The American Paradox

Primal Fat Burner
by Nora Gedgaudas
pp. 101-103

You’ve likely heard of the “French paradox”—that, despite the French people’s high consumption of saturated fat, their rates of heart disease are lower than ours in the United States. Here in our country we’re stuck in an unfortunate situation that I call the American paradox: the more closely you follow official dietary government guidelines, the worse your health is likely to be! 11 The USDA is busy telling Americans to base their daily diets upon low-fat, starchy carbohydrates and get more exercise; meanwhile, the obesity epidemic and related health challenges continue to grow. (This paradox is global, by the way—countries such as India are seeing skyrocketing rates of diabetes, and the vegetarians of southern India have literally the world’s shortest life span.)

Trying to make sense of all this is a bit like Alice falling down a rabbit hole; everything seems upside down and nonsensical. Let’s take a brief look at the stats. According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), after decades of being subjected to government guidelines promoting a low-fat and high-carbohydrate diet, Americans show the following problems: 12

  • 68.5 percent of adults are overweight or obese; 34.9 percent are obese. (Compare this to the 1971 overweight statistic of 42 percent.)
  • 31.8 percent of children and adolescents are overweight or obese; 16.9 percent are obese.
  • 30.4 percent of low-income preschoolers are overweight or obese.

Yet another study published in May 2015 examining the impact of dietary guidelines on the health of US citizens yielded some shocking but undeniable conclusions: rates of obesity and diabetes have increased dramatically. 13 The official government dietary recommendations were intended to prevent weight problems and obesity, along with diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases. The fact that this has not happened—and that the reverse is true—is officially rationalized in a number of ways. 14 But the underlying message is that we are dumb and lazy. That’s right—the party line about why official dietary recommendations (such as from the American Heart Association and the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services) have failed is that Americans are to blame because we don’t follow the guidelines and we don’t work out enough. 15 In other words, if we’re sick, it’s our own fat, stupid fault.

This is such a persistent, morale-killing, and completely misleading message that I want to address it directly before we move on.

First, we have collectively and diligently followed the guidelines. Here’s what official guidelines recommend for our daily diets versus what we are currently doing in reality (RDA stands for Recommended Daily Allowance):

Total fat consumption. RDA says a maximum of 35 percent of calories; reality says about 34 percent. (Let’s not pat ourselves on the back, though—the number one source of those fat calories is partially hydrogenated oil from genetically modified soybeans, one of the worst things for the body!)
Saturated fats. RDA says a maximum of 10 percent saturated fat; reality says just under 11 percent (not terribly naughty or rebellious relative to established government recommendations).
Carbs. RDA says 55 to 65 percent, with 45 percent the smallest amount necessary to meet the (unfounded) “optimal dietary requirements”; reality says over 50 percent. This is more than enough to create a health-compromising, sugar-burning metabolism.
Protein. RDA says between 10 and 35 percent; reality says 15 percent.

As you can see, Americans are meeting the established dietary requirements, and we have largely eschewed our national interest in protein in favor of far more addictive carbohydrates. Isn’t it strange, then, that the predominant health messages we hear are that we eat too much animal protein and saturated fat for our own good, and that those are the things that make us overweight and cause heart-related and other health problems?

Meanwhile, FRAC looked at historical shifts and found that the consumption of fats dropped from 45 to 34 percent of total caloric intake between 1971 and 2011, while carbohydrate consumption jumped from 39 to 51 percent. In the same time, obesity has surged by over 25 percent. We have diligently increased our consumption of carbohydrates and reduced our intake of animal fat and cholesterol for over five decades, according to the rules—and we have gotten fatter. Processed foods that contain chemicals such as MSG, Frankenfoods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), hydrogenated and interesterified vegetable oils, and other damaging ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup are to thank for a good part of this disaster. But the promotion of higher-carb, low-fat diets has also undeniably served to push everyone in the wrong direction. (FRAC concluded, as many scientists have, that the increased consumption of carbohydrates is what has caused the huge increase in overweight and obesity.)

Paleo Diet, Traditional Foods, & General Health

Diet & Lifestyle

Basic Guidelines (LCHF):

  • low carb (LC)
  • high fat (HF)
  • moderate protein

Eliminate or Lessen:

  • industrially farmed & heavily processed foods, especially with many additives, including when labeled as healthy.
  • foods from factory farmed animals.
  • vegetable oils, especially hydrogenated seed oils (e.g., canola) & margarine; but some are good for you (see below).
  • carbs, especially simple carbs with high glycemic index & load: potatoes, rice, bread, etc; sweet potatoes a better choice but limit consumption; better to eat raw carrots than cooked carrots; but cooking & then cooling carbs creates resistant starches that turn into sugar more slowly.
  • grains, especially wheat; some people better handle ancient grains, sprouted or long-fermented breads (sourdough); but better to avoid entirely.
  • added sugar, especially fructose; also avoid artificial sweeteners (causes insulin problems & cause diabetes); if sweetener is desired, try raw stevia.
  • fruit, especially high sugar: grapes, pineapple, pears, bananas, watermelon, apples, prunes, pomegranates, etc.
  • dairy, especially cow milk; some handle better non-cow milk, cultured milk, & aged cheese; but better to avoid entirely.

