Surprise! Cows live on a high-fat diet…

This is something that blew mind! I have always been under the impression that herbivores, like cows, would derive their energy from carbohydrates. After all, grass is a carb, right? Well, it’s mostly cellulose and is indigestible by humans. Maybe good as fiber.

While I was aware that their digestive systems are different from carnivores’ ones, I thought that due to different enzymes/microbes they can break down the fiber into simple carbs. How wrong was I!

It turns out that the microbes in cows’ digestive systems actually ferment the grass and turn it into fat. This fat provides up to 70% of cow’s energy needs.  This is one serious high-fat diet! I am not sure if even carnivores can compare… Of course, if humans feed the cows with grain, then it’s a game-changer. You can actually see the difference in the meat and there is a market for grain-fed beef, e.g. Wagyu Steak.

So, the question this information raises – is there a need for carbohydrates in the diet? While there are essential fatty acids and essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), there are no essential carbs…

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Build your muscles for better overall health?

This video is a bit out-there, but it does make sense…

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One year with no carbs – my personal journey

I’ve now hit 12 months into this experiment of living without carbs. Well, almost without carbs as it is very hard to cut them out completely. I still allow myself some minimal amounts once or twice a week. For example, a glass of wine with lunch on Thursdays since it’s a company lunch and I might have some rice on other occasions. Nevertheless, the amounts are minimal when compared with everything else over the whole week.

One other point I have to make here – I eat fruit but not many vegetables. This is purely from convenience point as fruit is much easier to eat due to minimal preparation required. Some would argue that fruit contains fructose and it still is a carbohydrate. Technically yes, however, you need GLUT transporters to absorb fructose. Their release is triggered by insulin (all 18 of them except GLUT-4, which is insulin independent as far as I know). I believe that in my case I would not produce much of them so I would not be absorbing much fructose. Therefore, in my mind, it is of no consequence. Besides, fructose is safe for diabetics as it does not raise insulin much due to its low GI value.

Otherwise, my diet mainly consists, in no particular order, of: meat, fish, eggs, butter, cream, coconut oil, cheese, kefir, some sauerkraut and mushrooms. Also, sometimes I have no-carbs noodles made out of root of konjac plant as a pretend pasta. These noodles, and fruit would make up the most of my fibre intake.

So, how does it feel to live on protein and fat? To be honest, after an initial period of adjustment, there is no marked difference. Any advantages are very subtle and gradual. My weight has dropped by a couple of kilograms since my last update and then recovered, but that could be explained by reduced food intake. I no longer can be bothered, nor feel the need, to eat 5 times a day. Now, I have just increased my intake of fat – mainly butter cause I like the taste. Some noticed effects are: less bloating after a meal, no feelings of hunger even after long periods without food, and no ups and downs in energy levels. Unfortunately, I do not experience any more energy than before, it’s just more stable – there never is a need for a coffee and a donut after lunch, although I was still craving them for a while. Cravings for any food item are mostly gone, and that includes alcohol. I bought a 6-pack of beer about 2 months ago, and still have 5 left in the fridge. A couple of years ago I would buy 6 to 12 beers per week. Also, this year’s flu season seems to have bypassed me altogether with not even a cold, whereas same time last year I was sick a couple of times.

Now for drawbacks. One obvious one is not eating some foods that I enjoyed in the past. Namely bread, pasta, pastries and cakes. I am not mentioning other carbs like rice or potatoes since they are not as enjoyable as the former ones… Another one is change in frequency of bowel movements due to no carbs and lower intake of fibre. This has however come back to normal although took a while to do so.

One other thing to mention is extra intake of salt. Apparently, insulin’s other function is to make the body retain sodium (and water). Therefore if my body is not producing much insulin due to no carbs in the diet, I take extra salt dissolved in my drinking water. Maybe that’s why my keto flu was very mild – almost not noticeable.

Are there any medical changes? After all, this is a high fat (mostly saturated) diet and high sodium. Heart rate is still 60bpm during the day, blood pressure is still 120/75, and extra weight. The weight gain was intentional and mostly muscle. Weight training 5-6 times a week probably had something to do with it…

To summarize all this, I have been functioning perfectly well on ketones instead of glucose but unfortunately without any miraculous benefits or super-powers. At least not yet. When I say ketones, I mean that I have tested myself for ketones in urine over a period of few weeks just to be sure. I understand that urine test is not as accurate as a blood test, but the tests consistently showed low to moderate amounts of excreted ketones.

