Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Vibram FiveFinger Speeds for Sale in the US

Lucky you, you non-OCD folks who were willing to wait. I paid a lot more than this when ordering from the UK.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Barefoot Running and Podiatrists

Well, this is cool:

Background: Barefoot running is slowly gaining a dedicated following. Proponents of barefoot running claim many benefits, such as improved performance and reduced injuries, whereas detractors warn of the imminent risks involved.

Methods: Multiple publications were reviewed using key words.

Results: A review of the literature uncovered many studies that have looked at the barefoot condition and found notable differences in gait and other parameters. These findings, along with much anecdotal information, can lead one to extrapolate that barefoot runners should have fewer injuries, better performance, or both. Several athletic shoe companies have designed running shoes that attempt to mimic the barefoot condition and, thus, garner the purported benefits of barefoot running.

Conclusions: Although there is no evidence that either confirms or refutes improved performance and reduced injuries in barefoot runners, many of the claimed disadvantages to barefoot running are not supported by the literature. Nonetheless, it seems that barefoot running may be an acceptable training method for athletes and coaches who understand and can minimize the risks. (J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 101(3): 231–246, 2011)

Well, I'd say that this: "Barefoot Running More Efficient than Shod" could be considered "improved performance", but it also likely came out after this was submitted for publication.  That's a quibble.

I really couldn't ask for a better statement at this point.

What's coolest is that this appeared in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association.

I'm always happy to write a post about podiatrists that does not include the word "dingbat".

Mark Sisson in New York City

Last night I schlepped into NYC to see Mark Sisson speak at John Durant's Paleo Meetup.

Sisson's speech was entitled "The Metabolic Paradigm Shift", and he focused primarily on how to get the paradigm to shift, as most of the folks who were that were attending because they were part of Crossfit NYC, a pro-Paleo outfit.  There weren't a lot of beginner questions.

Mark Sisson
Sisson comes across as a very smart, well-educated guy who clearly has spent an enourmous amount of time thinking about the ancestral way of eating, and what that means for our everyday lives.  He's also much better-looking in person than he is on the cover of his book or in the pictures on his site, as was evidenced by the line of attractive young women waiting to have their pictures taken with him at the end of the evening.  Every 57-year-old should look so good.  He's a walking advert for The Primal Blueprint.

His talk focused on a lot of the material presented in the book and on his blog, so I won't focus on that too much, but I will note that he's a terrific speaker.  If you ever wonder where the long, thoughtful posts that Mark's Daily Apple is known for come from, they come directly from Mark.  Several of his answers to the many questions he took could have been turned into posts on his blog just by transcribing his answers.

About 175 attendees
 He also mentioned that the book contract that Denise Minger mentioned is with him.  It's tentatively titled "Death by Food Pyramid", and sounds like it's going to be terrific.

And yes, that means that if you're wondering who to blame for Denise's Wheat Post having gone missing, we can now point a finger.

The one question I wasn't able to ask during the session (I'd asked a couple already, and Mark was spreading the love), was for Mark to explain what his motivation is for doing this.  I've had a number of people on Barefoot Ted's Minimalist Group claim that all he's trying to do is sell supplements, or books.  I don't think this is a valid complaint because I hope he does get rich doing this, it means he's successful in spreading a message I very much believe in; but primarily because he doesn't push his supplements, or his book, on his site.  You can learn all you need to know about Mark's program for free, and implement it without having to buy anything from him. That's a great service.  He clearly knows a thing or two about marketing, and he could much more aggresively monetize his site if he wanted to.

I'd love to see a clear statement of his intent on his site somewhere, which I could point naysayers to.

He did mention that his blog is the second-most popular health blog after Dr. Mercola, and also that he's sold about 100,000 books.  In other words, he's not yet getting rich from the Primal Blueprint.

If you have a chance to see Mark speak, I highly recommend it.  It was well worth my time, and he's clearly mastered a great deal of information about healthy diet and physical activity, and he's very eager to share it.

Oh, and as you might be able to make out in the picture above, he was wearing black Vibram FiveFinger Treks.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Phytic Acid Good or Bad?"

Phytic acid is stealing your minerals
"A Review of Food Science"  Wow.  Phyticacid.org.  I guess there really is a web page for everything now.

This is a pretty cool page, actually, although since starting to eat paleo I don't eat much grains or beans, but I am a big macadamia nut fan.

The author is selling a white paper on how to reduce phytic acid in foods which may be of interesting to you. Seems steep at $11.97, but there you go.

From Wikipedia:

"Phytic acid (known as inositol hexakisphosphate (IP6), or phytate when in salt form) is the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues, especially bran and seeds.[1] Phytate is not digestible to humans or nonruminant animals, however, so it is not a source of either inositol or phosphate if eaten directly. Morever, it chelates and thus makes unabsorbable certain important minor minerals such as zinc and iron, and to a lesser extent, also macro minerals such as calcium and magnesium.

"...This process can therefore contribute to mineral deficiencies in people whose diets rely on these foods for their mineral intake, such as those in developing countries.[10][11] Contrary to that, one study correlated decreased osteoporosis risk with phytic acid consumption.[12] It also acts as an acid, chelating the vitamin niacin, the deficiency of which is known as pellagra.[13] In this regard, it is an antinutrient, despite its possible therapeutic effects (see below). For people with a particularly low intake of essential minerals, especially those in developing countries, this effect can be undesirable."
By "developing countries", they're being polite.  Poor people is developing countries are pretty much vegetarian, because they're too poor to afford much meat, so they often suffer from typical vitamin deficiencies, as grains don't give up their minerals too easily.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"The FiveFingers Speed is Coming to the U.S. Any Day Now!"

