Anglo-Saxon King Seeking Diet Advice?
    By Robert H Olley | June 29th 2013 08:35 AM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Until recently, I worked in the Polymer Physics Group of the Physics Department at the University of Reading.

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    One of the few Anglo-Saxon kings whose name is still familiar is Æthelred the Unready.  To modern ears, this sounds as if he had ignored the Scout motto “Be Prepared”, but “Unready” is better translated; the Old English “Unræd” means, rather, “Ill-advised”. [1]

    Now I am feeling as perplexed as the chap in the picture above, what with all the advice I receive, from home and abroad, about my diet.  This year, I seem to have developed a condition whereby too high a glycaemic load makes me itch or develop spots for an hour or so at a time. 

    One direction from which this comes concerns the Paleolithic Diet (more generally abbreviated to the Paleo Diet), which is

    a modern nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various hominid species habitually consumed during the Paleolithic era—a period of about 2.5 million years which ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture and grain-based diets. 

    Now this has recently been given the going-over on Scientific American in an article How to Really Eat Like a Hunter-Gatherer, and I need not add to what is there.  However, there recently came into my hands The Perfect Health Diet by Paul Jaminet and Shou-Ching Jaminet, and I had a good read of it. 

    One of their ideas is the list of their “Four Most Dangerous Foods”, which are (1) Cereal Grains (2) Legumes (3) Vegetable Seed Oils (4) Sugar.  They seem to want to drive these out with inquisitorial ferocity.  And sometimes their logic seems to drive them into odd corners: they advise against eating plants favoured by herbivorous mammals, because the plants would have evolved chemical defences against being eaten!

    Ruling out grains and legumes would be very hard for me, since I tend to rely on these for energy, rather than potatoes and rice with their higher glycaemic index.  And I do seem to need a lot of energy: I can eat more than most people and not put on any weight at all.  Also, when they talk about vegetable seed oils — there could be a world of difference between the stuff straight out of a bottle and what is found in a fryer that has been kept hot in a take-away for days on end.

    The problem with this book is that they do seem to apply their one principle to everything, and ignore alternative interpretations of other people’s findings that they quote.  However, they do cover a lot of ground, and make me think, which is why, despite my misgivings, the book has not been a waste of money.  My favourite “goodie” is how they regard medium chain (saturated) fatty acids as being the best thing going, and I do wonder, how are these metabolized?  Apparently a lot of them end up as ketone bodies — are these good or bad for the normal healthy individual?

    Another book I have read is

    Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon

    This is much more moderate, and their ideas of fermenting your grains and milk may make a lot more sense.  The book has lots of interesting recipes, and is beautifully produced (to a typographic eye.)

    I am not a “foodie”, but if I ever manage a holiday in the United States of America, one of my guides would be not Baedeker, but Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  I would have to do a lot of travelling though, because I would want to fit in Southern food (collard greens and all) and some wonderful eateries in Fairbanks, Alaska.  However, one thing does make me wonder, and that is the tremendously long smoking times for pork and brisket.   I did wonder a tiny bit about the Maillard reaction, responsible for meat browning and the development of all sorts of flavours, but the linked Wikipedia article has nothing negative to say about it in that regard.  However, all that charring does make me suspect the presence of lots of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon derivatives.

    Now we have ‘advice’ from Europe, which would limit our consumption of processed meat to one slice of bacon day: Europe-wide study reveals unhealthy effects of eating processed meatVae nobis, we are getting so much advice on all sides.  In this respect, the European Union is developing into a Monstrosity [2], interfering in all matters of life.

    Last of all, we turn to Nadia Giosia and her Bitchin’ Kitchen.  Easy, sensible stuff and not too hard to produce.  But she does lean too heavily, methinks, on organic produce and extra virgin olive oil.  Regarding organic, that has been nicely dealt with in the Hankroller, but what about the “extra virgin”?  Is one’s supermarket rapeseed oil (GB equivalent of canola) likely to be any poorer in omega-3 than the cold pressed stuff?

