“To find yourself, think for yourself. ”

– Socrates

Another fine, fine, n=1 quote.

Little Girl and Big Guy, courtesy of Farm City
Little Girl and Big Guy, courtesy of Farm City

A few things from this past week.  First off, a couple of observations from the world of track and field —

If you haven’t yet seen this clip, check it out.  I’m left grasping for something to compare Usain Bolt to.  One tends to forget that this kid is walking away from world class athletes.  Astonishing, is all that I can say…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DjvvI-0xjc&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.elitetrack.com%2Fblogs%2Fdetails%2F4774%2F&feature=player_embedded#t=92]

Bolt is the “perfect storm” of sprinting; off-the-charts power-to-bodyweight ratio, aerodynamically put together, extremely long stride at top-end speed (with the ability to both maintain the speed and stride length for the duration of the race, i.e., anaerobic stamina) and the ability to transfer that high power development to the ground, both from a dead-start (piston action) and at full stride (spring action).  A perfect sprinting combination of fortunate genetics and fabulous, first-class training methods.  The Jamaicans know how to train sprinters, and they have a wealth of talent to choose from.

And speaking of genetics, genetic expression, and the powerful effects of hormones on the phenotype, how about the controversy surrounding the women’s 800 meter phenom, Caster Semenya?  Now, I’m certainly not trying to imply that following a Paleo lifestyle will impart an extra Y chromosome “advantage” to the Paleo ladies out there, or unleash an unlimited fountain of testosterone in the guys, only that the Paleo “push” that we do provide via positive genetic expression (and, hence, hormonal expression) does account for a good portion of our overall health and bodily composition benefits.

According to the NPR news story cited above:

Gender testing used to be mandatory for female athletes at the Olympics, but the screenings were dropped in 1999. One reason for the change was not all women have standard female chromosomes (i.e., an xxy make-up — my insertion for clarification).  In addition, there are cases of people who have ambiguous genitalia or other congenital conditions.

The most common cause of sexual ambiguity is congenital adrenal hyperplasia, an endocrine disorder where the adrenal glands produce abnormally high levels of hormones.

Health of the modern-day, semi-hunter-gatherers

What’s interesting here is that the people being studied (the Tsimane tribe, of Amazonian Bolivia) exhibit high C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, and yet show no signs, even in far advanced years, of heart disease or other markers of “metabolic syndrome”.  The high CRP levels — a marker of inflammation — are surely attributed to the high instance of parasitic infestation among these peoples.  What keeps them from developing good ol’ western style metabolic syndrome?  Well, my guess is that the Tsimane maintain low insulin levels due to a lack of simple carbohydrate ingestion.  Again, insulin is the main player, with other factors (in this case, inflammation) playing the part of “tools of convenience”; aiding and abetting, so to speak.  Very, very interesting, to say the least.  Check out the NPR story (podcast), here, and the University of Southern California news story, here.   We as modern Paleos can learn much from research like this.  The most practical take-home message here being that the intelligent Paleo practitioner will marry the best of the past (diet, movement patterns) with the best of modernity (sanitary practices) in what should be an ever-evolving, progressive and intelligent union.

On “Evangelizing” the good news…

Yes, it’s tricky business, to be sure, the practice of offering unsolicited advice; and I avoid it myself, as if were the plague (…attempting to teach a pig to sing will only frustrate you and annoy the pig).  But when the government is involved, though — in other words, someone with the power to force their will upon me — I feel it’s imperative to speak up.  Here’s an interesting bit of commentary on the on-going (American) healthcare debate.  The link is to a Super Human Radio podcast interview with Dr. Ronald Klatz.  Dr. Klatz is one of the Founders of A4M (The American Academe of Anti-Aging Medicine) and has presented a Healthcare plan that can not only (purportedly) save the country Trillions of dollars, but will also extend the lives of most Americans.  Also, check out A4M’s article on the 12 Point Action Plan for effective healthcare reform ( here is the 12-point plan itself).   My only problem with the proposal is that is conspicuously deficient of any mention of the positive health markers elicited by the adoption of a Paleo-like lifestyle.  One small step at a time, I suppose.  Even with that deficiency, this is still the best set of action points that I’ve seen floated by any group with any sibilance of influence (little as A4M may have) in Washington.  Kinda tough to compete with folks like this, ya know.

