Don Matesz stumped by Tim the Enchanter

The other day I got an email from a friend in the paleo world with the following quote in it:

I'm pretty torn about AHS. It was fun, but I don't see a good future in it because people are unwilling to call out bullshit. Anyone who is pretty much has al y quit in frustration like you and Mat Lalonde. I see myself in that position soon. 

Perhaps I can partially correct that by addressing a bit of steaming dung in the nutrition blogosphere right now.

Don Matesz has always seemed to me a mostly harmless kook. His arguments have always been emphatic and almost comically earnest, but otherwise lacking in subtlety, grace, and wit. This makes his prose, to me, almost unbearable to read regardless of content. Worst of all, he claims “alternative” pseudo-credentials as if they should be impressive and routinely touts the kind of fashionable unscientific crap that has always just rubbed me the wrong way.

I confess that Don can claim at least partial responsibility for my lack of appearance at AHS 2011. The appearance there of so many folks touting pseudoscientific nonsense, and the general lack of thematic coherence exemplified by the roster there made me want to have nothing to do with it, even though there were definitely many excellent presenters with great ideas as well (you know who you are).

Not so much guilt by association as priority management. I had a real academic career years ago. I’ve done the “pointed questions and challenge from the audience” thing enough back when I got paid to do so and I have no taste for it now as performance theatre, even as I may be willing to joust from time to time out here in the aether. I’ve also done the “squirming in your seat while people say outrageous or absurd things” when in academe, but this promised to be an order of magnitude worse.

Then Don proved me right by supposedly forswearing paleo just a few months before he presented at AHS. The author of “Primal Wisdom”, paid purveyor of dietary wisdom, and also a self-styled expert on the “wisdom” of primitive superstition (shamanism), naturopathy (whatever that is), reincarnation, meditation, crystals, etc… reversed his polarity from being a near carnivore who had little use for plants to a near vegan.

It took him 12 years to figure out he was on the wrong diet, charging people for health advice the whole while.

Recently, some blogger friends alerted me to a series he was writing “debunking” paleo. As I have not identified myself as “paleo” for a long time, and Matesz has always been so painful to read, I didn’t bother to waste any time with it.

I can't be bothered with creationists or vegans, generally.

Then I was alerted that he was using me, quite selectively and inaccurately, as a representative foil for his debunking.

Me, the author of several essays that were among the first to seriously criticize “paleo” ideas, written while Don was still full-on “paleo” himself. 

So I posted this response in two parts on his blog, here expanded as it would not all fit there under the HTML limits, and for your entertainment.

Congratulations, Don.

You've managed to use my name to construct a straw man argument for each of your points in fine fashion.

But have you read any of my posts that are newer than say, the last 2 years???

You say:

"I don't know who Dr. Harris imagines believes that plants or plant compounds are 'magic' (or what he means by 'magic') "

If you actually read the essay you linked to, you could see exactly what I mean by magic.

What I mean by plant compounds not being “magic”, which I state clearly in the essay, is that there is no one plant that we need to eat to avoid disease. No acai berry, resveratrol, or any particular vitamin or “anti-oxidant” is the key to health.

"All of these compounds are originally synthesized by plants and, except for niacin, appear in animal tissues only because the animal ate plants directly or ate another animal that ate plants."

Yes, Don. Isn't that neat how animals aggregate nutrients for us in addition to providing ones that we CANNOT GET AT ALL from plants, like B12 and long chain N-3 fatty acids?

If you were sincerely interested in what I think of plant-specific compounds, you might have read and quoted the following essay to see my current thinking about plant compounds and hormesis:

William Munny Eats His Vegetables

It was written a full year ago, so you’ve had plenty of time to see it. It describes how plant compounds can be beneficial via hormesis. 

Then you might have read and quoted the next group of essays and maybe looked at my dietary recommendations. You would have seen that I view both animal fats and starches as equally legitimate and healthy sources of caloric fuel, a view at odds with essentially all of the other “paleo” sources you quote in your straw man construction.

Paleo 2.0

There is no such thing as a macronutrient

No such thing as a macronutrient part II

The archevore diet

After reading those, you would see that there is plenty of room for healthy starch and fruits and vegetables as well as tasty animals in my dietary world.