Excellent.  You read it here, and over here, first. ;)

Here's my first and second reviews of my favorite Vibram shoe.  I ran a race in them, although I never did get around to filing a race report.  They were excellent, over ~18 miles.

Barefoot Running and Shin Splints

Oh for heavens sake, just take their shoes off!

"High tibial shock (TS), during running has been linked to an increased risk for developing tibial stress fractures. However, gait retraining using real time feedback has been shown to reduce TS during running up to 25%. Although it is unclear what kinematic strategies are used, midfoot strike (MFS) and forefoot strike (FFS) patterns have been reported to reduce load rates in running."

From Steve Magness on Twitter

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wheat and Egypt

A while ago I posted "Wheat and Malnutrition" which contained this bit:

"We have recently completed a screening project on school children in Cairo City, Egypt. Blood samples were obtained from 1,500 children attending school in Cairo City between October 2001 and June 2004... The prevalence of [celiac disease] in this sample of Egyptian students was 53% (95% CI 0.17-0.89). This estimate may be low, as more CD cases could be diagnosed at the follow-up, e.g. in the group currently showing a positive tTG IgA and a negative EMA [partial CD symptoms]."
(This is in the Wall Street Journal, which is subscription-only.)

That's pretty incredible, as celiac is supposed to be a rare, genetically determined condition.  In my post "Wheat and Poison Ivy", I presented the notion that wheat is simply a toxic plant, like poison ivy.  Toxins are typically more toxic past a certain point, and toxicity increases with dose.  "The dose makes the poison", in other words.

Logically, therefore, those Egyptian kids should be eating a lot of wheat to induce that level of toxicity (a 53% rate of celiac disease, better understood as wheat poisoning).

Well, lo and behold:

"Wheat is the biggest dietary staple in much of the region, providing cheap nutrition in bread, pasta and couscous.

"Tunisians eat more wheat than anyone on the planet: 478 pounds per person a year, compared to 177 pounds in the U.S. Egyptians and Algerians also eat more than twice as much wheat as Americans, says the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization."

(Also from the WSJ, titled "Mideast Staggered By Cost Of Wheat", May 19.)

Celiac is also common in Tunisia, although not at the level of that Egyptian school.  I'll note that that doesn't indicate a clear dose-response level.  One would expect some variation.

So what is also announced in the WSJ on the day that they published that article on wheat consumption in Egypt? A new aid plan for Egypt. Because they buy most of their wheat; from the United States, no doubt, since we're the largest exporter in the world.  They'll use the money to buy more wheat.

It beats starving, but not by much.  And, apparently, not for long.

"Ultra Runner Podcasts"

Goeff Roes is the first guest at this aptly-named podcast. 

I haven't listened to it yet, but will subscribe later.  Should be pretty interesting.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bacon and Eggs for Breakfast

Conventional wisdom is changing:

"1. Eat Bacon and Eggs for Breakfast
"Regularly skipping breakfast increases your risk of obesity by 450 percent. Moreover, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University found that people who regularly ate a protein-rich, 600-calorie breakfast lost significantly more weight in 8 months than those who consumed only 300 calories and a quarter of the protein.

"And no, eggs and bacon aren't unhealthy. (Overeating eggs and bacon—or anything else—is what's unhealthy.) In fact, whole eggs contain more essential vitamins and minerals per calorie than any other food. They're also one of the best sources of choline, a substance your body requires to break down fat for energy. What's more, in a recent review of dozens of scientific studies, Wake Forest University researchers found no connection between egg consumption and heart disease. As for bacon, once it's been cooked it contains just 1 gram of saturated fat per slice—and one-third of that is the kind that has no effect on cholesterol levels..."
I don't know about the truth that "regularly skipping breakfast increases your risk of obesity", but the rest sounds good.

Via Instapundit. More here: "What 'Everyone Knows' May Be Changing."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Elk Die After Gorging on Winter Wheat"

I don't know what this means, but it's interesting:

"The winter wheat did the young elk in because their digestive systems cannot break it down and absorb its nutrients. This means some elk actually died of starvation because they were not absorbing nutrients from the winter wheat.

"'They starved to death on full stomachs,' Kirsch said."
I guess killing off ruminants that would otherwise eat your seeds is effective at limiting predation.  But I don't understand why the elk seem to find wheat addictive.  Unless they have the same reaction that people do...  Very interesting.

Follow-up to "The Runner and Toe Shoes"

So my friend I refer to as "The Runner" has finally gone and taken the plunge, sort of.  He didn't get Vibrams, instead he got the Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves, which are the next best thing.

He took them for a run on the treadmill, and sent me this message:
"Love em.. Never going back"

His boys still wear their FiveFingers, or go barefoot, all the time.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Primal Wisdom Goes Off The Rails

According to Don's analysis, mother's milk is a solid.

Stephan Guyenet posts a comment, and I posted this comment:

"Don, this is not a compelling argument.

You cite a couple of studies, and yet the guy who's spent the last 30+ years studying saturated fat and heart disease has thrown in the towel and declared:

"...there no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD."

That link is to Stephan's blog. How do you reconcile that statement and the evidence behind it with your belief?

Chris Masterjohn also posted a compelling comment on this post (in three parts).

P.S. The post referenced above has been deleted:

"Sorry, the page you were looking for in the blog Primal Wisdom does not exist."

This is probably a good thing.

P.P.S. Don's got a new post up, where he seems to be presenting the evidence to explain his thinking behind the previous deleted post. Interesting stuff.

I still don't agree with his premise, as the commenters note, there's plenty of evidence that humans in paleolithic Africa were causing extinctions as they hunted and ate fatty animals.