Given that elevated levels of blood glucose are associated with development of insulin resistance and diabetes, I think that the less glucose the better. Is there a safe level though? I can find a lot of medical advice equating normal level with safe level but is it really true? If a substance causes damage in large quantities, is it be safe to assume that the same substance would be causing no damage in lower quantities? Or, just less damage… Logic dictates the latter is true but all the medical advice I find says otherwise. Could someone with more knowledge on the subject explain this to me?

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Does a keto diet work?

Again, there seems to be all-out media attack on a diet that people lived on before the advent of farming. Farming is generally accepted to be about 10,000 years old. Humanity, on the other hand, at least 300,000 depending on your sources. So, if the keto diet is so dangerous and shortens your lifespan, it must be a bloody miracle that we even survived for 290,000 years to invent farming. All the keto bashing just goes against all logic.

Apparently, keto diet is only useful for epileptics where conventional medication does not work. Hmmm… Are these patients less healthy otherwise? Are they dying prematurely? Do they lack energy and have to dragged out of beds? Are they obese? I hear crickets… Furthermore, how did the prehistoric people have all the energy to run and hunt?

Here’s one more example of keto bashing. For a scientific publication, the article is very anti-scientific. It states that scientists still don’t know why keto diet causes weight loss in the short term. Really? Obviously, scientists must be sitting on their hands rather than doing research. Here’s a hint – maybe insulin has got something to do with it? Just asking…

I have now been living on a keto diet for almost a year and I can say that I am not going back. They can have all the bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc. I am very happy without these foods. I am 50 yo and never felt better. Have more energy now than 20 years ago – 1.5 hours in the gym 5 times a week without running out of energy. I even managed to put on some muscle. I drink coffee now because I like the taste, not because I need a pick-me-up. My desire to drink alcohol has totally disappeared. When I went skiing, I could go all day without eating lunch and did not feel any weaker.

Well, maybe I am different from the rest of population… Maybe I’ve got some alien genes, or something… OK, don’t take my word for it. Just look at Halle Berry. There is a reason that she looks half her age. So now keto diet is a fad diet promoted by celebrities and not worth even wasting your time thinking about… Perhaps we no longer see Halle Berry in any movies because she looks too good and we can’t have people asking too many questions or, god forbid, imitating her?

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If A causes B, and B causes C, then…

It would be logical to take A and thoroughly investigate it since it looks like a culprit. But that is not what is happening in the scientific world. Take for example this latest news article linking obesity to Alzheimer’s.

The article is based on a study showing the links between obesity and how it affects brain’s cognitive function, specifically targeting Alzheimer’s disease. So the scientists are looking at microglia cells and “dendritic spines”. Those are specific pathways how brain function gets affected. However, more importantly, and what is totally missing here is the cause of obesity in the first place. Once you eliminate the cause of one, the other should go away as well. But there would be no profit in that. They have to find and patent a molecule that will block this pathways and save humankind from this deadly disease while lining up the pockets of big pharma…

Reducing, or eliminating consumption of carbohydrates is too simple and can’t be patented. Instead, we are told that low carb diets are dangerous. However, there is no denying that low carb diets work against obesity, and furthermore, they work against Alzheimer’s. Dr Perlmutter, who is a specialist in this field, has been warning us about dangers of carbs for many years now, especially about grain and sugar. But who’s listening?

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Are wearables useful?

That depends for who – user, or the manufacturer (or associated owner/marketer/distributor etc).

There are many variants of these devices on the market, from strap-ons to the more popular watches. There is no doubt that they offer a number of conveniences to the users, like showing notifications, location services, music playing and even making calls. All these, plus a range of others, from a small watch-sized device on the wrist. And, in some cases you can even leave your phone at home and still have access to all that! Amazing!

These devices started as fitness trackers however their uptake was slow due to limited usefulness. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a device to tell you that you need more exercise when one look in the mirror can do that? Sure, they can track more specific indicators like VO2Max but how informative is it to an average person? Furthermore, a watch on your wrist can only approximate it based on some assumptions and algorithms. Not sure how exact that would be when compared with proper oxygen and carbon dioxide analysis of air being breathed in and out… As for counting steps, who cares?