Moving on, you could re-read this essay:

Nowhere in this essay do I say that "no blood cholesterol fraction has any influence on heart disease".

The point I make is that "cholesterol measurements" for LSAT Prep courses (really lipoproteins –it is never clear to me that you understand the difference….do you?) are reflections of dietary choices that may influence risk and are contextual. I do not say  "have no influence". I do say  "not worth measuring" and “there is no proof that manipulating them modifies risk favorably” - just the opposite, in fact.

The lipoprotein system is likely part of the innate immune system and is involved in the repair of vascular damage. So LDL and other species definitely “have an influence” on heart disease. But that is not the same as saying that particular LDL levels CAUSE heart disease, and it most certainly is not the same as saying that modifying our LDL levels with drugs or even diet is the proximate cause of changes in heart disease risk.

As far as animal fat or cholesterol consumption per se causing heart disease, I say to you, PROVE IT.

There is no prospective intervention study showing such.

Quoting some politically influenced acronymic government mouthpiece that is drawing inferences (“risk factors”) is not proof of anything.

You ask, rhetorically:

"Should I really believe that Michael Eades and Kurt Harris know more about the effect of saturated fats on heart disease than the members of the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board, composed of individuals who have invested their whole lives in studying nutrition both as scholars and bench scientists?"

Believe whatever you want, but if you don't side with me and with Dr. Eades, then you also are firmly contra Guyenet, Masterjohn and Colpo, just to name a few.

Do you think Mike Eades and I are the only ones who doubt the diet/heart nonsense?

Will you take the “expert” Walter Willett's advice and eat more industrially extracted PUFA as soybean and cottonseed oil for your heart?

Or will you side with Bill Lands, who gives the exact opposite advice, instead?

Pay your money and take your chances, Don.

Despite your decision to be willfully naïve, there is indeed some “chaos” and lack of consensus in dietary recommendations. However did you get snookered into eating meat in the first place? Is this consensus of all the experts you claim less than a year old, coinciding perfectly with your come-to-Jesus moment?

The thing is, you’ve really made a big mistake in thinking it must be either plants OR animals, either fats OR carbohydrates, Don.

Can you not see this?

At the risk of exhausting the term, I suggest you are operating from a Keyesian paradigm of diet.

As is anyone who thinks we must choose either fats or carbohydrates, or between plants and animals.

The Keyesain paradigm of diet is that the secret to health is a binary choice of macronutrient categories, one bad and the other good.

Keyes felt that fats were bad, and therefore carbohydrate was good. As others were, Taubes was correct in concluding that Keyes’ data were fraudulent and that his predictions about fat and cholesterol consumption have never proven true. But Taubes then went on and made the contrapositive error  - concluding that if animal fats are innocent in disease, the real culprit must be the entire macronutrient class of carbohydrate.

You have now made the same signal error, concluding that if homo sapiens is not an obligate carnivore, then we must be essentially vegan by nature, and if we are not “designed” to eat mostly animal fats for fuel, then they must be poison and carbohydrate is to be the preferred macronutrient at risk of our very health.

Plants are now to be favored and animals are anathema.

You’ve added the false dichotomy of plant/animal to the one Keyes gave us of  fats and carbs.

You’re now Charles Washington in reverse.

MacDougall, that sloppy fraud Campbell, his acolyte Furhman, and now you are all stuck in a half-century old false dichotomy first invented or popularized by Keyes. Have you not read Denise Minger’s excellent and careful writings on any of this, especially about “forks over knives”? You certainly write as if you haven’t.

No shades of grey for you, no sir! Forward with your binary thinking, stuck axle-deep in Ancel Keyes’ binary dietary paradigm. 

Someday you will feel quite foolish about this. Much more foolish than I feel for merely eating VLC for a while.

I have not and do not make an evolutionary argument either for or against “distance running”. I have described possible dangers of excessive marathon running based on actual peer-reviewed scientific studies. I personally run up to 20K per week currently and have stated so publicly many times. This is totally at odds with DeVaney and I have never stated agreement with any of his reasoning on exercise, including his “fractal” speculations.

I really, really dislike people that misquote and misattribute what I have said to try and use me as a foil in making a point.

I agree with Cordain and DeVaney on very little, and especially not on the value of making ad hoc evolutionary arguments. 