The Reign of The Experts

This is a wonderful metaphor for what we've seen in shoes and diet:

“After 100 years, we’re seeing that’s not quite working.”

Yes, we're learning that much of the expert advice we've been getting for the last 100 years has turned out to be hogwash.  Hayek had this nailed:

"It may be admitted that, as far as scientific knowledge is concerned, a body of suitably chosen experts may be in the best position to command all the best knowledge available—though this is of course merely shifting the difficulty to the problem of selecting the experts. What I wish to point out is that, even assuming that this problem can be readily solved, it is only a small part of the wider problem.

"Today it is almost heresy to suggest that scientific knowledge is not the sum of all knowledge. But a little reflection will show that there is beyond question a body of very important but unorganized knowledge which cannot possibly be called scientific in the sense of knowledge of general rules: the knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place. It is with respect to this that practically every individual has some advantage over all others because he possesses unique information of which beneficial use might be made, but of which use can be made only if the decisions depending on it are left to him or are made with his active cooperation."

The experts don't know nearly as much as they think they know, and far less than they'd like us to think.

"The Washington Diet"

"Opponents of the administration’s plans, however, shouldn’t just debate the government’s proper role in people’s health; they should also point out that its population-wide diet advice goes well beyond what science has established. “Some people in this field act more like zealots with a passion for a cause than scientists waiting for the evidence to support their conclusions,” complains California Polytechnic public-health economist Michael Marlow. As Marlow notes, America’s obesity rate was far lower back when nutrition was largely a parental responsibility, before government became widely involved in the diet-advice business."

They're making it worse, not better.

"Can Running in Minimalist Shoes Strengthen Your Feet and Legs?"

Pete digs down into the study I posted the other day, and finds some really interesting answers:

"The scientists took 100 individuals, split them into two equally sized groups, and had them perform a series of exercises on a weekly basis in either Nike Free shoes or a conventional running shoe (for a duration of 6 months). The exercises included running, aerobics, skipping, and a variety of other things. They were also allowed to wear the shoes in everyday life if they so chose. They took a variety of measurements before the initiation of the study, including toe flexor strength (toe flexion is downward bending of the toes), range of motion of the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint (i.e., the joint at the base of the big toe/hallux), and the active path of motion of the same joint. They also took a subset of 25 individuals assigned to wear the Nike Frees and took MRI’s of the lower leg and foot to obtain information about muscle cross-sectional area (think of this as muscle belly size for simplicty’s sake)."

Of course this isn't news to minimalist runners (any more than it's news to Pete) as what they found here is what we all experience.  But it's pretty fascinating nevertheless.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Harry Takes the VivoBarefoot Ultra Out for a Spin

The Ultra is freakishly light and even lighter than the MWU3 once you remove the plug-in sock liner. This was closest to barefoot I've run next to the KSO.

P.S. A lengthy discussion here.

Quaker Chewy

Like this post, this is motivated by seeing an ad appear on my blog.  I agree with Richard Nikoley about these ads, but I do occasionally feel motiviated to comment on them, especially when the product promoted is diametrically opposed to the mission of this blog.

Quaker Chewy candy
So here we have the Quaker Chewy.  I presume this is part of a campaign of some sort, but out of morbid curiosity I felt compelled to go check out the ingredients, given that this ad appeared under my post on sawdust in food.

Sadly, they don't overtly include sawdust, as, along with the chocolate in the chocolate chips, that would have been one of the healthier ingredients.

This appears to be the product page for the Quacker Chewy, and happily, they include all the nutrition information (you may have to click on the nutrition tab at the bottom of the page):

Serving size   1 bar (24g)
Amount per serving
Calories 100Calories from Fat 30
%daily value
Total Fat 3g5%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 75mg3%
Total Carbohydrate 17g6%
Dietary Fiber 1g4%
Sugars 7g
Protein 1g
Calcium 8%•  Iron 2%
Not a significant source of Cholesterol, Vitamin A, Vitamin C.
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.




The calories nearly add up.  Quaker claims the total calories are 100, with 30 coming from fat.  If you total the numbers they present, there are 27 calories coming from fat (9 calories per gram) 2/3s of that is coming from non-saturated fat sources.  The rest comes from the carbs (68 calories, 4 per gram) and protein (the lonely 4 calories from 1 gram).  I guess that's close enough to attribute the difference to a rounding error.

By weight, oddly, the numbers total 21 grams, while Quaker claims the total weight is 24 grams.  There's a missing 12.5%, which contains 1 calorie.  Perhaps we've found our sawdust?  3 grams (12.5%) of the total is fat, apparently coming mostly from the soybean oil.  17 grams (70.8%) is carbs, with 7 grams of "sugars" (29.2%).

So you're basically eating a bar of sugar bound together with soybean oil, and a miniscule amount of saturated fat (1 gram, 4.2%), hopefully coming from the chocolate.

This is a fine thing to feed to a lab rat if you're trying to make it sick, or if you just don't know better, but I don't understand why anyone would eat this themselves, or feed it to their childern. 

It has virtually no redeeming qualities as far as nutrition goes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

"The Diet That Shook Up Tennis"

"Novak Djokovic's Gluten-Free Ascendancy"

"...Djokovic's serve, sloppy as recently as last season, is now precise, fluid and, at times, devastating. His forehand used to break down in tense moments; now he hits winners that seem to subscribe to undiscovered laws of physics. His backhand, always solid, is now impenetrable, even with Nadal's famously high-bouncing forehand. And then there's the gluten.

"Last year, Djokovic's nutritionist discovered that Djokovic is allergic to the protein, which is found in common flours. Djokovic banished it from his diet and lost a few pounds. He says he now feels much better on court.

