A quest fulfilled

Skulls in our library.  See bottom of post for description.

Skulls in our library. See bottom of post for description.

In 1981 MD and I read a book that changed our lives.  I don’t know why because I didn’t have a particular interest in paleontology or anthropology at the time, but I picked up a copy of Lucy: the Beginnings of Humankind by Donald Johanson.  The book sat around the house for awhile before I found the time to read it, but when I started reading, I couldn’t quit.  It was an absolutely riveting read.

I carried the book with me and read it everywhere.  At the time, I was doing a lot of emergency room medicine, so I took the book along on one of my 24 hour shifts.  As luck would have it, I had a slow night, so instead of sacking out as I would have usually done, making sure I got some shut eye before the inevitable car wreck or gunshot wound showed up to shatter my peace, I read Lucy.  I finished it sometime during the middle of the night and the couldn’t get back to sleep for thinking about it.  I couldn’t wait to get home to MD and tell her about it and force her – at gunpoint, if necessary – to read it.  I couldn’t live with myself if I were this enthusiastic about something and had no one to discuss it with.

She started reading it, and before I knew it, she was as fired up about it as I was.  She read a lot of it in bed before we went to sleep, and our conversations went much like this:

Me: What part are you reading?

MD: I’m at the part about the ‘R’ and ‘K’ factors.

Me: Isn’t that cool.  Then on to a general conversation between us about R and K.

MD: (Exasperated) Let me get back to the book.

Ten minutes later.

Me: What part are you reading now?

When she finally finished, it seemed that Lucy was all we could talk about for about a month.  Just around the time we finished the book, the Little Rock public library had its big, once-a-year, friends of the library sale.  People donate old books, new books, magazines, and any and all kinds of reading matter to this fundraising event.  I knew that there were usually a lot of old medical and scientific journals there, so MD and I headed on down.  When we got there, we hit pay dirt.  We found EVERY one of the original journals that contained all the papers written on the discovery of Lucy and the anthropological and paleontological work to figure out what she actually was.

It has just occurred to me in my stream of consciousness writing, driven by my excitement from just thinking about those days, that, for those who don’t know, I haven’t explained who Lucy is.  Lucy was a little upright walking creature who lived about 3.2 million years ago in what is now

Ethiopia.  Anthropologist Donald Johanson and is team found her almost complete fossilized skeleton while on a dig there about 30 years ago.  Although her skeleton (seen at right) might not look like it’s almost complete, it represents a huge find paleontologically.  When you consider that many paleontologists go their whole careers and find only a small bone or two.  Over a career.  Lucy has most of her parts.  And those she doesn’t have on one side, she has on the other, so it’s relatively easy to reconstruct her entire skeleton.

The book Lucy details not only Lucy’s discovery, but the history of paleontology until that point (that part probably sounds dreadful, but it’s truly a wonderful read), and all the work to figure out what Lucy really was and where she fit into the hominid spectrum.  At the time she didn’t fit into any of the categories of hominids that were known, so Johanson and team ended up calling her Australopithicus afarenses, the forerunner to Australopithicus africanus.  The descriptions of how tooth and jaw structure were used to place her where she belongs sound like boring reading, but they aren’t at all.  That part of the book was where I got my first notions of the idea that there might be a diet we had evolved to eat.

MD and I swore to one another that somehow, someway we were going to by God see Lucy’s actual skeleton (it wasn’t really her actual skeleton, it was a fossil of her skeleton), even if we had to go to Ethiopia to do it.  Not long after we made this vow, we learned that an entire Lucy exhibit was going to be presented at the Museum of Natural History in New York.  Neither of us had ever been to New York at that time, but we made plans to go.  When the exhibit opened, we were there.  And a fabulous exhibit it was.  It had the Taung child skull, which figures prominently in the history of man, and many of the other famous fossils we had read about.  When we finally got to Lucy and read the little plate on the display case with her skeleton, we were devastated to learn that it wasn’t really Lucy’s skeleton we were seeing, but a reproduction of Lucy’s skeleton.  The real Lucy’s skeleton was still in Ethiopia where it had been repatriated.  And the Ethiopian authorities weren’t about to let her go on tour.

We were mightily disappointed and figured we would probably have to go to Ethiopia to see Lucy if we were ever going to see her in the flesh, so to speak.

But a couple of days ago we were driving along in Seattle and I noticed a sign advertising a Lucy exhibit at the Pacific Science Center.  I found out that the exhibit was called Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia.  The brochure promised that the exhibit

provides visitors with an extraordinary opportunity to come face to face with Lucy, the oldest, most complete, and best preserved adult fossil of any erect-walking human ancestor.

