Bulletproof Bullet Points: February’s Biohacking News
February’s here, and we’ve got an exciting array of news stories and science updates to share with you in this month’s Bulletproof Bullet Points. Here’s the latest on Paleo research, cryogenic freezing, the benefits of organic meat, and controversy surrounding GMOs, pesticides, and Monsanto.
Is Paleo making you fat?
You may have heard about a new study condemning a Paleo-style, high-fat, low-carb (HFLC) diet. Reports like this one have been popping up, and most of them offer the same takeaway message: HFLC diets don’t actually work. A new study has shown that they cause obesity and other health problems. Consensus seems to be that the success of HFLC dieting is driven by celebrities and charlatans, and if you value your health you should stick with a low-fat diet.
Well, hold on a second. Let’s take a closer look at this new study before giving up on Bulletproof, Paleo, Primal, and other HFLC ways of eating. The study is currently free online; you can read it in its entirety here.
Basically, the authors fed mice one of two diets:
- A low-fat diet consisting of 70% carbohydrates, 20% protein, and 10% fat
- A high-fat diet consisting of 6% carbohydrates, 13% protein, and 81% fat
The mice fed the high-fat diet didn’t fare too well; they saw greater weight gain, decreased glucose tolerance, and more insulin resistance. Basically, they were in the fast lane to diabetes and obesity.
But before you ditch fat and start upping your carbs, consider a few details about the study that many reports overlooked:
- The study was in mice. Mice eat a lot of grains in the wild, so they generally tolerate carbs better than humans do, but they don’t respond too well to fat – especially when, like in this study, they’re New Zealand Obese (NZO) mice. NZO mice are genetically modified to become rapidly obese, suffer poor glucose tolerance, and develop heart and fatty liver issues. Oh, and the mice were pre-diabetic when the study started.
- The breakdown of the “Paleo” diet (provided in this table) is, frankly, a joke.
- 100% of the carbs come from sucrose. That’s refined table sugar.
- Much of the fat comes from cacao and ghee, so the authors get points there, but a sizeable portion of the fat comes from inflammatory canola oil. Bleh.
- The protein is entirely from casein, which, in addition to being inflammatory in mice, is refined and nutritionally pretty empty.
- The fiber comes from cellulose. That’s paper. Gut bacteria don’t do much with paper. They prefer prebiotic fiber found in veggies and whole foods.
- The poor nutritional value of the carbs, fats, and protein led the researchers to supplement the LCHF diet with 9 different vitamin and mineral supplements.
- The low-fat diet does not follow the same pattern (again, see the breakdown here).
- It contains fish meal, wheat, beef fat, soybean meal, milk powder, molasses, and a small dusting of trace minerals.
- There’s barely any refined sugar; the vast majority of the carbs come from wheat, which is what mice have evolved to eat in the wild.
TL;DR: the “Paleo” diet is full of super-refined, inflammatory ingredients, and all its carbs are from table sugar.
This study is a hallmark case of bias. You’re feeding pre-diabetic, genetically modified mice super-refined, inflammatory ingredients, with table sugar to make up all of their carbs, then taking your results to the news claiming that a Paleo diet makes people fat.
Ironically, the low-fat diet sounds more Paleo: relatively unrefined, nutrient-rich foods, only 2% of carbs from sugar, and most of the nutrition coming from the food the animal has evolved to eat in the wild (in this case, wheat for mice).
Very skewed science with very questionable conclusions. If you’re eating a true Bulletproof/Paleo diet – that is, a diet full of whole foods, quality fats, anti-inflammatory compounds, and minimal refined sugars – then this study has nothing to do with you. Keep thriving.
Freeze your brain, live forever
For the last 50 years, scientists have tinkered with the idea of freezing humans, preserving them for years, and then bringing them back to life (like in the beginning of Austin Powers. Yeah, baby!).
The concept isn’t as farfetched as it sounds. Earlier this month, a team of neuroscientists successfully defrosted a frozen rabbit brain that they’d put on ice (or more likely liquid nitrogen) and preserved in long-term storage. The researchers dissected the brain and checked its neurons under a microscope. Nearly 100% of them were intact.
This is the first time anyone has successfully frozen and unfrozen a mammal’s brain without damaging it. The scientists behind the study won an award and a generous heap of prize money, and their research has rekindled a dying field in science. If cryopreservation keeps progressing, we could all be freezing ourselves in the near future. Want to skip to the year 2200? Hop in an icy tank for a couple centuries and you could come out to a whole new world.
That’s pretty cool.
Another reason to go organic
Good news for organic farming! A massive review of over 250 scientific papers has concluded that organic meat and dairy top their conventional counterparts when it comes to nutrient and fatty acid profiles.
A team of researchers who were curious about the alleged benefits of organic food went to the scientific literature, where they scrutinized 196 papers on milk and 67 papers on meat. The results were strongly in favor of organic cow products. Organic milk and meat had more:
- CLA, a fatty acid that promotes weight loss
- Vitamin E
- Fat-soluble vitamins
And keep in mind, this is only looking at organic versus conventional meat/dairy. Feed those organically raised cows 100% grass, and odds are their meat and milk will be even higher in the good stuff listed. It’s worth it to buy organic when you can, folks. Organic food is better for you and better for the planet.
Trouble for Monsanto
It’s been a rough month for Monsanto. The massive agrochemical corporation produces most of the world’s genetically modified crops, as well as the pesticides that go on them. Monsanto also manufactures and sells glyphosate (marketed as Roundup). Glyphosate is the most widely used pesticide in the world, and it’s been causing controversy for decades. Last year, the World Health Organization declared glyphosate a probable human carcinogen. On top of that, private research companies have found glyphosate residue in everything from honey to human breast milk.
Now the FDA is getting involved. Earlier this month, they announced a plan to begin testing common crops for glyphosate residue. If they find excessive residue, Monsanto could be in trouble.
If that weren’t enough, one of Monsanto’s business partners, Sumitomo Chemical, has come under fire following the recent outbreak of microcephaly in Brazil. Microcephaly is a birth defect in which babies come out of the womb with exceptionally small heads. Officials first blamed the outbreak on the Zika virus, which was also spreading in Brazil and has been known to cause microcephaly.
However, recent reports have stated that the majority of the microcephaly cases were unrelated to the Zika virus, and that the real cause may be Pyriproxifen, a larvicide Sumitomo Chemical has been spraying in Brazil’s drinking water to kill aggressive mosquito infestations. It’s not yet clear whether or not Pyripoxifen is the true culprit, but either way, the agrochemical business is not terribly popular at the moment. Again, good reasons to buy all your food organic.
That’s it for this month. Have a great week and thanks for reading!