I was debunking “paleo” reasoning when you were still Mr. Primal and firmly in the paleo camp.

I eat potatoes and white rice and bananas, as well as plenty of ruminant fat. I don’t buy into binary macronutrient dichotomies. On the other hand, the three of you all do…..

DeVaney and Cordain and YOU are the ones reasoning from an armchair about what we are “supposed” to eat. You are using the same kind of ad-hoc “paleo “reasoning they are. You’ve just now reverse-engineered it with the assumption that plants are the goodh choice, instead of “lean meats”. 

So although you have supposedly said “farewell” to paleo, the ship left with you still clinging to her stern. No separation at all in fundamental assumptions, just a different a priori bias now because “your allergies got worse”……

You've gone from near-carnivory to MacDougall veganism with no real explanation for why you should be any more credible now than you were then.

Don, you're like those alcoholics that quit the drink but turn hard to Jesus, and now chain- smoke while eating too many glazed doughnuts at AA meetings.

You’ve gone from one nutty extreme to another, and now have zero credibility left. And I'm not even counting the superstitious nonsense you tout about "traditional chinese" medicine, yin and yang, “shamanism” and the other pseudoscientific bullshit that peppers your blog.

I am asking you to please leave my name out of your dumb crusade against "paleo", especially if you can't quote me accurately or even bother to read my more recent writings. 

Just quote yourself if you want to show how lame paleo is.

You've got plenty of posts that would fit much better than cherry- picking ones I put up more than 2 years ago.


PS: Are you sure you know what your favorite color is?

2007 Porsche 911 Carrera S for sale

Elk hunt details

I, Caveman

Jimmy Moore inquires about "safe starches"

This morning I got an email from Jimmy Moore inquiring what I thought about Paul Jaminet’s ideas about safe starches as espoused on his blog and in his book The Pefect Health Diet. I am not sure if Jimmy has noted the updates I’ve made in the Archevore diet, or if he has seen where I have come down on the issue of the CIH ( the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis of obesity), as he would have to be scouring the nooks and crannies of blog comments all over the nutrition blogosphere ; )

I’ve not had time to write the magnum opus blog posts that the repuditation of the CIH really requires (and not much can be added to what Stephan has already written), so I thought this was a good opportunity to get the message outside of my own echo chamber by responding in detail to Jimmy’s inquiry. My response to him is pretty long, and I doubt if he will quote much of it, so I’ve reproduced the email response, with his inquiry broken into bits in italics and my responses afterward in roman.

Kurt, I've been getting a lot of questions this year from my "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog readers about the concepts in Paul Jaminet's book "Perfect Health Diet."  He advocates for eating white potatoes and white rice as part of a low-carb eating plan.

I also have come to see most starchy plant organs as perfectly legitimate fuel sources. 

Low carb plans have helped people lose fat by reducing food reward from white flour and excess sugar and maybe linoleic acid. This is by accident as it happens that most of the "carbs" in our diet are coming in the form of manufactured and processed items that are simply not real food. Low carb does not work for most people via effects on blood sugar or insulin "locking away" fat. Insulin is necessary to store fat, but is not the main hormone regulating fat storage. That would be leptin.

My reading of the anthropology and ethnology literature, as well as my current understanding of biochemistry and metabolism, lead me to see the human metabolism as a multi-fuel stove, equally capable of burning either glucose or fatty acids at the cellular level depending on the organ, the task and the diet, and equally capable of depending on either animal fats or starches from plants as our dietary fuel source, depending on the biome (biological environment) we find ourselves born in or that we migrate to. 

We are a highly adaptable species. It is not plausible that carbohydrates as a class of macronutrient are toxic.

Diabetics need to avoid high carbohydrate intake the same way those with gall bladder disease need to avoid fat, but carbohydrates do not cause obesity or diabetes and fat consumption does not cause gall bladder disease (in fact low fat diets may contribute to gallstone formation via stasis) 

Here's a one-page explanation and illustration of Jaminet's program:

Several places in the book and on Jaminet's blog ( he specifically warns against the danger of a very low-carb diet (defined as less than about 300-400 calories per day (~100 grams) from so-called "safe starches"--taro, plantains, yams, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, white rice and berries) because less than this leads to the risks, including:  1) "insufficient production of mucus in the digestive tract" leading to dysbiosis

I have not looked into that claim enough to comment in detail, but it seems plausible. 