Hmmm, thinks I.  Could it really be?  I worried about the styling of the exhibit.  Lucy’s Legacy?  What does that really mean.  Hidden treasures of Ethiopia?  What hidden treasures?  We were in the midst of an extremely busy few days, but we didn’t want to miss out if this truly was an opportunity to see the real Lucy.  We got tickets and showed up at the appointed time (they were letting people in in 15-minute increments).

When we got in, we walked through exhibit after exhibit of Ethiopian history, Ethiopian languages, Ethiopian religion, Ethiopian writing, Ethiopian art, Ethiopian everything, but no sign of Lucy.  As I was beginning to despair, we finally rounded a corner and there was at least an exhibit on hominid fossils.  We went through that part of it and finally came to the same reproduction of Lucy (or at least one that looked the same) as we had seen in New York.  Then we found, in a case in a darkened room, the actual, real, honest-to-God fossil of Lucy.  It was the same size and shape as the model we had seen, but was a different color.  Whereas the model looked kind of yellowish, the way old bones look, Lucy’s fossil was a grayish white.  It looked like, well, rock.  Which it is.

At any rate, now we don’t have to go to Ethiopia because the Ethiopian authorities made Lucy available to us.  Despite the fact that these authorities used Lucy to pimp for Ethiopia, we were damned glad to see her.

I can’t recommend the book Lucy enough.  It should be a part of every low-carbers library.  Once you read it, you will know what it means when you read that Australopithicus africanus had elevated levels of Carbon-13.  You will realize how far back in our lineage we were meat eaters.  And you will find out what happened to the branch of pre-humans who evolved down the plant-eating road.

The photo at the top of this post are of skulls and skull models in my library.  The one on the left is Australopithicus robustus, a branch that came to a bad end.  The skull next to that one is a mountain lion, the next is Homo habilis (a descandant of Lucy’s), and the one on the far right is a black bear.  Looming behind them all is the cave bear skull we wrote about in the Protein Power LifePlan.

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59 thoughts on “A quest fulfilled

  1. Hey this post reminds me of a funny story that once happened to me while working in the oldest restaurant in Brooklyn, NYC. The name of the restaurant was Lentos and it was opened right before the Great Depression. There were many funny stories but some crazier than others. I was a deliver boy making quite good money at a time. One of the customer was a scary looking dude who was into dark things, heavy metal, skeletons and sculls. His whole appartment and an entrance were decorated in sculls. Every week he would order a famous Lentos thin crust fresh mozarella with roasted pepper pie. It was all he would order. But every deliver guy was kind of leery about thiss fellow. He would never talk to a none of delivery guys. He would come out, grab a pie, give you $5 tip and quitely walk away. Not a word, not a smile, not much of any human emotion. He was a creep of the highest order or some lonely antisocial rebel, who knows. One day it was my turn to go to his house for his favorite pie delivery. As I approached his appartment I saw a bunch of skulls on his door which was usual. What was unusual the sign I hadnt previosly seen. It said ” IS THERE LIFE AFTER DEATH? KNOCK ON MY DOOR TONIGHT AND YOU WILL FIND OUT! I was scared to say the least. Part of me was like “he wouldnt dare but part of me was like what if he would and what if he was really having a bad day? I didnt knock on his door! I rang the bell! He came out, smiled and gave $10 tip saying ” Hey check it out I have a new skull that I just bought, do you like it? I said “its awesome dude. Since that day we called him a skull dude! I still wonder at times what would happen if I did knock on his door, lol?

  2. I can understand your excitement. I have not read the book about “Lucy”.
    I have read “Wisdom of the Bones” by Alan Walker and Pat Shipman.
    This book relates the discovery and deductive work done on the almost complete
    fossilised skeleton of the “Turkana Boy” ( an adolescent/or nearly so, homo erectus/ergaster). The fossil skeleton is nearly complete (the main part missing is the left arm, nearly everything else is there.
    The implications of the deductive work make fascinating reading for anyone interested in “lifestyle” behaviour.

    Highly recommended.

    I’ve read Wisdom of the Bones as well. And it is excellent. But I don’t think it compares to Lucy. Wisdom is more of a tale of finding Turkana boy (a fabulous find) and the detective work to put it all together and figure out where he fit in the hominid scheme of things whereas Lucy is all that plus a whole lot more. One can really get a paleontology education from reading Lucy. But I agree, Wisdom of the Bones is highly recommended. I would read Lucy first, though.

  3. Hi Dr Eades,

    I share your enthusiasm for paleontology and the history or early humankind ! I haven’t read ‘Lucy’ but on your recommendation I shall be buying it. Books that have fired me, so far, are ‘Origins Reconsidered’ by Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin, ‘The Origin of Humankind’ by Richard Leakey, ‘The Search for Eve’ by Michael Brown and ‘The Neanderthal Enigma’ by James Shreeve. And I was so thrilled to go to caves in France where Cro-magnon man lived. I think this whole topic is absolutely fascinating.

