for people who would be willing to contact Dr. David Sloan Wilson to participate in the research project.

Nutrient Density: Sticking to the Essentials

by Mathieu Lalonde, Ph.D.

The nutrient density of meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds was compared to that of grains and legumes.

It was shown that grains and legumes were very weak nutritionally in comparison to meats, fish, vegetables, and some fruits.

Vegetables, seafood, meat, and fruit were shown to supply all we need for nutrition.

Saturated fats were shown to be fine. And, egg yolks “crushed” egg whites in nutrient value.

Brazil nuts are a great source of selenium.

Kale, spinach, broccoli, and seaweed are excellent examples of nutrient rich foods.

Other nutrient dense foods include beef, veal, lamb, salmon, tilapia, and unbelievably—bacon!

Some examples of foods low in nutrients include apples, watermelon, pears, onions, cucumbers, pickles, carrots, cabbage, and chestnuts.

Cooking vegetables was shown to result in substantial nutrient loss. But, it is unknown how bio-available the nutrients are in the uncooked vegetables.

Mathieu Lalonde developed a chart listing the nutrient values of 7,000 foods.

He showed a chart listing the average nutrient density divided by the caloric weight scores.

From most nutrient dense to least, here are the majority of items on the chart:

• Cod liver oil
• Herbs and spices
• Nuts and seeds
• Fish and seafood
• Pork
• Beef
• Cacao
• Lamb and veal
• Plant fats and oils
• Animal fats and oil
• Processed meats
• Eggs and dairy
• Refined and processed fats and oils
• Grains
• Legumes
• Fruit
• Vegetables

Restoring Our Primal Architecture (Posture!)

by Esther Gokhale

We need to concentrate on improving our posture to avoid back pain.

When standing, we need to stretch tall with our shoulders back, butt out, and pelvis in.

When sitting, do the following:

Sit with butt back into the seat as far as it will go.

Push in the pelvis with your hands.

If a cushion is available, place it behind your lower back.

Then press back, gluing your spine to the chair from the bottom up.

Then, roll each shoulder back, one at a time, to a relaxed position.

Good posture helps us with breathing. It also prevents back pain and disc degeneration. It also allows our digestive organs to work properly.

Health vs. Performance: Two Distinct and Oftentimes Conflicting Wellness Goals

by Keith Norris, founding member of Paleo Fx

By the year 2030, 1/3 of the Federal budget will be spent on Medicare and Medicaid alone. This will be a catastrophic situation. We need to address our health issues now.

Pharmaceutical companies are making huge profits from insulin delivery systems, and they are doing all they can to discourage people from learning about the nutritional approach, eliminating grains and sugar from the diet, which would eliminate the need for insulin for those with type 2 diabetes.

The Paleo Pyramid was shared:

The foundation is lean meats and fish.

Above that are fruits and vegetables.

The top of the pyramid consists of nuts and berries

What Paleo, Primal, and Atkins have in common are the understanding that our diets need to be sugar free, grain free, and protein based.

If anyone is truly interested in having their body composition measured, a DEXA scan is most accurate.

All are discouraged from going on a low-fat diet, since this will insure that you will lose your muscle mass. The goal is to maintain or increase muscle mass while losing fat.

Food for Performance

by John Welbourn

Several of his clients have had success in curing thyroid issues by eliminating wheat.

He recommends raw milk and Greek yogurt as excellent sources of dairy.

During discussion, it was noted that some people can tolerate sushi rice since it does not contain resistant starch.

Fix Our Food Initiative (panel discussion)

The big picture: from 1980 to present, there has been an extreme increase in obesity (BMI over 25).

The problem is that there is no money for studies.

The Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition (AND) has lots of funding from food companies, which causes a conflict of interest. Corporate sponsors include Pepsi, Coca Cola, Mars, Hershey, General Mills, and Kellogg’s.

It was noted that there is no one individual diet approach that is suitable for everyone. Nutrition needs to be individualized, depending on what each of us is adapted for.