"A gluten-free diet can have implications far beyond the physical, especially in tennis, which taxes the mind like few other sports. The season is 11 months long, matches are grueling and can last for hours, and the slightest dip in a player's confidence can derail months of hard work. There's never anyone else to blame for a match gone awry.

"'It's mostly mental energy you're talking about, not energy supplied to muscle tissues,' said David Levitsky, a professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University, when asked about the effects of giving up gluten if one has an allergy. (An allergy differs from celiac disease, whose sufferers, Levitsky said, can incur far-reaching health effects from eating gluten, including the inability to absorb nutrients.)

"Levitsky said a gluten-free diet might have benefits for those with mild allergies, or even no allergy at all. 'The other part of the story is, if you believe in a cause of your disorder, it becomes the cause,' he said. 'We see this in many different studies. If you believe it, you change your behavior in the direction of being cured.'..."

Wheat-free has been a huge plus for me in terms of physical performance.  There's been no downside whatsoever.  Of course the Professor of Nutrition and Psychology has to blame it on the guy's mind, implying that there's no real cause, but of course we know better.

Thanks to The Healthy Skeptic.

Runblogger on the New Balance MT101

Too bad Pete's not feeling 100%, as I was really looking forward to his thoughts on my old shoes.  Looking forward to further posts.

P.S.  He took them out for a run.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sawdust and Ice Cream

"How to detect adulteration in Spices (Ground) with Powdered bran and saw dust?"

"Sprinkle on water surface. Powdered bran and sawdust float on the surface."

Go spend a little time on Google searching on the query 'sawdust food adulteration', and you'll find links like the one above.  What is aldulterated food?

"To make impure by adding extraneous, improper, or inferior ingredients."

This is Food Safety 101.  If someone tries to sell you food containing sawdust, they should go to jail, because sawdust IS NOT FOOD.

So imagine my surprise the other day when I came across this article in the Wall Street Journal: "Why Wood Pulp Makes Ice Cream Creamier"

Since the Journal is subscription-only, I'll quote a bit of it.  The article pretty much speaks for itself, I don't think I'll have to add much commentary for my regular readers:

"What is often in shredded cheese besides cheese?

"Powdered cellulose: minuscule pieces of wood pulp or other plant fibers that coat the cheese and keep it from clumping by blocking out moisture.

"One of an array of factory-made additives, cellulose is increasingly used by the processed-food industry, producers say. Food-product makers use it to thicken or stabilize foods, replace fat and boost fiber content, and cut the need for ingredients like oil or flour, which are getting more expensive....

"...The rising cost of raw materials like flour, sugar and oil is helping boost the popularity of these additives, producers of the ingredients say.

"Demand for cellulose is also rising because of the growing popularity of processed food products in China, India and other countries, and because consumers are demanding low-fat or nonfat foods that still have a creamy texture....

"Companies can save money by using it, even though it costs more by weight than conventional ingredients. Cellulose gives food 'more water, more air, a creamy feeling in [the] mouth with less of other ingredients,' and only a very small amount is needed, says Niels Thestrup, vice president of the hydrocolloids department for Danisco AS. The Copenhagen-based company makes ingredients and enzymes for food, cleaning supplies and other products....

"...Even organic-food products can contain cellulose.

"Organic Valley uses powdered cellulose made from wood pulp in its shredded-cheese products. The company would prefer not to use a synthetic ingredient, but cellulose is bland, white and repels moisture, making it the favored choice over products such as potato starch, says Tripp Hughes, director of product marketing for Organic Valley.

"Only powdered cellulose in its least manipulated form can be used in foods labeled 'organic' or 'made with organic' ingredients by the U.S. Department of Agriculture...."

Well, so the 'certified organic' label is a fraud, but that's hardly a shock, as it's a government label. Here's the key bit:

"Powdered cellulose is made by cooking raw plant fiber—usually wood—in various chemicals to separate the cellulose, and then purified. Modified versions go through extra processing, such as exposing them to acid to further break down the fiber.

"Although the notion of eating fine grains of wood pulp might make some consumers blanch, nutritionists say cellulose—which gives plants their structure—is a harmless fiber that can often cut calories in food. Insoluble dietary fibers like cellulose aren't digestible by humans so add bulk to food without making it more fattening.

"In the U.S., cutting calories from food doesn't cause a problem because the country is in the grip of an obesity epidemic, says Joanne Slavin, professor of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota. She served as chairwoman the carbohydrate committee of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

"Cellulose can serve as a good source of dietary fiber for people who don't eat enough fruits, vegetables or whole grains, Ms. Slavin says. The USDA's most recent dietary guidelines recommend young women get 28 grams a day of fiber and young men consume 38 grams.

'Cellulose is cellulose,' regardless of if whether it comes from wood pulp or celery, says Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a group that advocates healthier, more nutritious food. He says no research points to health problems related to consuming cellulose...."

Here are a few articles about "Dr." Slavin, first from Dr. Eades (who doesn't deserve the scare quotes around his title):

2010 Nutritional guidelines

Here are a couple from Richard Nikoley, who doesn't have a Dr. in front of his name, but has the dual qualificiations of being learned and honest:

“Avoiding entire food groups is a mistake, critics say”

7-Day Challenge: Revisiting Paleo on a Budget

Dr. Slavin has obviously gone beyond her statement in the first article that Richard links to above, where she says "Grains are really cheap, and for the average teenage boy it would cost a fortune to do this (Paleo) diet", now we can just eat sawdust, according to her, which is even cheaper!  Brilliant!