    I like your skull collection !

    all the best,
    Anne

    I’ve own and have read all the books you listed. If you haven’t read Lucy, you are in for a real treat.

  4. Before reading PP, I never gave a thought to older humans. But reading your chapter on the Egyptian diet and diseases was a watershed event for someone whose view of them was a product of movies and television. That motivated me to read Neanderthin and then to study Jurmain’s Introduction to Physical Anthropology. Today, I view the world from an entirely different perspective.

    See what you do to people. Thanks.

    The chapter on the diet of the early Egyptians came about only because I read Lucy first. It started me off. I’m glad that you enjoyed that chapter in PP. The publisher wanted to cut it from the book, and I had to fight like the devil to keep it in. The editor of the hardcover liked the chapter, so it was in a prominent place in that book, but the troll who took over for the paper back virtually demanded that it be cut. She thought it didn’t belong in a diet book. We ended up compromising by putting it in the very back of the book as a sort of an add on.

  5. HI Doc — this has nothing to do with your post, I’m hoping you’ll indulge my question.

    My grandfather is getting worse (T2 diabetes). His renal function is not improving and docs have ordered him on a no potassium diet for 2 months. You previously told me that getting him on a low carb diet with adequate but not too high protein might help if his renal function was monitored.

    I’m at my wits end trying to get through to my grandparents. Their house is full of junk — not sweets necessarily, but artificial coffee creamer, bread, pasta, etc. which we know is all terrible.

    Is there a low carb book written specifically for diabetics that might get through to my grandparents? They seem so resistant to rational advice, and just ready to do whatever the clueless doctors order. (I don’t know whether the low potassium advice is good or not, but I know the docs have certainly not told him to go low carb. And my grandmother has been freaked out for decades about “cholesterol.”)

    The best low-carb book specifically for diabetics is Dr. Richard Bernstein’s book. Dr. Bernstein is himself a diabetic and has a huge practice in which he uses low-carb diets as the mainstay in caring for diabetics. See if you can get them to read his book.

  6. Thank you for this!

    It reminds of my reading Elaine Morgans “Decent of a woman” at the mature (not!) age of 16. The excitement never left; not because of the feminine provocations (cute as they were) but because of the idea itself. For me it told about environment induced changes with long lasting consequences, but it also told that the changes could occur only according to the nature’s law of instant advantage to the individuals. I do not know weather I chose my career as an experimentalist due to her, but it is possible. But I know that our kids learned to dive and swim as babies, definitely due to her.

    Decades later, two years ago, I reread the book and even found an updated website on her and the aquatic apes. Her ideas still fit with what I can grasp of the hominid tree or evolution as a whole. And her idea could explain how a meat (no, fat!) based diet could have given hominids the brains large enough that they were eventually capable of foraging, hunting and surviving even as omnivores in dry land – almost anywhere in this globe.

    Regards from LeenaS

    It’s amazing to me how just the right book at just the right time can be so life changing.

  7. Just talked to my mom, who says a low potassium diet involves eating just vegetables and meat. Sounds a little too high in protein to me and he should be getting more fat, but I’ll take it.

  8. On another blog I have been posting to recently, a number of posters are arguing the merits of carbohydrate as the most important of the 3 macro nutrients in our diet (the other 2 being protein and fat) based on their position that the great civilizations of the earth owed their very existence to carbohydrates and that it was man’s departure from his primitive meat-based, low carbohydrate diet that fueled man’s ascent to civilized societies. Jay Wortman, MD (My Big Fat Diet), responded by stating that it is the rise in the prominence of carbohydrates in the human diet that has fueled and is continuing to fuel overpopulation of the earth and that this is occurring at the expense of human health.

    Having been in many parts of Europe where farms with animals as a source of meat surround small villages and are even within the central areas of the villages I think Wortman’s position makes perfect sense. It strikes me that the natural low carbohydrate diet of early man was probably a major factor limiting the size and population of tribal colonies. It was the ability to transport grains that allowed the Romans to conquer Europe. And it was the failure of agriculture, especially of carbohydrate plants, that led to the fall of the Roman empire and similar great civilizations.

    As for Dr. Wortman’s position, what are called the ‘diseases of civilization’ probably owe a good part of their origins to the over consumption of carbohydrates. In the past 20 or so years the consumption of carbohydrates has risen to new levels and as it has, the diseases of civilization have escalated in lock step. We should all be alarmed that an influential ‘green camp’ is forming whose objective is to limit the consumption of protein and increase the consumption of carbohydrate in our diet to the point where the amount of protein would be rationed by law. While such a move holds great promise for big pharma it has very serious implications for those of us who are trying to preserve their health.

