Tag Archives: Paleo Diet

Nutrition: Could Coconut Oil Speed Cell Aging?

Nutrition: Cell Health and Telomeres.

You can only be as healthy as your cells.  A major marker of cell health is telomere length.  Telomeres cap the ends of chromosomes.  They protect DNA from deteriorating.  They also protect DNA from accidental fusion with other chromosomes.  You need the caps.  Caps, however, tend to wear out (they get shorter) with repeated cell divisions.  Once a telomere suffers enough wear the cell can no longer divide.  Other things can wear out telomeres too.   Things like oxidative stress and inflammation.  Telomere shortening and wear is thought to play a major role in aging.  Preserving telomere length may be a way to prolong life.  Speeding telomere wear may cause faster aging.
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Short to Medium Chain Saturated Fatty Acids

A diet rich in short to medium chain saturated fatty acids may damage telomeres.  A new paper published in the Journal of Nutrition reports on diet, fat intake and telomere length.  Subjects were part of the Women’s Health Initiative study.  Women who ate a lot of short and medium chain saturated fatty acids had shorter telomeres.  Women with the lowest intake of short and medium chain saturated fatty acids had the longest telomeres.  Long-chain saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats had no effect on telomeres.

Nutrition take away.

A diet high in short to medium chain fatty acids may speed aging.  A lot of people in CrossFit follow the Paleo Diet.  Or The Paleolithic Diet.  The Paleo diet and a lot of its followers advocate consumption of coconut oil.  Medium chain fatty acids do have some nice qualities.  Medium chain fatty acids have been associated with reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.  Medium chain fatty acids are easy to digest.  They may reduce appetite and feelings of hunger.  And they pack a lot of calories.  Having a source of calories is important.   The research reported here shows you are probably better off sticking to long chain, and unsaturated fats.  Drink olive oil.  Eat walnuts.  Future research may report something different.  Few people, after all, eat lots of coconut oil.  And there may have been other factors involved with the women in the Women’s Health Initiative study that might also have caused their telomeres to shorten.

Foods High in Short or Medium Chain Saturated Fatty Acids

  • Coconut oil: 66% medium chain saturated fatty acids
  • Palm Kernal Oil
  • Butter
  • Whole Milk
  • Cheese

 

Song Y, You NC, Song Y, Kang MK, Hou L, Wallace R, Eaton CB, Tinker LF, & Liu S (2013). Intake of Small-to-Medium-Chain Saturated Fatty Acids Is Associated with Peripheral Leukocyte Telomere Length in Postmenopausal Women. The Journal of nutrition PMID: 23616516

Nagao K, & Yanagita T (2010). Medium-chain fatty acids: functional lipids for the prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome. Pharmacological research : the official journal of the Italian Pharmacological Society, 61 (3), 208-12 PMID: 19931617

Coconut oil and the search for the perfect diet.

Coconut oil is being promoted by some as a “perfect” food. This is common in the CrossFit and Paleo communities. Coconut oil is like animal fat in that it is high in saturated fat. Many paleo followers are told that a diet high in saturated fat is ideal for health. Coconut oil is easier for most people to tolerate than eating similar amounts of lard. What do we actually know about diets high in saturated vs. unsaturated fat?

Coconut oil, saturated fat, paleo diet expert
Buy into it or your head goes in the toilet

Diet, research and unsaturated fat.

Some studies have found that diets high in Omega-6 unsaturated fats may increase inflammation.  General inflammation is a marker for a number of chronic diseases.  Other studies have found that diets high in omega-6s may cause insulin resistance and increase risk of diabetes.  Also found is an association of omega-6s with poor blood cholesterol profiles.  Most of these studies have been done with animals.  Such as mice.Other studies have found that diets high in omega-6s reduce inflammation.  And improve cholesterol profiles.  Most of these studies were done in humans.  At present, we do not know what is best as far as omega-6s are concerned.  We are not discussing the role of Omega-3s here.  But they are important too.

Back to diet, coconut oil and saturated fat.

A new study in mice has found that a diet containing 12% saturated was worse in a number of ways.  (Compared to diets with 6% or 24% saturated fat).  A 12% saturated fat diet is typical for Americans.  A 12% saturated fat diet caused the most gain in body fat, the most insulin resistance, and the most inflammation.  Inspite of the fact that all animals got 40% of their calories from fat.  The take away here is, at least for mice, the type of fat consumed matters.  What about the low vs. high saturated fat mice?  The high saturated fat diet caused the lowest insulin resistance.  This might mean that a high saturated fat diet is better for avoiding diabetes.  But it also gave the highest total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol ratio.  A high total cholesterol/hdl cholesterol ratio is a risk factor for hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Coconut oil and diet take away.

No one has all the answers.  There’s a lot we do not know.  And until we know more it would be best to be wary of people who claim that what they know is enough.
Enos RT, Davis JM, Velázquez KT, McClellan JL, Day SD, Carnevale KA, & Murphy EA (2013). Influence of dietary saturated fat content on adiposity, macrophage behavior, inflammation, and metabolism: composition matters. Journal of lipid research, 54 (1), 152-63 PMID: 23103474

The Paleo Diet vs. Flexitarian Diet

Paleo Diet/Flexitarian Diet

The Flexitarian Diet.  It sounds like the antithesis of The Paleo Diet.  The Paleo diet is very interesting, in psychological terms.  It creates order and rules of law. And provides a semblance of moral structure as well.   I am indebted to Jonathn Haidt for his perspectives.   One of the things I enjoy about his writing is his emphasis on human variation.  There are very few people at the extremes.  He defines five basic components of morality:

  • Do not harm
  • Maintain purity (avoid the icky, don’t eat nasty stuff, don’t be licentious)
  • Respect authority
  • Be loyal
  • Justice matters

You can take a survey and get an idea of where you rest on the scale. Some tend to rate loyalty, purity and respect more highly than “do no harm” or “worry about justice.”  Others tend to value “do no harm” and “justice” themes more than any of the others.  This often explains why perfectly reasonable people can be at a complete loss to understand the idiocy of other perfectly reasonable people.