 2) vitamin deficiencies (he particularly mentions Vitamin C and glutathione 

Yes I would agree with that. Whites and sweets are loaded with ascorbic acid.

on pages 253-254)In particular he emphasizes these calories need to come from "safe starches and berrries" and "don't count vegetables as as a carb source (because) they are a fiber (and therefore a fat) source" (page 45).

My list is white potatoes, sweet potatoes, white rice and bananas. If more exotic fare like plantains and taro is available to you, that is fine, too. Except for white rice, these are all whole food starch sources with good mineral and micronutrient content that have been eaten in good health for thousands of years in many environments by genetically diverse populations. Many of these plants have spread far from their biomes of origin and serve as staples for populations who have adopted them with success over just the past few thousand years.

These starchy plant organs or vegetables are like night and day compared to most cereal grains, particularly wheat. One can eat more than half of calories from these safe starches without the risk of disease from phytates and mineral deficiencies one would have from relying on grains.

White rice is kind of a special case. It lacks the nutrients of root vegetables and starchy fruits like plantain and banana, but is good in reasonable quantities as it is a very benign grain that is easy to digest and gluten free. 

I think consumption of quality animal products is the sine qua non of a healthy diet. 

Once you have that, then eating starchy plants is more important for nutrition than eating colorful leafy greens - the veggies that are high fiber and low starch. (Some green leafy vegetables are good sources of folate and along with some fruits are sources of flavonoids that may benefit you via hormesis.)

I view most non-starchy fruit with indifference. In reasonable quantities it is fine but it won't save your life either. I like citrus now and then myself, especially grapefruit. But better to rely on starchy vegetables for carbohydrate intake than fruit.

Primitive populations practicing horticulture or hunting and gathering do not eat a lot of big green salads with lots of variety, but they do eat healthy starchy plant organs with monotony on top of their foraged animal foods.

Eating a very low carb (VLC) diet for a period of time can be a good fat loss maneuver, acting via the effects of ketosis on appetite suppression. I also like to see people limit themselves to two or three meals a day with absolutely no snacking, and it may give benefits via hormesis for longer periods of fasting (24 hours or more) once in a while.

But a long term VLC ketogenic diet is not a good idea. It does not mimic the ancestral diet in general, even if some populations have tolerated it when they had to. There is no need for most people to do it to lose fat, as food reward effects are more powerful. I would advocate long term ketosis in those with neurodegenerative brains diseases like Alzheimer dementia and Parkinson disease, and a 10 day water fast followed by long term ketogenic diet is worth trying if you have cancer. 

But I would not recommend VLC ketosis as a long term way of life the way I would not recommend running a half marathon every day, or lifting weights to failure on a daily basis, or taking chemotherapy drugs when you don't have cancer. Ketosis probably stresses the body and works via hormesis. But the clean up and repair response cannot happen if there is no rest from it. 

A recent post he wrote for cancer patients revealed his recommendion of obtaining 400 to 600 glucose calories a day, mainly from these safe starches. He says it is important to avoid a glucose deficiency, since glycosylated proteins are the means of intercellular coordination, and defects in glycosylation are characteristic of the cancer phenotype.

My arguments are based more on ethnography and anthropology than some of Paul's theorizing, but I arrive at pretty much the same place that he does. I personally eat around 30% carbohydrate now and have not gained an ounce from when I ate 10-15% (and I have eaten as high as 40% for over a year also with zero fat gain) If anything I think even wider ranges of carbohydrate intake are healthy. 

One can probably eat well over 50% of calories from starchy plant organs as long as the animal foods you eat are of high quality and micronutrient content. 

Grass fed ruminants, pastured butter and eggs and wild caught cold water fish are the kernel of a healthy diet, but the fuel source can be larger than the kernel on a caloric basis if the kernel is high quality and consistent.

He notes, "You don’t want to aggravate this with a self-induced glucose deficiency." I'd like to write a blog post about this topic of "safe starches" to help my readers understand fact from fiction and will quote from your response.  THANK YOU! If you cannot assist me, then please let me know so I ask someone else to contribute.

I've given you plenty to quote from, Jimmy. Go for it!




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