    I agree. And it is indeed worrisome.

  9. Read “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” by Weston A. Price. He was a dentist who studied groups of people worldwide on traditional diets in the 1930’s. His interest was sparked by their remarkable dental and physical health—adults with 32, straight, cavity-free teeth—without dental hygeine, dentists, fluoride etc. He documented the decline in health with the introduction of western foods (primarily sugar and white flour)—he called them the “displacing foods of modern commerce”. They developed tooth decay, loss of teeth, susceptibility to infections and more interestingly the children born of mothers on western foods had crowded/crooked teeth like modern American children. There is a new edition of the book that has more pictures than the old one. This book apparently was part of the curricula of dental and medical schools until the 1960s. The information was then “lost”, it certainly wasn’t a part of my medical school education. Sally Fallon revived interest in his work and founded the Weston A. Price Foundation.

    http://www.westonaprice.org/

    I have the book and have read it. Long ago, in fact.

  10. When I read LUCY I was already low-carb but I didn’t know enough to twig to what you saw. Clearly I’ll have to pull it down and read it again. Thanks for the prod…

  11. Wow, you’ve certainly piqued my curiosity! I will check for Lucy at the library. I’ve already got the Hypothesis of Happiness that I’m working on. Thanks for all you do, Dr. Mike.

  12. In early 2004 I had the opportunity to be in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a business trip. During the few days I was there, I had the visited the “home of Lucy”, as the museum was advertised. It probably cost all of a couple of Ethiopian Pounds to enter the museum and we had to check our cameras at the door, but I remember feeling great excitement and trepidition to be so close to something so, well, old. Lucy was one of the last exhibits to see as we wound our way through the couple of floors of Ethiopian history. She laid in glass case (nothing fancy or hermetically sealed), in a dimmed room – I imagine much in the same way you saw her. But the plaque on the case read that the bones we were seeing were replicas. I remember being somewhat disappointed that I wasn’t seeing the real Lucy bones but I understood that 3.2 million year old precious, fragile bones would rarely, if ever, be let out from whatever dark, deep drawer they were laying. If you and MD saw the real Lucy, count yourself privileged indeed.

    We are lucky. Lucky to have been in Seattle at time. Lucky to have even seen the sign.

  13. Dear Dr. Eades, Thanks so much for this post. I also read the Lucy book when it first came out, and had much the same experience as you and MD: I couldn’t put it down! Unfortunately, I didn’t have anyone else to talk to about my excitement, but I have continued a layman’s reading of the paleontology field over the years. I’ll keep an eye out for the Ethiopian exhibit with the Lucy bones treasure to come to my area. Thanks again for bringing back a good memory.

  14. My wife and I saw same exhibit in Seattle and I also had some trepidation about the “Treasures of Ethiopia” angle.

    For me it turned out to be a double win. We got to see Lucy, which was special, and I also gained a whole new appreciation for Ethiopian history.

    Lucy was the meat, but the vegetables turned out to be pretty tasty too!

    I loved the lesson on Ethiopia as well. But I would have loved it more had I known the real Lucy was awaiting me at the end. I was worried that the whole thing was a shill for an exhibit on Ethiopia.

  15. It should really come to anyone who sits and thinks long enough about it that if you were living in the wild that meat is really your only hope of meeting your calorie requirements unless you want to spend all day foraging for plant material.

    The other day I bought a whole roast chicken and after about 5 minutes of eating I found myself going for the areas still covered in skin (fat) and leaving the breasts and only finishing the thighs which were a bit higher in fat. I was hit with the revelation that without civilisation this is the kind of thing I would be eating day in and day out, no spices, no herbs, no lovely chilli sauce. The pure protein was actually not at all palatable and I was instinctively going for the fatty bits.

    This now leaves no doubt in my mind at all that fatty meat indeed was highly prized. Oh, and I want a cave bear skull for my decorations too!

  16. Yay! I felt the same way when I saw her at the Pacific Science Center. So glad you got to go during your visit here. I’m sure you also enjoyed the other hominid skulls and the enchanting wall mural. Boy was I bummed when I saw the ‘no photography allowed’ signs. I snuck a few shots in stealthily and without disturbing others but I couldnt get one of Lucy of course due to the police officer standing three feet away, hah.

  17. You always metion a word “troll” if you dont like someone. What does it mean and why is it your favorite, is there any history behind it?