The Straight Dope on Cholesterol

by Peter Attia

The cause of atherosclerosis is the presence of sterol in the artery walls. The plaque buildup is what we need to avoid. HDL is good cholesterol, and LDL is bad cholesterol.

Every cell in the body is able to produce its own cholesterol except the adrenal cortex and the gonads.

Cholesterol is dealt with in the gut.

15 % of cholesterol comes from what we eat.

85 % of cholesterol comes from what are bodies make.

It doesn’t matter how much cholesterol is produced. It must be delivered to the cell walls to get atherosclerosis. If you don’t have the boat to deliver the cargo (triglycerides and cholesterol), you don’t have a problem. It is this boat that carries triglycerides and cholesterol.

To make sure that you don’t have the boats to carry the triglycerides and cholesterol to the cell walls, eat low-carb.

Calories vs. Carbohydrates: Clearing Up the Confusion Over Competing Obesity Paradigms

by Gary Taubes

We accumulate excess fat because we have a fat accumulation disorder. Overeating is an effect of getting fat, not the cause. Excess fat is the result of grain, starch, and sugar in the diet and its insulin signaling.

To say that we get fat because we eat too many calories is like saying the room is crowded because there are too many people in it. The cause of the room being overcrowded is related to why people entered it, not that they did enter it; just as the cause of obesity is not that a person overate, but why that person overate.

Cholesterol is vital for life. The cholesterol that we eat has little to do with the cholesterol in our bodies.

Safe Starches: Are they Essential to an Ancestral Diet

Paul Jaminet has put forth the idea that there are “safe starches” including carbs such as white rice, white potatoes, and yams. He states that these particular starches do not have the toxins that other starches, such as grains, have.

Dr. Rosedale, a medical doctor, who has worked with heart and diabetic patients for over 20 years, has had excellent success with a high fat, low carb diet. He found that ketones are the ideal source of energy for the brain, and that the brain does not need to burn sugar.

During the discussion, it was brought out that in comparing countries, higher carb diets led to lower life spans. The countries where the population consumed the least carbohydrates, experienced the highest life spans.

What Not to Eat for Good Mental Health

by Emily Deans, M.D

Avoid the following:

• Trans fats: They are linked with depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, psychosis, and dementia.

• Carbohydrates such as sugar, grains, and starches, and high glycemic fruits: They are linked with hypoglycemia, irritability, and violence, stress, and anxiety.

• Caffeine and alcohol: These exacerbate blood sugar surges and surges in cortisol (leading to stress and anxiety).

• Sugar: It feeds bacteria in the colon, leading to inflammation and low serotonin.
To ameliorate these conditions, consume proteins and fats.

50 % of people of Western Europe have fructose malabsorption. This lack of adaptability to fructose causes inflammation.

Dietary Insulin Inhibition as a Metabolic Therapy in Advanced Cancer

by Eugene Fine, M.D.

Research has been done showing promise with treating cancer patients with a carbohydrate restricted diet. When insulin could be inhibited, using a low carb diet, patients with advanced cancer showed improvement.

Is There a Role for a Paleolithic Lifestyle in the Treatment and Prevention of Cancer?

by Rainer Klement, Ph.D and Dirk Lemke, M.D.

Based on recent research, a paleo-oriented, low- carb diet (based on our hunter-gatherer ancestors) could suppress, or at least delay, the emergence of cancer, and proliferation of already existing tumor cells could be slowed down. A Paleo lifestyle, along with resistance training could offer protection against cancer.

Man the Fat Hunter: Animal Fat Shortage as a Driver of Human Evolution and Prehistory

by Miki Ben-Dor

Our ancestors were fat hunters. This is what caused the a change in the brain size of home sapiens. High quality food which is high in good fat leads to big brains. We have evolved to eat fat.