Of course the Center for Science in the Public Interest is a trustworthy source.   These are the brilliant vegetarians who strong-armed McDonalds into replacing beef tallow with hydrogenated vegetable oils (aka trans fats) for frying.  Turns out trans fats are toxic.  Just remember this when CSPI says, "...no research points to health problems related to consuming cellulose...".  CSPI isn't concerned with research.  They're pushing an agenda, and consuming any vegetable product is OK with them, research be damned.

If you're curious about the nutritional value of cellulose for humans, that's the point, it has none.  Humans can't digest cellulose.  This is the problem with adulterating food with sawdust: people think they're consuming something nutritious, but in reality, they're getting nothing.

But don't worry, the government is on the case:

"The Food and Drug Administration sets limits on the amount of cellulose in certain foods like cheese spreads and jams. The USDA also limits the amount of cellulose in meat products to about 1% to 4%, depending on the type, in order to meet the agency's standards for protein content."

You're on your own, in other words. 

I have to say, I wrote a post a while ago about MAD, the Modern American Diet.  I prefer MAD to the common acronym, SAD, or Standard American Diet, because MAD captures the insanity of this whole enterprise.  This was before I learned that people would prefer to eat sawdust to eating saturated fat.  This is truly insane.  Go to the sanitarium, do not wait for the guys in the white coats; insane.  Want to get yourself committed to an institution?  Let someone catch you eating sawdust in preference to eating real food.  Or, you can get a PhD and recommend this course of action.  Completely insane behavior.  To put it bluntly, you're a fool if you trust the authorities about what to eat.

Here's a recipe for real ice cream, on the other hand, from the Perfect Health Diet.  We made it today, and it is delicious, especially when made with premium ingredients like pastured egg yolks and pastured cream.  We added a little extra berries and some maple syrup, and it was divine.

We skipped the sawdust.  You may choose to do otherwise.

P.S.  I came across this little gem:

We sit at a table delightfully spread,
And teeming with good things to eat,
And daintily finger the cream-tinted bread,
Just needing to make it complete
A film of the butter so yellow and sweet,
Well suited to make every minute
A dread of delight.
And yet while we eat
We cannot help asking “What's in it?
Oh, maybe this bread contains alum and chalk,
Or sawdust chopped up very fine,
Or gypsum in powder about which they talk,
Terra alba just out of the mine.
And our faith in the butter is apt to be weak,
For we haven't a good place to pin it
Annato's so yellow and beef fat so sleek,
Oh, I wish I could know what is in it?”

Who wrote that poem? Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley. Who?

"...Dr. Wiley's promotion of food safety resulted in passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. Earlier attempts at such legislation had failed, and this landmark law was the first to regulate the development and production of safe foods and drugs. Both Wiley's administration of the law and concerns over preserving chemicals that had not been specifically addressed in the law caused some controversy. Nevertheless, under Wiley's leadership, the Bureau of Chemistry grew in size and stature after assuming responsibility for enforcement of the 1906 Act (FDA 2001).

The founder (effectively) of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The poor man must be rolling in his grave.

P.P.S.  Maybe we should all move to China.  At least there they know what to do with people who put cardboard in the food.  Thanks to Ken Gardner.

"The Effects of Habitual Footwear Use: Foot Shape and Function in Native Barefoot Walkers"

This is a crucial paper for making the case that barefoot is superior to shod, for a number of reasons.

First, the paper appeared in a journal called Footwear Science. This is the belly of the beast, as it were, a journal from the footwear industry, not some hippy-dippy barefooter.

Second, the paper was given the Nike Award for Athletic Footwear Research for 2009:

"The winning study addressed barefoot walking in a habitual barefoot population from South India. Results showed that habitual barefoot walkers had subtle (but probably desirable) differences in foot form (i.e. a wider forefoot) and plantar pressure (i.e. better distribution) when compared to habitually shod peers. These results strongly suggest that everyday footwear should respect the foot's natural form and function."

Yes, that award is from Nike, the sneaker company.

Third, the key paragraph from the study ends with the killer observation (emphasis mine):

"While such populations are relevant in a clinical and applied context, one aspect should be borne in mind: the habitual use of footwear from early childhood may influence the shape, and probably the function of the foot. Traditional Chinese foot binding (Jackson 1990) is an extreme example showing that the human foot is a highly plastic structure, but even everyday footwear influences the foot. Studies on Chinese (Sim-Fook and Hodgson 1958) and medieval British populations (Mays 2005) found foot deformities resulting from restrictive footwear, but even recently in the USA, Frey et al. (1993) reported that 88% of the healthy women surveyed were wearing shoes smaller than their feet, and that 80% of them had some sort of foot deformity. A relevant question therefore is: is the Western foot, used in most studies, not ‘natural’ any more, and is our current knowledge of foot biomechanics clouded by the effects of footwear – in other words, are we studying ‘deformed’, but not biologically ‘normal’ feet?

"This may be considered likely, when confronting two palaeoanthropological findings...."

Nike gave this paper an award, remember.

It's here, in PDF.  Read the whole thing.

Phil Maffetone and Chris McDougall

Thanks to Luis.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wheat and Poison Ivy

Teresa said:

"I believe you've put the cart before the horse: gluten does not cause celiac. It is a genetic disorder that can manifest in various ways. People with celiac react to gluten."

Yes, that's the conventional wisdom in the medical community. I happen to think it's wrong.

My wheat analogy is to poison ivy. Both contain chemicals that cause the body to initiate an auto-immune response, attacking its own tissues. In poison ivy, this is most commonly the skin, for wheat in celiac disease, it's the mucosal lining of the small intestine, although it can affect any tissue in the body. I can't imagine what effect eating poison ivy would have on the lining of the small intestine if you ate it, but it can't be good.