    Here is the dictionary definition of troll. During my medical training we referred to difficult-to-deal-with, hostile patients (not to mention difficult-to-deal-with, hostile attending physicians) as trolls, and I guess it stuck.

  18. This is such serendipity…I was just in my car 20 minutes ago, listening to an interview with Donald Johanson on National Public Radio’s “Science Friday.” It was fascinating to hear him describe the moment when he found the first Lucy fragment, which he originally thought was an ape’s, and when at that instant it dawned on him that he had suddenly achieved his life’s goal. I didn’t hear the complete interview, but there may be a podcast on the NPR website.

  19. Dear Dr Eades,

    I just ordered Lucy !

    This is rather off topic, but I have to tell you that I and my husband have keyed into our iPod the weather in half a dozen places which we look at every day, and one of those is your Santa Barbara 🙂 You seem to have wonderful weather most of the time, lots of sunshine and good temperatures – it looks like the ideal place to live ! Envious here in London, UK.

    all the best,
    Anne

    Santa Barbara does indeed have a spectacular climate. Sadly, I’m not there right now. But I’ll be back soon.

  20. so happy you saw Lucy….she is one amazing gal….just published a new book LUCY’S LEGACY: THE QUEST FOR HUMAN ORIGINS…just out..

    all the best, don johanson

    Hey Don–

    Thanks for writing. Your first book had an incalculable impact on my life. Can’t wait to read Lucy’s Legacy. I just ordered it.

    Cheers–

    Mike

  21. I read Lucy when it was first published. I was studying human paleontology (masters courses) at the University of Michigan. Pretty heady stuff. It always astounds me that even though I studied human evolution and learned about dentition, bone density, etc., I never put 2 and 2 together. I was a staunch no-fat/high-carb Jane Brody follower at the time. Talk about a dichotomy. It took reading Protein Power to open my eyes. For that I will be forever grateful to you.

    And I am SO envious that you got to see Lucy “in person.” I’ve always wanted to see her.

    It took us almost 30 years, but we finally got to see her.

  22. I know how you feel. I’ve never seen her, but the objects that held the most impact for me were:

    Tutankhamun ‘s Death Mask (the real thing) when exhibited here in Sydney,

    Being allowed, along with my five-year-old son, to touch actual dinosaur fossils (the feeling of connection was overwhelming!)

    The Taj (yes, it IS sublime)

    and The Ashes (bet you don’t know what THEY are!)

    But you don’t have to actually be physically close to everything to get a thrill. Go to this website and you have access to the full musical scores of EVERYTHING written by JS Bach. And that, my friend, is as good as it gets!
    http://imslp.org/wiki/Category:Bach%2C_Johann_Sebastian

    Michael Richards

    P.S.: the Ashes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ashes

    You’re right. I didn’t know about the Ashes.

  23. In a similar vein, I’m watching at the moment (DVD rental) a TV series from the 70s called The Ascent of Man by J. Bronowski.

    This video gives an idea of the content that’s relevant to your post.

    I believe that Bronowski was responsible for some analysis of tooth structure of fossil skulls, but I don’t know if he features in your book.

    I don’t recall his being mentioned in the book.

  24. Dr. Eades,
    I just ordered it. Looking forward to the read.

    You said “It’s amazing to me how just the right book at just the right time can be so life changing”

    For me that book came when I was 22 and read “The Sugar Blues” by William Duffy.
    I remember sitting on my couch in utter shock, open mouthed and read the entire book again right there. What???!!!!! the food you eat affects you???? It started my journey.
    Now age 41 I’m living proof of eating and exercising primal/EF/paleo and yet……..most family and friends think I’m just a bit off 😉
    Oh well…

    Thank you Dr. Mike for all you great work.
    Marc

  25. I saw the Ethiopia/Lucy exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Like you, I kept wondering if Lucy would actually be there at the end, of if it was going to be a model of Lucy. Yes, it was actually Lucy. I was awestruck.

    The thing that struck me most, that I couldn’t pull my eyes away from? Her teeth. Notice how her teeth stayed so in tact all these thousands of years. And, while I wasn’t LC’ing when I saw it (pre-PP for me!), I was definitely impressed by how well her meat-eating diet had preserved those teeth.

  26. Sorry to drag the comments away from prehistoric women, but I have more contemporary concerns. Is there any anecdotal, correlational, or scientific evidence that embarking on a low carbohydrate diet, or conversely a higher protein, higher fat diet affects the menstural cycle in middle aged women, possibly creating rogue periods in women already post menopause, or prolonging menopausal transitions, or stimulating PMS or estrogenic or progesterone type symptoms. Thanks.