…and of having the good news evangelized to you

Again my good friend Carl Lanore, at Super Human Radio comes through with an informative and timely interview.  This time out, he’s got John Wood, of US Wellness Meats on the line.  John has been raising beef cows in the traditional, grass-fed way for decades.  Listen as the discussion turns to the health benefits of eating grass fed, hormone free, antibiotic free beef, over the conventional beef-look-alike that lines your grocery food store shelves.  When it comes to grass-fed beef, John knows his stuff.  Want to know why the Argentinians are so adept at producing a fantastic steak?  John will fill you in.  Now I’m lucky in that I live in a relatively rural area, so I have ready access to grass-fed/free-range meat.  If you don’t have ready access to these products, though, check out the folks at US Wellness Meats.  Really, their prices aren’t that much higher than what I pay for my locally raised products.  That’s a good deal for everyone — you and the producer of these quality products; not to mention the animals themselves who get to live out their lives naturally, and free of cruelty.

What I’m reading now…

417+3oDgsoL_optWant to try your hand at subsistence farming and ranching?  You say you’d love to, but live smack-dab in the city, and that, of course, ends that little dream.  Well, think again. Novella Carpenter has written a gem of a book entitled Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer.  I could gush on and on about this book — it’s just fantastic.  The juxtaposition of farming and animal husbandry struggles against life in the “hood” is nothing less than fascinating.  Even if you have no desire whatsoever with delving into raising your own food, I’d still highly recommend this book.  Really, it’s the sleeper of the summer, and I’m so very glad that I stumbled upon it.  If anyone will make you want to chuck the ol’ 9-to-5 (7-to-6 is more like it nowadays), and try your hand at eeking it out on your own little plot, Novella will.  And before you think that Novella is some kind of militant Berkeley vegetarian, think again — she raises her own chickens, turkeys, rabbits, goats and pigs for consumption, and does her own slaughtering.  My kinda girl.  Anyway, pick up her book and check out her blog (cited above); you’ll be so glad you did.

And one final tidbit…

Psychological barriers: we all know what it’s like when we can’t seem to bust past certain plateaus in our workouts.  Maybe it’s a certain amount of pull-up reps, or a certain number of 100 meter repeats.  We feel like we ought to be able to pull it of physically, but for some reason our psyche is holding us back.  Well, Kevin Purdy of Lifehacker.com has a great idea to help overcome that overactive (and self protective) mind: using a camcorder; check it out.  Of course, in time you can train your brain to somewhat squelch that overly-protective-mom-like feature, but this camcorder idea looks to me like a perfect bridge to help get one to that point a little quicker.  Try it out and let me know what you think.


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Keith Norris is a former standout athlete, a military vet, and an elite strength and conditioning expert with over 35 years of in-the-trenches experience. As a serial entrepreneur in the health and wellness space, he is an owner, co-founder and Chief Development Officer of the largest Paleo conference in the world, Paleo f(x) . As well, Keith is a partner in one of the most innovative lines of boutique training studios in the nation, Efficient Exercise. He’s also a partner in ARXFit training equipment, and a founding member of ID Life. In his spare time, he authors one of the top fitness blogs in the health and wellness sphere, Theory To Practice.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Keith,

    It’s interesting that you mention CRP levels, as I was just pointing out on an espresso board (yes, they exist) that getting mired in minutia about a compound that raises cholesterol in rats isn’t going to help. They should be looking at markers that matter like CRP.