Neither wheat nor poison ivy affects 100% of the population.

"If ingested, poison ivy can produce severe gastrointestinal effects. Some individuals, however, can consume poison ivy without effect, apparently because of a lack of reactivity in the digestive mucosa."

One manifestation of celiac disease is a skin condition called dermatitis herpetiformis. This is commonly misdiagnosed as poison ivy.

Yet the medical community regards poison ivy as a toxic plant, best avoided. No one considers the reaction to poison ivy to be a human "genetic condition", although of course it is.  Dogs and cats aren't susceptible to poison ivy, for instance.  No one proposes that you ought to eat it.

So the difference between wheat and poison ivy is that wheat is a low-grade toxic plant that most people tolerate to some degree.  Poison ivy is a high-grade toxic plant that almost no-one tolerates.

Interestingly, both wheat and poison ivy produce what's known as "Type IV Hypersensitivity".  If you go look at the Wikipedia page on the topic, most of the causes of type IV hypersensitivity are either poison ivy or wheat-caused or -associated illnesses like celiac, Type 1 diabetes, and Hashimoto's thyroiditis.  I'll wager the list of poison-ivy-related illnesses would be longer if people were in the practice of eating it.

I read in one journal that celiac is the most common genetically-determined condition in the human species. But as I think I've demonstrated, poison ivy sensitivity is far more common.

The most commonly accepted estimate of celiac prevalance is 1 in 133 people. I've heard estimates of wheat sensitivity that go up to 99% of the population. It's clearly far higher than 1 in 133. My diverticulitis, for instance, is clearly caused by wheat. I can reproduce the symptoms at will be eating it. Diverticulitis affects 65% of the population by the time they're 80, and becomes common in populations after wheat is introduced.
Eating wheat is a mistake. You shouldn't eat toxic plants that humans are not adapted to eat.

Follow-up to "Are You Sure You're Allergic to Penicillin?"

So we finally got around to doing the in-office penicillin challenge described in the original post.

Sure enough, no reaction.  Sat in an office for two hours waiting to "blow up like a blowfish", as my doctor put it, and nothing happened.

Pretty cool.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Wheat Poisoning Explained

One mechanism, anyway: Lectin-Based Food Poisoning: A New Mechanism of Protein Toxicity:

"At least one form of muscular dystrophy is caused by a failure in the membrane repair mechanism [17]. We have shown here that binding of cell surface glycoproteins by lectins interferes with the exocytotic events associated with membrane repair (mucus secretion) and that lectins potently block repair. We here propose a second category of disease that can be explained as a failure in the plasma membrane repair mechanism. Lectins, we hypothesize, are toxic when present in the GI tract based on two, inter-related effects. First, resealing failure occurs within the general population of GI tract cells normally exposed to membrane disrupting levels of mechanical stress, leading to their necrosis. The second lectin-induced effect is exocytotic failure within the subpopulation of GI tract cells that normally secrete mucus, leading to a decrease in protective, lubricating mucus secretion and a consequent increase in the incidence of mechanically-induced membrane disruption events. Because lectins, based on the damage they do to the lining of the GI tract, and their hypertrophic effect, have been implicated in, respectively, celiac disease [18] and cancer [19], knowledge of this mechanism may have implications beyond a better understanding of food poisoning."

Barefoot-friendly Podiatrists

Vibram is working with one, and he's taking questions from minimalist runners on Fridays on Facebook.

"Science for Smart People"

Tom Naughton, at it again.  I watched this with my twelve-year-old daughter last night and she laughed the whole way through. She probably wasn't even aware she was learining...

Tom's movie Fat Head is a must-watch as well.

"Does Form Matter?"

Harry Hollines
At Runner's World.

The fellow in the green is Harry Hollines, a friend I met at Barefoot Ted's Minimalist Running group.

The article discusses one of our favorites topics of discussion in the group, where most of us agree that it indeed does, and that the best way to learn "good form" is to take off your shoes and listen to your best coach, your feet.

Another friend in the article above is Pete Larson, the Runblogger, who attempts to answer the question in this post.

Unlike Pete, I don't have any doubt in the matter.  Your best form is achieved in your bare feet, and a shoe that allows you to run in a similar fashion is a good shoe.  This precludes any shoe that has a 12mm heel, or, I believe, any heel.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Team SoftStar Miwok 100K Race Report


He's running in these, if you're curious.  And it looks like he did quite well.

"Vibram USA Doesn't Like Pouting Customers, Replaces Busted Shoes"

Sounds fair.  I guess it's handy to have a blog.

My one experience with Vibram support was for a pair of KSOs that I ordered two years ago that had a manufacturing defect in one of the big toes.  There was a big hunk of something in there, and it left no room for my toe.

They replaced it immedately, no worries.

Michael Sandler Reviews Japanese Tabi Boots

Sandler's site is http://www.runbare.com/.

New SoftStar RunAmoc Prototype?

That's my guess.  They look nice.  Scroll down on for the picture.

(This was an old post that, thanks to the lovely blogger, apparently didn't get posted, despited being scheduled to do so.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

VivoBarefoot Neo Review

They sound good.

"More Proof That Paleo Pets Are HEALTHIER Pets!"

I agree with this 100%

My dog, like me, had chronic diarrhea until going "paleo" and cutting out the grains.  Now he's fine, has tons of energy, and looks absolutely beautiful.

I fully expect that he'll be strutting his stuff into his 90s like Nell's dogs will.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Special Forces Wearing Vibrams

Once again, Birthday Shoes does a post that I wanted to do, and does it better than I would have.  So go read it.