    It can. Estrogen is both stored in the fat cells and activated in the fat cells. As fat is released from the fat cells due to insulin lowering, the estrogen is released as well. Sometimes this plays havoc with the menstrual cycle in the same way as taking estrogen. Usually things stabilize after the fat cell mass decreases.

  27. This should open up a chasm in the low fat, high carbohydrate paradigm.

    A Moderate-Protein Diet Produces Sustained Weight Loss and Long-Term Changes in Body Composition and Blood Lipids in Obese Adults
    “The CHO diet reduced serum cholesterol and LDL cholesterol compared with PRO (P < 0.01) at 4 mo, but the effect did not remain at 12 mo. PRO had sustained favorable effects on serum triacylglycerol (TAG), HDL cholesterol (HDL-C), and TAG:HDL-C compared with CHO at 4 and 12 mo (P < 0.01). The PRO diet was more effective for FM loss and body composition improvement during initial weight loss and long-term maintenance and produced sustained reductions in TAG and increases in HDL-C compared with the CHO diet.
    http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/139/3/514

    PRO stands for moderate protein lower CHO

    This is a nice study. All of Layman’s studies are pretty good. Look him up on PubMEd and read a few if you’re interested.

  28. Homo sapiens left Africa 50,000 years ago. The subsequent evolution is relevant to
    modern nutrition.

    See Nicholas Wade’s “Before the Dawn”

    Wade explains how scientists use the study of DNA to determine when signficant events occurred in human evolution–for example, when humans began to use fully modern language (about 50,000 years ago), the size of the ancestral population of modern humans (as small as 150 people), or when the ancestral population left the African continent (also around 50,000 years ago).

    human evolution did not stop 10,000 or 50,000 years ago as some have argued, but that it continues down to the present day and will continue into the future (either naturally or artificially);

  29. Recently, i moved to korea for a job placement. i’ve been here for roughly two weeks. One thing that is striking is just how thin the koreans are – male and female, young and old. Nonetheless, in the city in which i am currently living, there are several fast food joints that are popular, such as McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Dunkin Doughnuts, Baskin Robbins, etc.

    Do Koreans possess particular genes that allow them to gorge themselves with junk food and yet remain slim? Or, do they all have fast metabolisms? Perhaps they exercise regularly. Alternatively, maybe something else is at work here. But, one thing is certain, koreans like fast food as well as sweets such as chocolate bars and sodas. In fact, of all the stores i’ve visited, none of them sold any sugar free diet drinks. Not one. I asked a few people about this, and they told me that if you want anything sugar-free, i’ve come to the wrong place.

    Peter

    I think it’s a matter of portion size. Watch carefully when you see Korean people eat to see if they eat the huge amounts they do in the US.

  30. I’m glad you had the opportunity to see Lucy. I was thrilled when I found out the world’s most famous and important fossil was coming to Seattle as the first stop on a national tour. The whole family loved it, even my 8 year old daughter.

    So it is a real shame that attendance has been so far below projections that Pacific Science Center lost a substantial amount of money on the deal, and the rest of the museums on the tour have reportedly pulled out of the deal. The intelligent design/creationists are thrilled.

    I didn’t realize it had been a money loser. It was packed when we were there. It’s too bad.

  31. Monica,

    apart from dr. Bernstein’s book I can also recommend:
    – the Atkins Diabetes Revolution, written not by dr. Atkins himself but by Mary Vernon, MD.
    – The Rosedale Diet by Ron Rosedale, MD
    – Life Without Bread, Dr. Christian B. Allan and Wolfgang Lutz, MD
    – Real Food – What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck
    – Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

    They’re really eye opening . My Mom is over 70 and after following PP and these other guidelines and with the help of a few supplements, she was able to stop all her five medications (for diabetes, cholesterol, hypertension, congestive heart failure …). Good Luck!

  32. The Los Angeles Natural History Museum on Friday night May first is presenting a talk and discusssion with Don Johanson at the Exhibition Park facility next to USC. For more info: nhm.org

    Thanks for the heads up. If we’re in town then, we’ll be in attendance.

  33. Wow Dr Eades, you never steer me wrong. I picked up this book on Saturday at a used bookstore and got halfway through it in the morning; in the afternoon I had to run up to the Natural History Museum to look at the replica of Lucy. And all the other hominid bones.

    On another topic entirely, I really need help with another reading suggestion. My father is taking statins. He’s 60, has somewhat “high” cholesterol (don’t know the numbers), is not overweight and has never had a heart attack (his father died young of CVD though). He also lifts weights and appears to live on fish and spinach. I wish he would not take statins, but he gets confrontational when I bring it up. I want to give him something to read that questions the statin literature in a rigorous way. He’s a doctor (not a cardiologist though), so he won’t read a diet book or a blog or anything subject to “quakery and zealotry.” On the other hand, it’s hard to get him to sit down and go through the methods of papers critically, especially since his beloved internist is a statin lover. I’m a bench scientist myself, so this whole thing just kills me. Do you know of a decent review that I can give him? Basically, I need one of your wonderful blog posts published in a respectable journal. I know that’s a tall order, and I know that if medical science really got to that point we might not even need your blog at all (except for the great books!). Thanks in advance if you can help at all.