    [1] or “bad-counsel” — a twist on his name “Æthelred”, meaning noble-counsel.  From 991 onwards, he paid tribute (Danegeld) to the Danish King, and in 1002, he ordered a massacre of Danish settlers.  In Oxford, a group of Danes who had taken refuge in a church were killed, reminding one of more recent incidents in Yugoslavia during the Second World War, and in Eldoret, Kenya.

    [2] THE MONSTROSITY, by G.K.Chesterton

    When a dead body is rotting, it does not diminish; it swells.  Ignorance of this elementary truth is at the back of nearly all our political blindness.  When we speak of a decaying people or a dying institution, we always have somehow the notion of their dwindling; of sparser and sparser tribes gathering on their mountains, of meaner and meaner buildings arising in their skies.  But it is not so that social bodies really rot.  They rot like physical bodies, being horribly distended from within by revolting gases demanding egress.  Institutions, like corpses, grow larger and larger as they grow more and more shapeless.  A dying monarchy is always one that has too much power, not too little; a dying religion always interferes more than it ought, not less.  Our own country is really in this state of swollen decay, and the test of it is this: that every function of the State has grown more formless and more vast.  Every power, public and private, has been stretched long past all sane definition and we live under a government of entangled exaggerations.  It is a government that has all the practical effects of anarchy.  Indeed, it is something worse than chaos; a warring polytheism.  It is a conflict of incalculable autocracies, under any of which at the moment we may fall. 


    Gerhard Adam

    It strikes me as strange that anyone would use the invocation of "evolution" as a rationale for what our ancestors did or ate.  In the first place there are undoubtedly a large number of dietary supplements that most people would shun especially if they were presented as they might have occurred in the past [one is especially reminded of insects].

    However, it is also quite likely that the issue isn't the food versus the amount of it that we routinely consume. 

    What is clear is that almost none of this has anything to do with evolution, since the ailments these diets are supposed to avoid are not generally selectable traits.  In other words, unless they have or had a direct effect on fitness, then there would be no basis for assuming that an ancient diet [or a modern one] had much influence.  So, while one might make an argument for childhood diabetes, it would be problematic to consider adult-onset diabetes as being a selectable trait [i.e. one's fitness criteria will already have passed].

    In addition, it seems presumptuous to suggest that we are "stuck" in some evolutionary dead-end while we are changing the foods all around us. 

    In fact, one could readily argue that we may not have nearly as much influence on our diets from an evolutionary perspective as those of our microbiota.  After all, when one considers the diets of many animals, doesn't it seem peculiar that so many animals would've evolved to eat foods that they are routinely incapable of digesting on their own?  This strongly suggests that it isn't a genetic issue, but rather one that is dependent on the particular bacteria resident in the gut. 

    So in the same way that one must track the evolution of any environment based on the animals that inhabit it and affect it, it would seem that the reasonable approach would be to view larger animals from the same perspective.  Part of it is due to their genetic heritage, and part of it is due to the modifications made by the actual inhabitants of that environment.

    In the end, I can't help but consider that of all the creatures on this planet, it is the one with the most highly developed brain that can't seem to figure out what to eat.
    Mundus vult decipi
    John Hasenkam
     My favourite “goodie” is how they regard medium chain (saturated) fatty acids as being the best thing going, and I do wonder, how are these metabolized?  

    MCTs appear to provide protection against cancer and neurodegenerative conditions. This might be because ketone body generation and ketogenic diets have been found useful in some cancer treatments and are a great help to some epileptics, which causes me to wonder if MCTs are promoting Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor and\GABA transmission; there is some evidence to suggest the former promotes the latter. There is considerable evidence to suggest loss of GABA function is a major issue in depression, schizophrenia, in both cases BDNF is often low. 

    More generally I think all this dietary stuff is bloody nonsense. Each individual must find out what works for them. For example, I am the opposite to you and must regular my food intake very carefully because I can easily stack on the fat. So I frequently fast, which turns out to be arguably the single best dietary advice for many people. 

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Robert, this is a purely anecdotal comment about diet and vitamin and mineral supplements but I have a 17 year old collie kelpie cross dog called Tess, who suffers from an arthritic shoulder which causes her to limp because she once dislocated it about 10 years ago in a car accident on our farm and the vet correctly predicted back then that she would suffer arthritis from this in her old age. 