Targeting Energy Metabolism in Brain Cancer

by Thomas Seyfried, Ph.D

Calorie restriction and low carb diets can be used in conjunction with anti-cancer drugs as therapies in the treatment of cancer.

Sugar: No Ordinary Commodity

by Robert Lustig, M.D.

Fructose consumption in the United States impacts health negatively and (as alcohol) should not be treated as an ordinary commodity on the open market. Consumption of sugar leads to insulin resistance and obesity. And, it was noted that there is a one percent increase in diabetes for every 100 calories of sugar consumed. Sugar is addictive and has become a public health problem. Metabolic dysfunction from consumption of sugar affects 40 % of normal-weight adults and 80 % of obese adults. 124,000,000 adults have health related problems due to sugar consumption. Dr. Lustig suggested that, with the health care costs from Medicare and Medicaid, we could balance the Federal budget if we could get this problem under control.

All good diets should be low in sugar and high in fiber.

A map of the United States showed most of the Southern states with high rates of obesity (except Georgia and Florida).

Minding My Mitochondria

by Terry Wahls, M.D.

Dr. Wahls has progressive Multiple Sclerosis and was confined to a tilt recline wheelchair. Using what she learned about progressive brain diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s, the nutritional requirements of the brain and the Paleo diet, she created a modified Paleo Diet to maximize the nutrition to her mitochondria, her cells, and her brain. After just 9 months on the diet, she is able to bicycle 18 miles. She explains how a structured Paleo Diet provides the most nutrition per calorie of any diets and how to eat for maximal health. Her diet consists of greens, garlic, onions, berries, grass-fed meats, seaweed, wild-caught fish. She does not eat grain, sugar, or dairy. She has 9 non-starchy vegetable servings per day.

Iron Behaving Badly: The Role of Iron Overload in Metabolic Disease

by Chris Kresser, M.S., L.Ac.

The dangers of too much iron in the body were discussed. 1 out of 200 people have hemochromotosis (iron overload). This leads to fatigue, brain dysfunction, metabolic problems, and mortality.

Digestive Health, Inflammation and the Metabolic Syndrome

by Stephan Guyenet, Ph.D.

Metabolic syndrome was shown to lead to obesity, insulin resistance, inflammation, high blood pressure, and blood lipid abnormalities. Diet, gut flora, and digestive health all influence metabolic disorders and may lead to diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.

He suggested that there may be benefits from avoiding bread, nuts, milk, onions, and pinto beans. To maintain a healthy weight, it was suggested that we exercise, eat a variety of whole plant foods, avoid food sensitivities (e.g. gluten), manage stress, and have vaginal births if possible.

Antibiotics lead to weight gain.

Children who had been birthed via C-sections have a 3 times greater risk of developing obesity by the age of 3.

Strongly Recommended Reading!!!

One particular book that I bought at the symposium which I believe everyone should possess is Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas (a certified nutritional therapist and neurofeedback specialist). A number of the ideas presented at the 3-day conference are elaborated upon in the text. In the book, she explains the vital role of eating a diet devoid of grains, sugar, and starches. She recommends eating moderate amounts of grass-fed beef and other organic meat, pasture fed poultry and eggs, and wild-caught fish, as well as non-starchy vegetables, nuts, and good fats. The importance of dealing with food sensitivities (especially to gluten and casein) are outlined, as well as the essential role of digestion in the absorption of vital nutrients. The most effective and efficient exercise is explained, along with important supplements that should be considered. Not only for weight loss, but for brain health, disease prevention, and longevity, this book will likely be the most important book you ever read. I encourage everyone to buy it.


  1. I just wanted to thank you for this excellent bullet point summary from the various speakers and for the pleasure of getting to know you and Joe a little better, including making feel "part of" and introducing me to your circle of friends at the conference. Really glad to see your comments here and endorse them wholly.

    1. Thanks, Jan. We loved getting to know you at the symposium. Joe and I both enjoyed our conversations with you. Your wisdom and insights are highly valued. I hope we meet up again in the future!