    Too bad about your dad. Have him take a look at the following article:

    Abramson J & Wright JM (2007) Are lipid-lowering guidelines evidence-based? The Lancet 369 (9557):168-169.

  34. Your post brought back memories of when I was in 7th-9th grade and reading everything I could find on early hominids and humans. What an fascinating chain of developments from little Lucy living millions of years ago to a doctor millions of years later thinking about how what she ate compared to what his contemporaries were eating….Lucy bequeathed us a very interesting legacy indeed!

    When I view museum exhibits of artifacts from past cultures, I always find myself wondering if the people who used the artifacts could ever have imagined that someday people would be paying money to line up for a look at their shoes or hair comb or stew pot or even their bones. Maybe it will be our bones or rocking chair or coffee cup that will continue on their way over the centuries and millennia to be prized treasures in a museum someday!

    If you ever read science fiction, Michael Bishop has two novels that I like. In The Ancient of Days a homo habilis is found alive, and the novel explores what happens to his innocence in the modern world. In No Enemy But Time, a scientist time travels back to live with a group of very early humans in Africa. I found them both to be thought-provoking reads.

  35. Dr. Eades,

    I don’t see a contact form. I don’t know if you have written about this previously because I don’t have time to look through all of your old posts, but I got this delivered to my inbox today.

    http://www.dlife.com/diabetes-news/2009/03/is_one_diet_as_good_as_another.html

    I know neither of us would call the high-protein diet they studied low carb, but I think it is interesting that they did an isocaloric study and found improved levels in the high protein group… kinda shoots that calorie is a calorie myth in the butt… again.

    Now when are these people going to take the next logical step and compare their high protein diet to a low carb diet?

    A friend of mine named Don Layman did this study. He has done several studies showing that lower-carb, higher-protein diets perform better than low-fat diets. There are a number of studies that have replaced carbs with protein and gotten good results along with a number of studies that have replaced carbs with fat and gotten good results. In my opinion, it is the carbs that are the problem, and I think all of these studies pretty much confirm that.

  36. Off topic but relevant to the future of low carb.

    Is the RDA based on Science?
    The RDA or ‘Recommended Daily Allowance’ was developed during WW II by a committee established by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. In 1941 the committee was renamed the Food and Nutrition Board. The RDA serves as the basis for the authoritarian American and Canadian Food Guides which most believe represent the state of the art of science in human nutrition. As such, the RDA is the holy grail of the registered dietitians and nutritionists. In the war against the recognition and acceptance of low carb diets, the RDA is the big club used to keep low carb proponents at bay by couching low carb as ‘unproven by science’.

    The RDA’s association with professional bodies such as the National Academy of Sciences has created a reasonable expectation in the public that the nutrient levels contained in the RDA are based on requirements established by the science of human nutrition for the levels of nutrients necessary for health. But I believe there is a compelling argument that this is not the case, that the RDA is more of a marketing program than any scientific doctrine.

    A few days ago in the blog ‘Cracking Nutrition Myths’ on Canada’s Globe and Mail online edition I presented my position for why I believe that the RDA is not based on science. My comments start on March 6, 2009 at 12:39 PM EDT:
    (www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090304.wlbeck04/CommentStory/specia).
    My position centres around two primary issues, 1) the use of the word ‘Recommended’ instead of ‘Required’ and 2) the fact that no requirement exists in human nutrition for carbohydrate, which is prominent in the RDA.

    Rather than provide further details at this time it is telling to review the history of U.S. food guides.

    1916 – The first daily food guide consisting of the following 5 food groups appears in US Department of Agriculture publications.
    1. Milk and meat
    2. Cereals
    3. Vegetables and fruits
    4. Fats and fat foods
    5. Sugars and sugary foods.

    Note that 4 of the 5 food groups are made up of predominantly carbohydrate foods

    1917 – The US government releases dietary recommendations on how to use these food groups in publication called “How to Select Foods.”

    1933 – Family food plans are introduced specifying the foods to be eaten each week to meet nutrient needs at various cost levels. The plan expands the 5 food groups of original daily food guide to 12 major food groups:
    1. Milk
    2. Potatoes and sweet potatoes
    3. Dry beans, peas, and nuts
    4. Tomatoes and citrus fruits
    5. Leafy green and yellow vegetables
    6. Other vegetables and fruits
    7. Eggs
    8. Lean meat, poultry, and fish
    9. Flours and cereals
    10. Butter
    11. Other fats
    12. Sugars

    Note that 8 of the 12 food groups are predominantly carbohydrate.