The Flexitarian Diet

The Flexitarian Approach has been described as “Eat more plants, and do the best that you can.”  The basic idea is that you should eat mostly plants and that if you eat unhealthy things some times its not that big of a deal.    So how do these relate to people’s differing moral foundations?  Respecting authority is probably not very flexitarian.  Nor would loyalty.  “Do no harm” seems Flexitarian.  Do not harm yourself or others by being critical.  And eat less meat seems gentler than eat more.   In the opposite corner is the Paleo Diet.  Here respect for authority seems to be pretty important.  Many followers of the Paleo diet seem to have a “you’re with us or you’re against us” attitude.  One that also expresses “if you’re not with us, you’re a unworthy.”  Very inflexible.

It looks like our stone age ancestors were Flexitarian and not adherents of the Paleo Diet as it is frequently described by people in Crossfit.  Both the flexitarian diet and the paleo diet will tell you to eat little (or no) junk food.  And both will probably be much better for your health than the Standard American Diet (aka the SAD diet).   If you are interested in learning more about The Flexitarian Diet,  Mark Bittman will be writing regularly on the topic and  providing recipes.

 

Ströhle, A., & Hahn, A. (2011). Diets of modern hunter-gatherers vary substantially in their carbohydrate content depending on ecoenvironments: results from an ethnographic analysis Nutrition Research, 31 (6), 429-435 DOI: 10.1016/j.nutres.2011.05.003

 

Graham, J., Nosek, B., & Haidt, J. (2012). The Moral Stereotypes of Liberals and Conservatives: Exaggeration of Differences across the Political Spectrum PLoS ONE, 7 (12) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050092

What is Creatine. CrossFit Training Post: On Creatine Supplements

What is Creatine?

In terms of athletics, Creatine is a molecule needed for muscle function.  It helps keep you from running out of ATP during short, intense bursts of activity.  Energy in ATP (high school biology refresher) ultimately fuels most life processes.  Skeletal muscle uses a lot of ATP during intense exercise.  Creatine helps recycle used ATP so it continues to be available.  Creatine supplements increase muscle force and power.  At least in the short term.  And that’s the very short of it.  Creatine also interacts with other cellular processes.  It appears to increase production of insulin-like growth factor (IGF). IGF works with Growth Hormone and Insulin to increase cell division and growth.  Creatine supplements may cause this Creatine/Growth Hormone system to step up growth.

Will being on Creatine Supplements help me gain muscle mass?

Probably yes.   This may be especially the case for vegetarians.  In average Westerners your body produces half its own creatine.  Diet (meat) supplies the other half.  Vegetarians have lower levels of creatine than meat eaters. Masters Athletes may also benefit.  Creatine may help preserve muscle mass as well.

Can Creatine Supplements help me during CrossFit Competition?

CrossFit involves intense burst of energy from many different muscle groups.  So CrossFit might be the poster child for creatine supplements.

Can being on Creatine Supplements help me with endurance sports?

Creatine probably won’t help with endurance.  And it might slow you down if you have to carry more weight.  That can be muscle mass or it might simply be retained water.

What else can Creatine Supplements do?

Creatine supplements are being studied as treatments for people with muscle disorders.  They are also being studied for use in treating major depression.  Creatine seems to increase the effectiveness of anti-depressants.

What are side effects or dangers?

One potential problem with Creatine Supplements is the increased activity of the IGF/Growth Hormone axis.  While this might help with muscle growth, increased IGF and Growth Hormone can increase risk of cancer.  Most studies of creatine supplementation have involved small numbers of subjects.  And have been for short periods of time.  This means that the effects of taking creatine for a long time are not known.

Another possible problem with creatine supplements is that they can reduce flexibility.  This might be because of increased muscle mass.  Or it might be because of fluid build-up in muscle tissue.

Venus with her Kettlebells CrossFit Shirt.

Should I be on Creatine Supplements all the time?

There is concern that taking creatine for a long time or in great amounts can cause kidney damage.  “More” is often not “better.”  Another thing to keep in mind is that the body tends to seek balance.  If you give it more of something it may respond by producing less of it itself.  This happens, for example, with testosterone.  Testosterone will increase muscle growth, but the testes will figure out that there is enough testosterone in circulation.  And it will stop making so much.  Hence the shrinking testes and reduced fertility in men who take testosterone supplements.   It is possible that taking creatine supplements will eventually result in less creatine synthesis.  If you are going to take creatine you should take it for short periods of time.  And take breaks.  Until more research is done.

Safdar A, Yardley NJ, Snow R, Melov S, & Tarnopolsky MA (2008). Global and targeted gene expression and protein content in skeletal muscle of young men following short-term creatine monohydrate supplementation. Physiological genomics, 32 (2), 219-28 PMID: 17957000

Candow DG, Forbes SC, Little JP, Cornish SM, Pinkoski C, & Chilibeck PD (2012). Effect of nutritional interventions and resistance exercise on aging muscle mass and strength. Biogerontology, 13 (4), 345-58 PMID: 22684187

Lyoo IK, Yoon S, Kim TS, Hwang J, Kim JE, Won W, Bae S, & Renshaw PF (2012). A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial of oral creatine monohydrate augmentation for enhanced response to a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor in women with major depressive disorder. The American journal of psychiatry, 169 (9), 937-45 PMID: 22864465