So, the big question is, will buying one make you fitter? The results of various studies are a mixed bag. One thing is for sure – they cannot do that by themselves. At best, they provide you with feedback about your activities which indirectly may motivate you to do more. Plus the fact that you may want to justify spending hundreds of dollars in some way. So you may end up fitter, but doing more exercise is the least effective way to lose weight even though weight loss is the purpose why most people buy them. Best way is a diet change.

Data collection is a big thing these days. In defense of it, one day a wearable device together with predictive AI may just save your life. Plus, the devices themselves are becoming more and more powerful. However, just imagine what the health data, anonymized or not, is worth to drug manufacturers or health/life insurers. It will be possible to calculate a user’s risk with regards to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many other conditions. Insurance premiums will go up and drugs will be target-marketed to individuals. So, yes – these devices are useful to both consumers and corporations. Consumers get convenience while corporations get bigger profits 🙂

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Scare tactics?

The popularity of low and no carbs diets has really shot up lately. The reason behind it is that they work. The results can really be seen almost immediately. From my personal experience, I can’t say anything bad about ditching carbs. I have more energy and it’s constant – no more ups and downs during the day. Furthermore, it does not matter how much sleep I got the night before, I function the same during the day on 4 hours of sleep or 8. Of course, there is an initial adjustment period – aka keto flu – but after that it’s just getting better. My immune system also got better and this flu season has totally bypassed me, unlike the previous year.

I have initially used a low carb diet to lose weight and it worked. It worked too well and I wanted to gain some back but as muscle and not fat. I was also able to achieve this with totally carb free diet and exercise. It’s still work in progress as I want another 7 kg on me. However, I can understand how hard it can be to take the plunge and stop eating carbs. They are addictive after all. The cravings, while diminishing, still persisted months into it. When you read articles saying it takes 3 days for your body to adjust, it’s not true. It takes weeks and then some. Articles like these are designed to discourage people from trying. I know people who gave up after a week or two and said that they must be genetically predisposed to eat carbs and went back into them with a vengeance. Most of the “scientific” articles about nutrition, health and diet are sponsored by large agricultural corporations that made a lot of money on cheaply manufactured food with high profit margins, like cereal. Oh, and let’s not forget tons of added sugar which fits the bill as well – cheap to make and added to everything. Then you have the CEO of Coca Cola Amatil (Australia) citing some study that showed obesity rates gone up while sugar consumption going down as a reason behind the obesity epidemic could not possibly be soft drinks. She conveniently omitted the fact that the study said that while the ratio of sugar to other foods has gone down, it does not mean that overall consumption of sugar has also gone down. The study did not specify if people just eat more of everything (which is also a real problem as portion sizes get bigger – would you like fries with your burger? upsize?).

Another study lately scares people that low carb diet will shorten their lives. There’s a couple of issues with this study. First of all, it relies on surveys of what people remember what they ate. Right, I can’t even remember what I had 2 nights ago let alone for the whole week or month. People also feel guilty about eating too much sweets and will under-report it. Secondly, the study only compares between 30 and above 65% range carbs ratio not 0 carbs but extrapolates the results to assume that the less the worse. There are many other issues with these kind of studies.

Yet another study claims that it followed subjects over a 25 years, but only checked their eating habits twice in that period and used those findings to assume that’s how they ate over the whole 25 years. It is absolutely worthless. Who would fund studies with so many holes in them that even a school aged kids would not take them seriously? The very corporations that would financially suffer if people would turn away from sugar and carbs. They must think that we are all idiots…

And the medical industry is also guilty. They are addicted to the money that sick people part with hoping for a cure. And lets face it, no sickness = no profits = no medical industry. No wonder therefore that reports to the diet advisory committees are biased. So now you have doctors claiming that coconut oil is pure poison. But no mention of the fact that now even children are getting type 2 diabetes in large numbers. I guess, sugar consumption has nothing to do with it… right…

The bottom line is that there will be a big change to where the money is going once people ditch carbs. Carbs are addictive while fat is not. Imagine if you can function all day on a some protein and a bit of fat (these days I can go without food for long periods of time without any bad side effects like headaches or feeling weak) instead of munching on carbs every couple of hours. There will be more money left in people’s pockets at the end of the day if they do not eat so often – all those muffins and donuts do add up even if they’re only a few bucks each.

So, yes, the big agra and big pharma know that if the tide turns the other way, their profits will suffer. There are 2 ways to deal with the change: embrace and diversify the business to future-proof it, or dig in and try to stop it. Seems to me that they are choosing option 2. Shame, really.

 

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