"Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates

Posts tagged "Fitness"
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Eat a healthy Paleolithic/Primal diet.

The primal diet is one consisting primarily meat and vegetables (loads of veggies), with some fruit, nuts, seeds, and possibly dairy. As I see it, the principles behind this diet are this: regulate your insulin levels and prevent inflammation. In theory, these two principles combined help to create an anticancer environment in your body, as well as decreasing your risk of heart disease, metabolic disorder, type 2 diabetes, and a host of diseases and ailments associated with chronic inflammation.


One of the most important things to me is the peace of mind and general fulfillment that comes with eating real, healthy food. Back in the days of Lean Cuisine and Hot Pockets, there was always a feeling, the feeling that I knew that what I was eating was crap. Nowadays, though, I love my food and I love eating. It is fun and interesting to cook new things. I feel good about what I eat and it always tastes great.

Do some form of exercise every day, but don’t let it be a chore.

Whether it is walking, lifting heavy things, sprinting, climbing, or playing a game or a sport, get out and do some sort of exercise every day. Bike to work, go for a walk on your lunch break, throw on your Vibram Fivefingers and go run and sprint around the neighborhood. Alternatively, pick up a copy of Starting Strength, get your form down pat, and get in the gym and lift some weights. I’m particularly fond of playing racquetball with my friends, even if it is just for fun.


Too many people get trapped in the standard American grind (SAG): eat way too many carbohydrates and processed food as a part of the standard American diet (SAD), and burn them off every day by running miles on the treadmill. Miss the gym? You get fat. When you’re adapted to a primal lifestyle, which by its nature is comparatively low in carbohydrates, you need not fool around with this nonsense. Learn to love your exercise! Get off the treadmill and go out and enjoy nature, play Frisbee in a field, climb trees, be a kid again, and periodically push your body with sprints and heavy lifts.

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I’ve noticed a somewhat alarming trend in some research studies I’ve been reading. It is important to look out for subtle yet important diction choices in the authors’ writing that may indicate some sort of agenda-pushing is going on.


The most apparent way to see this phenomenon is in the difference between “significance” and “statistical significance.” It may seem like a trivial distinction, but consider the following two examples:

  1. Coffee extract significantly increased blood pressure when tested at t = 4h after administration
  2. Coffee extract was associated with statistically significant increased blood pressure at t = 4 h.

The two sentences carry completely different weight when read in the context of a lay person. The first sentence seems to imply some sort of momentous increase in blood pressure brought on by the administration of coffee, while the second sentence gives the impression that the change in blood pressure was notable but does not give an indication as to its magnitude.

Colloquially speaking, a “significant increase” implies that the two groups are seriously different from each other: “Ohio State will be significantly outmatched by Nebraska’s offense next season.” However, this type of language is acceptable in a scientific publication because of the notion of significance as meaning “unlikely to have occurred by chance” and being synonymous with “statistically significant.” That is to say, in research, the two terms are virtually identical. Therefore, it is important you take care to interpret the study with the mindset of a researcher in order to avoid this type of bias in your interpretation.

Another thing to look out for is the implication of causality. In the first example given above, the sentence implies that coffee is \causing\ blood pressure changes. While this may be a causal relationship in an experiment like this, be wary when you see this type of language in epidemiological reports which, due to their nature, are only able to show associations.

Unfortunately, being the cynic that I am, I don’t doubt that researchers who want to make their studies seem more impactful so they can influence the discussion one way or another - or attract attention from the media - tend to use this more ambiguous language. Regardless of this hypothesis of mine, these subtle distinctions are important to note as you read studies (as I’m sure that’s how you spend your free time) to help preserve an unbiased mindset and a balanced analysis of the material. Happy reading!

Images from Flickr - click images to find original artist

Copyright © 2011 Ryan Town. All rights reserved.
Work may be used freely if credit is given.