Emphasize & Increase:

  • organic, whole foods, locally grown, in season.
  • foods from pasture raised or grass fed animals.
  • healthy fats/oils: animal fat, butter/ghee, avocado oil, & coconut oil for cooking; coconut milk/cream & almond milk for drinks (e.g., added to coffee); cold-pressed olive oil for salads or adding to already cooked foods; cold-pressed seed oils used sparingly; cod liver oil, krill oil (Neptune is best), flax oil, borage oil, evening primrose oil, etc for supplementation (don’t need to take all of them); maybe MCT oil for ketosis (seek advice of your physician).
  • fibrous starches & nutritious vegetables/fruits: leafy greens, broccoli, green beans, onions, garlic, mushrooms, celery, beets, black cherries, berries, olives, avocados, etc.
  • nutrient-density & fat-soluble vitamins, besides healthy fats/oils: eggs, wild-caught fish, other seafoods, organ meats, bone broth, aged cheese (raw is best), yogurt, kefir, avocados; nutritional yeast (gluten-free), bee pollen, & royal jelly.
  • protein: eggs, fatty meats, nuts/seeds (handful a day), & avocados.
  • probiotics (from fermented/cultured foods preferrably): traditional sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, natto, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, etc; not necessarily recommended for everyone, depending on gut health.
  • supplements (besides already mentioned above): ox bile for fat digestion, turmeric/curcumin & CBD oil for inflammation, CoQ10 if you are on statins, etc; only take as needed.
  • seasoning: black pepper contains bioperine which helps absorption of nutrients; onions and garlic are also great sources of nutrients and the specific soluble fiber that feeds microbes.

Other Suggestions:

  • fasting: occasionally/intermittently, starting with a single day & maybe eventually increasing length (the immune system is replaced/recuperated after 2-3 days); an extended fast can be good to do around once a year, assuming your in relatively good health.
  • restricted eating period: limit meal time to a 4-8 hour window of the day (even limiting it to 12 hours will be beneficial as compared to eating non-stop from waking to sleeping) followed by a short-term fast; start by skipping a meal & work up from there (some people find going without breakfast to be the easiest since you are already in fasting mode from the night’s sleep).
  • ketosis: if carbs are restricted enough or fasting continues long enough (glucose & stored glycogen is used up), the body will switch from burning glucose to burning fat, the latter turning into ketones (MCT oil will aid this process); for carb restriction, body burns fat consumed; for fasting, body burns body fat.
  • salt & water: body can become depleted if diet is strictly low carb & high fat/protein, especially in ketosis; salt is needed to metabolize protein.
  • exercise: aerobics & strength training (especially beneficial is high intensity for short duration); improves metabolism & general health; helps get into ketosis.
  • stress management: get plenty of sleep, spend time in nature, regularly socialize with friends & family, try relaxation (meditation, yoga, etc), find ways to play (games, sports, be around children), etc.
  • sunshine: get regular time outside in the middle of day without sunscreen to produce vitamin D & improve mood (for those not near the equator), as studies correlate this to lower skin cancer rates & longer life.

Resources:

Documentaries/Shows:

(lists here & here)

The Perfect Human Diet
The Magic Pill
The Paleo Way
We Love Paleo
Carb Loaded
My Big Fat Diet
Fed Up
Fat Head
What’s With Wheat?
The Big Fat Lie (coming soon)
The Real Skinny on Fat (coming soon)

Books:

Gary Taubes – Good Calories, Bad Calories; & Why We Get Fat
Nina Teicholz – The Big Fat Surprise (being made into a documentary)
Tim Noakes – Lore of Nutrition
Robert Lustig – Fat Chance
Loren Cordain – The Paleo Diet; & The Paleo Answer
Robb Wolf – The Paleo Solution
Mark Sisson – The Primal Blueprint
Nora T. Gedgaudas – Primal Body, Primal Mind
Sally Fallon Morell – Nourishing Diets
Catherine Shanahan – Food Rules; & Deep Nutrition
Sarah Ballantyne – The Paleo Approach; & Paleo Principles
Mark Hyman – Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?
David Perlmutter – Grain Brain
William Davis – Wheat Belly
John Yudkin – Pure, White and Deadly
Weston A. Price – Nutrition and Physical Degeneration
Francis Marion Pottenger Jr. – Pottenger’s Cats: A Study in Nutrition

Blogs/Websites:

(recommendations here)

Gary Taubes
Nina Teicholz
Tim Noakes
Robert Lustig
Gary Fettke
Loren Cordain
Robb Wolf
Mark Sisson
Nora Gedgaudas
Jimmy Moore
Pete Evans
Zoe Harcombe
Chris Kresser
Chris Masterjohn
Sarah Ballantyne
Catherine Shanahan
Terry Wahls
Will Cole
Josh Axe
Dave Asprey
Mark Hyman
Joseph Mercola
David Perlmutter
William Davis
Paleohacks
The Weston A. Price Foundation
Price-Pottenger