    Now, the notion of insulin management is great but it’s curious that the Okinawa and the Kitava, in spite high carbs, exhibit low instances of heart disease and one would assume low CRP. Your point makes me rethink this. I can’t find their CRP numbers, even Whole Health Source didn’t mention them in the main article. Any idea?

    Western society is a perfect storm of all of the “bad” adding up to a shit-storm of disease…that’s the take home imo.

    Best,
    Skyler

    • As block-headed and simple-minded as this may sound, I tend to think of CRP, (excessive) insulin, toxins, etc. all as components of an offensive-minded football team. Let’s call that team… hell, I dunno… the Metabolic Syndrome Sycophants. Now, the Syc’s may have an awesome running back (CRP), but without a productive offensive line (insulin), he’s not going to do much. And the converse (great line, shitty back) is probably just as true. You get the idea. Now the question becomes how much weight does each “negative” carry. And here I believe it all boils down to context and a whole other host of variables (genetic and environmental) that we’d drive ourselves nuts both in attempting to figure out and control. We do the best we can with what we know and what we can reasonably control.

      • Great point; it might be block headed but it’s a nice clean visual.

        One of the 12 points in the link you posted was “nutrogenomics.” I look forward to when that field develops to a useful level of actually explaining the last 5% of the puzzle.

        • For those unfamiliar with the term (from Wikipedia): Nutrigenomics deals with the influence of genetic variation on nutrition by correlating gene expression or single-nucleotide polymorphisms with a nutrient’s absorption, metabolism, elimination or biological effects. By doing so, Nutrigenomics aims to develop rational means to optimise nutrition, with respect to the subject’s genotype.

          And you’re spot-on Skyler, what an interesting field of study. Here’s hoping that since it’s in its infancy, and, in this day and age, under heavy scrutiny and relative openness, that it won’t become bastardized like its older, more mundane cousins, nutrition, bio chem, et. al.

    • Everyone is praying he’s clean…this guy included.

      It is important to note that, for anyone who doesn’t follow this, he owns every 200m age record from 15 up. He ran nearly 20 seconds at the age of 17…he’s a freak.

      • The Jamaicans have thus far run a “clean” program; in the past, anyway. They haven’t — in the past, at least — had access to the hard science and willing practitioners of the “black art” of enhancement and avoidance techniques. To be quite honest, with all that natural talent and training know-how, they really don’t need a chemical edge.

  2. I don’t think anyone should draw conclusions from the Tsimane study so far. For one thing, as far as I can tell, there has been no attempt to establish whether Tsimane have genetic variations that can account for findings. As reported, those with genetic predispositions to high CRP don’t develop heart disease the same as others with high CRP:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1056%2FNEJMoa0707402

    Perhaps CRP isn’t telling us what we think it’s telling us?

    Another complicating factor is that it’s not clear what the Tsimane really eat. The anthropologists that study them call them “hunter-gatherers,” but also say that their diet is based on growing “plantains, rice, corn, and sweet manioc”:
    http://www.unm.edu/~tsimane/web/population.html
    Researchers’ articles say things like “their diet is low in saturated fat”, but I can’t find an actual analysis of what they eat. My guess is that they sell a lot of their rice and corn and eat mostly fish and fruit, but that’s just based on the photos I can find online.

    • Good point. And we also should take into consideration that our available raw information comes pre-filtered through the biases and pov of the in-field study teams. Not to imply that there is any intended data manipulation going on, just that biases must be taken into account; our own as well as in those handing us the “raw” data.

  3. For one thing, as far as I can tell, there has been no attempt to establish whether Tsimane have genetic variations that can account for findings. As reported, those with genetic predispositions to high CRP don’t develop heart disease the same as others with high CRP.

    Another complicating factor is that it’s not clear what the Tsimane really eat. The anthropologists that study them call them “hunter-gatherers,” but also say that their diet is based on growing “plantains, rice, corn, and sweet manioc”.

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