    At the ripe old age of 17 years and 9 months, she is now the equivalent in dog years of the 123 year old French woman Jeanne Calment who has the world's longest confirmed lifespan. She is definitely the oldest dog on our beach, so I have naturally been expecting my lovely, old dog to die of old age, for some time now. In the meantime she still seems to be enjoying life though, runs on the beach every day with my other 2 dogs and says hello to most people that she meets, even though she is now profoundly deaf and occasionally a bit wobbly at times.
    I have always given her bought dog food and biscuits, which all claim to contain well balanced combinations of vitamins and minerals, usually based upon whatever was on special that week, along with the occasional raw meat, bones and eggs. More recently I have been mixing chondroitin powder with my fish oil supplements for her arthritis and there was a slight improvement. 

    However, last month I bought a pack of extremely expensive liver chews from the vet, that cost over $60, much to my husband's disgust and they were called Joint Guard Liver Chews, They immediately appeared to have a profoundly beneficial effect that was noticeable almost straight away, though I realize that this could just be coincidence. So I did an experiment and didn't give her the chew every day (otherwise known as a memory problem) and she is noticeably better on the days that I remember to give her the liver chew. According to the product website these liver chews contain :-
    Each JOINT GUARD Liver Chew contains: Glucosamine Hydrochloride 250 mg Purified Sodium Chondroitin Sulphate 200 mg Also contains MSM, manganese gluconate, calcium ascorbate (Vit C), zinc, copper, vitamin E
    Joint Guard:provides essential components required for joint cartilage repair and maintenance is for regular daily administration for a protective effect aids production of normal healthy cartilage matrix and of synovial (joint) fluid. Joint Guard helps prevent cartilage degeneration by supplying all critical components on a daily basis. This is a chondroprotective (joint protective) effect. Research trials on combinations of Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Manganese and Vitamin C report a significant synergy between these components, and a chondroprotective effect, as well as a mild anti-inflammatory effect following regular administration.The essential components in Joint Guard serve to both reduce cartilage degeneration, and stimulate production of healthy cartilage matrix.
    Glucosamine hydrochloride - stimulates formation of both synovial (joint) fluid and the cartilage matrix, Chondroitin sulfate - provides protection from the enzymes which break down cartilage, and is the major component in cartilage, Manganese and Vitamin C - are essential in the pathways to manufacture cartilage, MSM - is used during soft connective tissue synthesis e.g. in the joint capsule.'
    I'm not sure which ones, if any, of these ingredients and in which combinations, in these dog liver chews are having such a profound effect upon my dog's health but I'm tempted to start taking them myself soon, as my joints are getting  bit stiff in the mornings, even though it says that these liver chews are strictly not for human consumption!
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Maybe I should go to a vet!
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Or maybe Robert, you should try the fast diet as long as your Doctor approves? Its free and you don't need to buy the book, just watch this SBS documentary called 'Eat,Fast and Live Longer' in which 'Dr Michael Mosley has set himself a truly ambitious goal: he wants to live longer, stay younger and lose weight - however he wants to make as few changes to his life as possible along the way. He discovers the powerful new science behind the ancient idea of fasting, and he thinks he's found a way of doing it that still allows him to enjoy his food. Michael tests out the science of fasting on himself - with life-changing results.' 

    Basically you just 'fast' any 2 days of the week and then eat what you want the other 5 days. The fasting days consist of about 600 calories but vary a bit with size, my husband and son have 660 calories on fast days because they are both six foot five inches tall or 2 metres. For 600 calories I can have an egg on toast for breakfast, sardines on toast for lunch and a small piece of fish or meat and a lot of green veggies for dinner and drink plenty of water, tea and coffee during the day. I'm doing the fast today, as are many of my friends and family, because Monday seems a good day to fast.

    Most of the people I know who are doing this fast regularly, are slowly losing weight and feeling a lot healthier, and the tests show they have lowered their  blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and cancer risks. 

    Everyone except for me is losing weight, but I have the Scottish famine gene, so nothing makes me lose weight these days. I just have to look at a piece of chocolate cake and I put on a pound :(

    Here is a free link to the documentary 'Eat, Fast and Live Longer'.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at