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Remember, this blog is targeting healthy individuals seeking optimum health through diet and lifestyle who are ideally already following the Paleolithic/primal lifestyle.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction & Summary
1.1 Author’s Note
2. Cancer
3. Insulin Sensitivity & Glucose Tolerance
4. Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
5. Heart Health & Hypertension
6. Pregnancy
7. Antioxidants & Inflammation
8. Mental Health
9. Liver Health
10. Oral Health
11. Bone Health
12. Gout
13. Fitness Performance
14. Metabolic Syndrome
15. Gallstone Disease
16. Additives & Nutrient Uptake
17. Variation Among Types of Coffee
18. Sleep
19. Future Topics of Interest
21. References (Annotated Bibliography)
22. Acknowledgements

1. Introduction & Summary

Over half of all American adults drink some form of coffee on a daily basis. But is it good for you? There are a plethora of ways to drink it: iced, with skim, 1%, 2%, whole, cream, half and half, with soy, a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, artificial sweetener, non-dairy creamer, as espresso, etc. Ask around and you’ll get just as many different opinions as to whether or not it’s good for you: it cures cancer, it causes cancer, it is hard on your heart, or it lowers blood pressure. What the hell is going on here? So, I decided to kick off my first EBP article by boiling down all the research I could find on coffee into a coherent, science-based recommendation.

What follows this introduction is a lot of summarization of research articles, so I will briefly give my recommendation on coffee. If you are currently healthy and enjoy coffee, drink it – but drink it black, and no more than six 6-ounce “cups” (or about 1 liter total) per day. Habitual drinking of four or five “cups” spread throughout each day is encouraged, but drink it before 5 pm. It is important you get ample calcium and occasionally lift heavy things to maintain bone health. Drink decaf all you want.

I say no more than one liter per day because it seems practical to hedge your bets: 4 or 5 cups will get you the vast majority of the benefits, while minimizing any potential risks associated with such a large volume of coffee consumption. What are the benefits of habitual coffee consumption? Coffee seems to protect against many types of cancer, including oral, pharyngeal, liver, pancreatic, colon, prostate, endometrial, brain and potentially others. It also appears that habitual consumption leads to improved insulin sensitivity, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, reduced risk of heart disease and other heart problems, reduced oxidative stress and inflammation, better oral health, better mental health, better liver health, reduced risk of gout and gallstone disease, and couple cups of coffee before some high-intensity endurance exercise can boost performance. And it has practically no calories40! One major downside I have seen is that coffee reduces the body’s ability to metabolize calcium, so it is very important to ensure you are getting your calcium. Also, caffeinated coffee may be related to birth defects and should probably be avoided by pregnant women, especially during the first trimester. It seems that decaffeinated coffee can give you a fair amount of benefits without any apparent risk, but you will miss out on many of the great benefits of caffeinated coffee.


As an important note, this recommendation is not a permission slip to enjoy other types of caffeinated beverages like energy drinks or diet sodas! There are many components of coffee that all seem to interact to produce these effects, so you cannot generalize its benefits to other things. Also, it’s psychologically unhealthful to think of coffee as a need, so if you’re at a stage of psychological addiction that you simply cannot go without your coffee, you need to try to go thirty days without it to give yourself a little “reboot”. If you don’t want to drink four or five cups of coffee that is just fine, but don’t expect the benefits that come with that level of coffee consumption. If you already drink much more than five cups of coffee a day, you should consider lowering your intake to reduce your risk of unhealthful side effects.

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Although I am an aspiring medical physician, I am only a senior undergraduate student studying Neuroscience and getting minors in Philosophy and Medical Humanities. The name of this blog is mostly a placeholder for my future self, as I see the primal/paleolithic lifestyle becoming greatly popular in the near future and don’t want to miss out on my favorite domain name. Also, the name reflects what is going to be medical focus of my blog, as I will critically examine clinical studies in order to inform my decisions on food and fitness.

Just wanted to clarify this before anyone gets all up-in-arms about the name.

I’m going to start writing a series of articles called “Evidence-Based Practice” (EBP) in which I will write up a thorough review of the scientific literature regarding one specific topic, complete with a properly sourced and annotated bibliography.The logic behind EBP is to try and provide a science-based recommendation for whether or not to consume a particular food/supplement or do particular workouts. This goes along nicely with my idea of the “primal” or “paleolithic” diet, which I conceptualize as using scientific evidence and knowledge of our evolutionary physiology in order to draft an outline of an optimum diet and fitness plan for humans.

Evidence-Based Practice

First up is going to be the ever-popular coffee. I was at my brother’s high school graduation this past weekend and heard about a dozen different takes on coffee. Only drink decaf, only drink extra-strong, it causes heart palpitations, it causes cancer, only drink one cup, drink a lot of cups, caffeine is bad for you, blah blah blah. Wow! Does anyone really know anything useful about coffee? That is what I want to figure out in my first article in “Evidence-Based Practice.”

If people actually seem to like this, I will try to post EBP’s either weekly or biweekly. Off we go!