“They can because they think they can.”

~ Vergil

NPR affiliate station KQED host Michael Krasny talks to Dr. Daphne Miller, author of The Jungle Effect, in this episode of The Forum. The forum, with its erudite host, Michael Krasy, is one of my favorite shows on NPR, and a big reason behind why I’m an NPR supporter. Oh my, I can already hear the hissing and gnashing of teeth from those on the right. Hey, every media outlet has a bias — though,curiously, I’ve yet to find a Libertarian-leaning, mainstream media outlet.  Maybe that should tell me something, huh?  Anyway, I take each outlet and its associated angle for what it’s worth. Lefty bias doesn’t stop me from listening to the BBC, or the CBC for that matter.  Maybe it helps that I’m a social lefty as opposed to a fiscal lefty.  Anyway, another subject for another time.  On to the subject at hand — Dr. Daphne Miller, and her new book, The Jungle Effect.

Now, Dr. Miller certainly isn’t anywhere near supporting and all-out Paleo diet, but she’s definitely on to something. And that “something”, the common thread throughout all of the indigenous diets she studies for her book, is the complete absence of refined carbohydrates.  And in a strange set of coincidences, there is very little disease of any kind to be found in those populations subsisting on their indigenous diet.  Introduce those same exact same groups to a western, highly refined carbohydrate-laden diet, and all manner of disease hell breaks loose.  Hmmmm.  Hello, USDA, are we picking up a trend here yet?

Of course, all of this this is nothing surprising to the TTP readership.  It is interesting, though, to view the mainstream’s nascent steps toward — and their initial reaction to — the understanding that refined carbohydrates are the root of the obesity epidemic.  Sadly, no talk here of the human genome’s predisposition toward a Paleo diet, evolution, or of the recent (anthropologically speaking) of the advent of agriculture.  Dr. Miller’s findings here, though, do correspond nicely to the TTP first step to better health — namely, shaking free of refined carbohydrates. That initial step is absolutely crucial, in my opinion, to any sibilance of decent health (weight issues aside).  As well, (and also in alignment with Dr. Miller’s findings) is the necessity of physical activity. Why is physical activity so important? Because it increases insulin sensitivity, that’s why. Couple an intelligently programmed exercise routine with an elimination of refined carbohydrates in the diet and you’re well on your way to being a much, much healthier you. As healthy as you can be? Well, in a word, no. For that, you’ll have to refine your workouts and commit to a full-on TTP/Paleo lifestyle.  I do believe though that it is feasible to implement at least these two things on a nation-wide basis.

I think the most telling instance in this interview supporting the fact that refined carbohydrates are the major problem in the obesity epidemic (and an example that is simple enough for the “everyman” to get), is the references made to the Pima Indians of the American southwest and their genetically similar Pima cousins in Mexico, to whom type 2 diabetes is virtually unknown.  Will we convince all people turn Paleo, even a decent percentage of the populace?  I’d like to think so, but let’s be honest — the general public still views anything out of the ordinary (ordinary as defined by their previous experience) as alien and unattainable.  Dumping refined carbohydrates, though, may be something that is more palatable (pardon the pun), and doable on a nation-wide basis.

But how could something like this be done?  How can a nation, as a whole, be influenced to give up the mighty, refined carb?  That’s something I’d like to explore in an upcoming post.  Anyone read the book, Nudge?  That’s the direction I intend to go.

In Health,



  1. Keith,

    I have ordered Nudge. It was supposed to be here today but a “winter storm” here in Texas that would cause anyone from any other part of the country to laugh (you know the drill) caused a shipment delay.

    I am extremely interested in methods to get other people interested and active in the Paleo diet movement. I have lost all but one of my grandparents to the diseases of modern society. The one remaining grandparent subsists on a traditional Polish diet. Go figure.


    • Ryon,
      I’m planning a post on this subject soon; the timing is dependent upon the demands of my “real job”. The trick of the “nudge” of course, is to skillfully identify the most productive action(s) to influence. These actions can’t be too broad in scope, because the nudge effect will be too diluted. We need something more specific to target than say “overall diet”. More later. I’ll post my ideas as a starting point, and we can kick them around & hopefully mold them into something doable (nudgeable?).

  2. Thanks for the post on The Jungle Effect. Traveling in some Euro countries, the first thing I noticed in the grocery stores was the absence of a lot of our convenience foods. People buy their bread at a good bakery and don’t get some pre-sliced prepacked crap. There are one or two types of something to pick from in the cereal aisle, not a million. Okay so they do like their ice cream, beer, and wine selections to be large. I had some of the best eggs (not in a refrigerated section in Germany) ever… nice orange yolks and some great berries from the farmers’ market.

    Sure there are Seven Elevens and McDonalds and Burger Kings. But I ate what the locals ate and felt a lot lighter and my palate shifted from ultra sweet and salty. There really are no diet sodas except for Coke Lite (which I’ve heard is nasty). There is Coke, Pepsi, 7 UP or Sprite, and maybe Dr. Pepper. And bunch of different bottled waters.

    I tried whale, reindeer meat balls (at least I think it was reindeer), pickled herring (which is really good and not at all a pickled taste), venison, and the freshest salmon I’ve ever had fixed many different ways. Portions were much smaller compared to here, but you didn’t go hungry. People sit in the park with family and friends and share a bottle of wine and cheeses and fruit. Ok, so maybe I had a few too many of the Magnum ice cream bars, but hey that was one of the most reliable signs I could recognize.

    Wherever you are, the traditional foods are going to be the best, even if it’s a sort of Westernized sort of traditional.

    TrailGrrl, jonesing for some pickled salmon with relish

  3. One of our friends was visiting a fertilization specialist because she has PCOS, which my wife also has. The doctor told her she was at risk for type II diabetes and she would have to wait until that was under control before she could continue with the treatment.

    It will be interesting to see the protocol. I guarantee that if she took a month with less than 25 grams of carbs per day her condition would be gone. I told my wife tonight that people are literally willing to die for bread and pasta. It’s a shame, really.

    As far as the “nudge” from me, my wife is slowly letting go of it. She now follows the Insulin Resistant diet, which essentially tries to prevent an insulin spike by mixing fat or protein or both with your carbs.

    She is slowly seeing the light, even though I show it to her every day. It is engrained (pardon the pun) in society. I still get a laugh when supposed healthy triathletes opt for a whole wheat bagel at a race, and leave the nuts behind because they think fat is bad. 🙂 Thoughtful post, as usual.



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