I'm happy not to put a question mark at the end of that title.  I've mentioned rumours before that Special Forces are wearing Vibrams, but now we have proof, and they're wearing them in real training!  Perhaps even operations?

See here for related posts.  Thanks to Josh W for finding this.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Wheat, Allergies, and Asthma

When one starts reading about the Paleo/Primal diets, one reads a lot of anecdotes about people's experiences on this diet.  Many people are able to achieve remarkable improvements in their health simply by ceasing to eat toxic foods.  Beyond remarkable, some of them seem downright miraculous.

One of the consistent threads is that people with allergies see their allergies and asthma improve after ceasing to eat wheat.  All the major paleo/primal blogs and sites have "success story" sections, the first one I started reading, at Mark's Daily Apple, is here.

The other day I posted about Dr. Davis' call for stories about people eliminating wheat from their diets.  One of the comments is about asthma improving from wheat elimination:

"My GP was amazed when I told him that I no longer needed steroids on my repeat prescription; he asked what I’d done to manage this 'because no-one comes off steroids for asthma'."

This story is extreme, but not atypical.

Allergies have been a thread in my family for three generations, at least.  My father had allergies growing up, coupled with eczema so severe that his fingerprints were wiped off his fingers from the damage.  My turn came and I suffered from horrible hay fever, eczema, and asthma that necessitated a few trips to the emergency room.  Both my father and I saw allergists, and suffered through the injections thought to assist in clearing up the allergies.  Both of us saw our allergies improve as we grew up.  I've not had an asthma attack for years, and even my hay fever is largely gone.  I no longer take anti-histamines, unless I'm going to be cleaning a dusty room.

My older daughter seems to have inherited the family affliction.  She has severe allergies, has had some pretty severe asthma attacks, and suffered from childhood eczema, including diaper rash.

She's also seeing an allergist; in fact, the same practice that I saw when I was a kid.  (An excellent practice, by the way, they believe in absolutely the minimal amount of medication required to control the condition, and unlike most try to avoid heavy steroid use.  He also had a number of other excellent suggestions which significantly improved my daughter's life.*)

So part of my promise to my daughter was that if she complied with our new family diet and stopped eating wheat, she'd likely be able to go off her allergy medicine.

She's battled us on this, and cheats regularly.  But we no longer keep wheat in the house, and she's finally stated to notice the difference.  She had several of the symptoms of celiac, and finally admitted to me that "whole wheat bread makes me feel worse than white bread does", although she then said, "So can I still eat white bread?"  Sigh; kids.

I also saw the same allergist, and had the opportunity to discuss my wheat issues.  The first conversation I had with him was interesting, as he was extremely skeptical of some of my claims.  "Celiac is very rare", he said.  I explained that it was very common, in fact.  On the next visit he'd clearly done some reading, as he related in suprise how common wheat issues actually are.  Being able to quote research off the top of your head is very helpful in convincing doctors that you are a well-educated patient.

So the point of this story is that my daughter just had her spring check-up with the allergist.  Apparently this is a very difficult allergy season, as it's been quite wet, and then suddenly warmed up, so everything is blooming at the same time.  The cars are covered in yellow pollen.  The allergist, as related by my wife, was quite suprised to discover that my daughter is doing just fine.  So fine, in fact, that the regular battery of allergy shots we had been discussing are likely not necessary, and that she probably will be able to come off her medicine, which she'd been taking erratically any way.  He's also suprised by how rapid her improvement has been, as he's been seeing her for several years, and the symptoms were pretty consistent.

Does this prove that mostly ceasing to eat wheat resolved my daughter's allergies?  No.  Although it's pretty suggestive.  Given the family history and my extremely severe history of wheat problems, the allergist pretty quickly came on board that we've got a problem, for instance.  I'm visiting him soon to finish up my penicillin challenge.

The key point, though, is that if you have some of the health issues that are regularly associated with wheat poisoning, there is absolutely no downside, aside from the possibility of withdrawal symptoms, of doing a wheat-free trial.  Perform your own experiment.

The power of a hypothesis is in its predictive ability.  The subject in this case was my unwilling daughter, and the experiment was to see if removing wheat from her diet would improve her allergies.  Wheat was removed, and allergies improved.  Not a confirmation, as a hypothesis can't be "proven", but clearly not a refutation.

* P.S. I wanted to elaborate a bit here.

Our allergists' policy is that your room should be totally clean of allergic triggers, as when your body's immune system has no time to rest, it's more likely to over-react.  This is what we did for my daughter, and it helped her a lot.

My theory is that removing the dietary trigger should help even more.  Wheat is, of course, a known cause of auto-immune problems.

This would seem pretty elementary, but I guess if you don't recognize wheat as an auto-immune trigger in the first place, it's a tough conclusion to come to.

P.P.S: This is a late update. It's official. As of last spring's visit to the allergist, my daughter is done. No more appointments with the allergist; no more drugs; no need for shots as her symptoms are now so minor. Her nut allergies are bascially non-existant now. She even snacks on pistachios, althoug some of the other nuts still irritate her throat and she avoids them. His official judgement was that we use something like Claritin if she has any more symptoms like hay fever.

 P.P.P.S. August 2014. She hasn't seen an allergist in several years at this point. She used to be extremely allergic to cats. As she had a couple of friends have cats, this was a regular issue. She now visits her voice coach's house weekly: they have a cat, she never has a reaction to it. She takes no medication for allergies. She cheats and eats wheat, I don't know how often. But she assures me that she doesn't eat it regularly. She's had what seem to be a couple of minor allergic reactions. But it's a night-and-day difference from prior to adopting the Paleo diet.


