Diet. Diet? Diet!?

Overall I am ending this research more confused than when I started it. I think the most likely dietary change I make is to try to avoid foods with soybean, corn, or safflower oil, since this is probably a good stand-in for “foods processed enough that they count as processed foods and you should avoid them”. I don’t think the evidence is good for avoiding fish oil and olive oil, and there’s enough evidence from elsewhere that these foods are healthy that I’m going to keep trying to eat them. I don’t think the evidence is good for saturated fats being especially good, and there seems to be at least equally strong evidence that they’re bad, so although I’m not going to work too hard to avoid them I’m definitely not going to optimize my diet for getting as many of them as possible.

~ Scott Alexander from,

That’s the very last paragraph from a not-overly long piece from Alexander. Overall, yes I agree, I am more confused than when I started trying to sort out my eating.

Which is rather depressing; ~100 years of nutritional science and all we have are a lot of questions. I’ve put a lot of time into trying to figure out what works best for me—for maintaining a healthy weight—and I still am unable to control my weight to a degree that I’d like.

I can say for certain, (n=1, my anecdote, ymmv, etc.,) that there are interlocking causes which I am unable to control. I’ve spent 15 years working very hard, and while I have some ideas of what works, I do not have control.

If you want to read a terrific book that will expand your diet knowledge in some new directions, check out S. Guyenet’s, The Hungry Brain.


Simple Food: Thoughts on Practicality

(Part 12 of 12 in series, Stephan Guyenet's "Whole Health Source")

We live in a society where most of the food is at a level of reward/palatability that our species has never encountered before. We’re surrounded by it, and everywhere we turn, someone is jockeying for our attention, trying to get us to purchase their food. We’re used to it– and for the most part, we like it. This professionally engineered food drives our behavior in a way that is only loosely under our conscious control, with a small percentage of the population succumbing to frank addiction. So I can understand why some people are resistant to change.

~ Stephan Guyenet


Polyphenols, Hormesis and Disease: Part II

(Part 11 of 12 in series, Stephan Guyenet's "Whole Health Source")

I think that overall, the evidence suggests that polyphenol-rich foods are healthy in moderation, and eating them on a regular basis is generally a good idea. Certain other plant chemicals, such as suforaphane found in cruciferous vegetables, and allicin found in garlic, exhibit similar effects and may also act by hormesis. Some of the best-studied polyphenol-rich foods are tea (particularly green tea), blueberries, extra-virgin olive oil, red wine, citrus fruits, hibiscus tea, soy, dark chocolate, coffee, turmeric and other herbs and spices, and a number of traditional medicinal herbs. A good rule of thumb is to “eat the rainbow”, choosing foods with a variety of colors.

~ Stephan Guyenet from,

This is part 2 of the best series on polyphenols I have ever found. I bet they don’t work the way you think they work… and they’re NOT antioxidants, except in your digestive tract, where they actually help prevent YOUR OWN GUT from creating trans fats …and they’re actually a toxic stressor… oh, just click already :P


The Twinkie Diet for Fat Loss

(Part 10 of 12 in series, Stephan Guyenet's "Whole Health Source")

Then how do so many people maintain a stable weight over years and decades? And how do wild animals maintain a stable body fat percentage (except when preparing for hibernation) even in the face of food surpluses? How do lab rats and mice fed a whole food diet maintain a stable body fat percentage in the face of literally unlimited food, when they’re in a small cage with practically nothing to do but eat?

The answer is that the body isn’t stupid. Over hundreds of millions of years, we’ve evolved sophisticated systems that maintain “energy homeostasis”.

~ Stephan Guyenet

This is why I’ve been losing weight, slowly for years now. Lots of little changes that shift the balance.


Choline and Fatty Liver

(Part 9 of 12 in series, Stephan Guyenet's "Whole Health Source")

Choline is an essential nutrient that’s required for the transport of fat out of the liver. NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) can be caused, and cured, simply by removing or adding dietary choline, and it appears to be dominant over other dietary factors including fat, sugar and alcohol. Apparently, certain researchers have been aware of this for some time, but it hasn’t entered into the mainstream consciousness.

~ Stephan Guyenet

Choline? I don’t think I’ve even heard of Choline. *sigh* Another new thing to learn about…


The Big Sleep

(Part 8 of 12 in series, Stephan Guyenet's "Whole Health Source")

The term “adrenal fatigue”, which refers to the aforementioned disturbance in cortisol rhythm, is characterized by general fatigue, difficulty waking up in the morning, and difficulty going to sleep at night. It’s a term that’s commonly used by alternative medical practitioners but not generally accepted by mainstream medicine, possibly because it’s difficult to demonstrate and the symptoms are fairly general. Robb Wolf talks about it in his book The Paleo Solution.

~ Stephan Guyenet

I yap about sleep a lot, for a very good reason. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Improving my sleep was the single most important thing I’ve ever done for my health. The first small improvements in sleep led to further steps onward and onward.


The Dirty Little Secret of the Diet-Heart Hypothesis

(Part 7 of 12 in series, Stephan Guyenet's "Whole Health Source")

The diet-heart hypothesis is the idea that saturated fat, and in some versions cholesterol, raises blood cholesterol and contributes to the risk of having a heart attack. To test this hypothesis, scientists have been studying the relationship between saturated fat consumption and heart attack risk for more than half a century. What have these studies found?

~ Stephan Guyenet


The Body Fat Setpoint, Part II: Mechanisms of Fat Gain

(Part 6 of 12 in series, Stephan Guyenet's "Whole Health Source")

Body fat produces a hormone called leptin, which signals to the brain and other organs to decrease appetite, increase the metabolic rate and increase physical activity. More fat means more leptin, which then causes the extra fat to be burned. The little glitch is that some people become resistant to leptin, so that their brain doesn’t hear the fat tissue screaming that it’s already full. Leptin resistance nearly always accompanies obesity, because it’s a precondition of significant fat gain.

~ Stephan Guyenet

This part of his series is short and non-technical. But his whole series is, probably, the greatest explanation of why one gets fat which I have ever read.


Animal Models of Atherosclerosis: LDL

(Part 5 of 12 in series, Stephan Guyenet's "Whole Health Source")

The bottom line is that experimental models of atherosclerosis appear to rely on overloading herbivorous species with dietary cholesterol that they are not equipped to clear. SFA does exacerbate the increase in LDL caused by cholesterol overload. But in the absence of excess cholesterol, it does not necessarily raise LDL even in species ill-equipped to digest these types of fats. Dietary cholesterol has a modest effect on LDL cholesterol in humans, and it has even less effect on LDL particle number, a more important measure. So there may not be a cholesterol overload for saturated fat to exacerbate in humans.

~ Stephan Guyenet

In the context of actual amounts that you can actually consume (animal studies feed cholesterol to herbivores as if you eat 20+ eggs EVERY day) there is no evidence (not in animal studies and certainly not in human studeis) that cholesterol and saturated fat cause atherosclerosis. If you think eating cholesterol or saturated fat is bad, I hope you’ll investigate where you obtained that knowledge, and look into the factual basis of that knowledge. If you’re avoiding cholesterol and saturated fat, what are you replacing it with?