January, 2016: She's pretty much gone into complete rebellion over the gluten-free diet.  Her allergies are much less than they were when she was younger, but they're back.  I mentioned before that I took medication before cleaning a dusty room: well, we did a bunch of cleaning of some old dusty stuff from storage.  I had no reaction whatsoever, she went to bed with a pretty robust allergic reaction.

Friday, May 6, 2011

VivoBarefoot Ultra: First Impression Review

Modular Ultra
This is one of the shoes I've been most eagerly awaiting.  Not just for me, but for my Croc-loving girls.  And not so much for running, but just to have a light, casual shoe for the summer.  Crocs are a mighty attractive package, which is why they've been so successful, but they're designed to please podiatrists, not my feet.

So I've been eagerly awaiting the Ultra's arrival, and here they are.

In the picture above, from left to right, you have: 1. An Ultra with the sock liner in; 2. two removable tongues, designed to be worn in the Ultra when the sock liner is removed; 3. the sock liner, removed; and 4. the other Ultra, with no liner and no tongue.  The bits pop together and seperate very easily.  I think most of the time I'll wear arrangement 4.

The only bummer about this arrangement is that the kevlar* liner that makes Vivo's soles puncture-proof is in the liner, not the sole.  This is due to a manufacturing problem with including the liner in the sole, but it means that if you're running in an area with cactus thorns, for instance, you're probably going to want to wear the liner.  Hopefully they'll be able to improve this at some point.

This morning turned out to be a good one for a first run in the Ultras.  It was in the low thirties when I set out for a short, three-mile run, so I started out with the sock liners in.  (Low thirties Fahrenheit: May in New England.  If you don't like the weather, wait a minute.)  My feet were plenty warm, and I continued for the first half of the run with the sock liners.  No abrasion or blisters, no real issues at all. 

At the halfway point, I stopped and took the liners out and stuffed them into my pockets.  I noted that there are little hexagonal nubs on the inside of the Ultras.  You don't notice these with the liners in, but they're quite noticable when they're out.  They're actually quite pleasant, and after a few minutes my feet got used to them.  They do provide some traction when running up or down hill: your feet don't slip around inside the shoe.

Standing there in my bare feet pulling the liners out reminded me that this would be a perfect morning for a barefoot run, but...  Sacrifices. :)

I did not use the tongues on this run, and frankly, I don't know why I ever would.  Again, there was no abrasion or blisters for the second half of the run.  I think the tongue would just get in the way, and, since the design of the Ultra is completely open, it would do nothing at all to keep debris out.

Ground feel was better with the liners out, but they don't make much of a difference.  The Ultras were simultaneously firmer than I was expecting (a good thing) and had a bit less ground feel.  I'd say the Ultras have ground feel between a KSO and a Bikila or Trek.  You only feel the larger rocks.  This would make them ideal for running a race, although since you'd run the risk of aquiring a rock due to the open Ultra EVA construction, they might not be the best race shoes.  I'd be more likely to use my Speeds, frankly, which also have a bit more ground feel.  However, while getting rocks in the Ultra is the obvious thing to worry about, due to the open design, it didn't happen on my short run.

The issue that has plagued VivoBarefoot's primary running shoe, the Evo, has been creasing of the material over the toes, leading to abrasions and blistering.  My wife won't wear her Evos at all for that reason.

Happily, that issue is entirely absent in the Ultra.  Didn't notice anything unpleasant about them at all, in fact.

My only concern with the Ultra is that the elastic laces don't do much to prevent your foot from moving around, they don't have that dial-in feel that you get with a laced sneaker.  So running up or down steep hills might be problematic, and trail running would probably be very problematic, since they're so open.

I've been a fan of VivoBarefoot for quite a while, but none of their shoes have been my favorites.  The Russell Mocs and the Vibrams are the shoes I generally reach for first.

The Ultra could easily leap to the front of the pack as the warmer weather arrives, although I may save them for a casual shoe, as these would be best for running in conditions when I could as easily be barefoot.  This is not a criticism, just an observation.  I think they would be a fine running shoe for anyone who chooses to use them as such, and I'll probably do so from time-to-time myself.

I expect that my daughters, whose favorite shoes are the VivoBarefoot kids' shoes, will be wearing these everyday.  No more Crocs!  Hurrah!

* They use some compound that's not Kevlar, which is a trademark, but is the same chemical.

Ultra Toe Spring
P.S.  I'll note that the Ultra has a lot more toe spring than the Evo does.  It was always my theory that the Evo had so many problems with abrasion because there was not enough toe spring, which is to say, too much material over the toes.

P.P.S. Wore them for a run with Chris McDougall.  They were great.

My one concern with these is that they'd be too sweaty underfoot, but this has turned out not to be the case.  There's so much airflow around your foot that your foot stays quite dry.  The only time I had a problem with sweat in the Ultra was while doing leg presses in the gym.

Dr. Davis Wants Wheat Elimination Stories

I posted mine, please go post yours.  And please read the comments, some of them are quite remarkable.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Barefoot Running is Dead"

According to ASICS.

"Are you a medic or a scientist?

"It’s all smoke and mirrors really. My background is as a clinical podiatrist."
Well that explains it, then.  Podiatrists.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Caballo Blanco in New Canaan, CT

Here's our thread from the Minimalist Runner's Group, and here's an article written by the woman sitting next to me at the event (the lady in the picture).

El Caballo Blanco
Micah True is a mighty nice fellow, and a great story teller.

"New Injury Study Finds No Link To Running Form Or Shoe Type"


Self-reported studies are famously unreliable, and the sample size of barefoot/minimalist runners here is very small, so I'm going to hold off on going back to marshmallow shoes. ;)

Thanks to Steve Magness.