    If these food guides don’t come across as marketing programs then I don’t know what does. Official food guides established and promoted by governments as the way to ‘eat properly’ have a huge impact on consumer choices. It is therefore interesting that the number of food groups was expanded from the 5 in the 1916 guide to 12 in 1933 guide and that both guides have groups for ‘sugars’. More interesting is that if the food guides represented the state of nutritional science of the day (which is possible) then they could be represented as ‘based on science’.

    Things changed between 1933 and 1941 when science began to establish which nutrients were essential in human nutrition. Because of this the RDA represented a fundamental shift from guides based on food groups intended to supply nutrients to a guide based on recommendation based specific nutrients.

    In 1941 the first Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) were released by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences. The RDA included recommendations for energy (from carbohydrates and fat) and nine nutrients including protein. The recommendations contained in the RDA took food availability due to rationing of meat and dairy products into account. At the time the RDA was formulated protein and fat had been identified as essential macro nutrients. But no requirement in human nutrition had yet been established for carbohydrate. I think it reasonable to assume that this would have created a dilemma for the Food and Nutrition Board. I also think it reasonable to assume that given the carbohydrate heavy content of the food guides that preceded the RDA that there was a probably an expectation that the foods contained in these guides would be eventually shown to be essential in human nutrition. Were this to turn out to not be the case the economic implications would be disastrous. Put yourself in the position of the potato industry for which the 1933 food guide had established a group specific to potatoes. Imagine the uphill marketing battle you would face trying to promote a food that science had shown was not essential in the diet.

    Back in 1941 when the science was in the early days of identifying essential nutrients it is likely that there was an expectation that carbohydrate would eventually be shown to be essential. In the meantime, a workaround would have to be found to rationalize the inclusion of carbohydrate in a program purporting to be supported by science. A category of ‘energy’ was established in the RDA in place of a separate nutrient category for fat as existed for protein. Instead, fat and carbohydrate were lumped under the energy category based on ‘food availability and rationing’. The problem I see is that the RDA should have disclosed that carbohydrate had not been shown to be essential in human nutrition. But they didn’t do this.

    I will speculate here and suggest that perhaps the RDA committee was buying time with the energy ‘category’ with the expectation that ongoing research would eventually establish carbohydrate as essential. But what if this didn’t happen? There would certainly be enormous pressure exerted on the federal government by the carbohydrate foods industry to maintain the status of their products that was established in 1916.

    To be continued.

  37. If I am even remotely close on my position that the RDA is not based on science, the opposition to the recognition and acceptance of low carb diets has nothing whatsoever to do with science. Instead, the offensive battle is being waged by economic interests with enormous power in the way of resources and political influence who have been systematically funding research intended to question the safety of reducing carb intake and consuming fat (also, carb reduction) while concurrently establishing a position that carbohydrate, even if not essential in human nutrition, has so much value that the lack of proved ‘essentiality’ is moot and therefore, irrelevant.

    Toward this end the position expressed in Journal of Nutrition (dialog on Carbohydrate under the Nutrient Information heading (http://jn.nutrition.org/nutinfo/) should be of great concern to the proponents of low carb diets. While acknowledging in a convoluted and indirect manner that carbohydrate is not essential in the human diet it is stated that the idea that carbohydrate is converted to fat in the human body has been disproved by new research. The article then implies (without actually referencing carbohydrate) that carbohydrate is not toxic and can be eaten in unlimited quantities with no adverse effects.

    It appears as if the beachhead for the pro-carbohydrate battleground was established back in 1916. But the real pro-carbohydrate offensive probably started in the 1950s with the demonizing of fat. If this is true, more that 50 years have elapsed with no offensive response. Instead, academics such as Taubes who have both the knowledge and insight to smell a dead fish rotting have been waging offensives on battle grounds that are far better fortified and defended than a lack of science behind the RDA is.

    At this point the low carb battle may have been technically lost years ago. If this is the case then under the guise of preserving the health of the nation the day could soon come where it may be illegal to discuss, let alone promote, low carb diets.

    I’m surprised that the Journal of Nutrition says that the conversion of carbs to fat is negligible. It’s anything but. Of course, when you see the MyPyramid logo, you know you’ve got to be way of any information provided.

    I don’t think the low-carb battle is lost. But I do think we have a fight ahead of us.

  38. ” Estrogen is both stored in the fat cells and activated in the fat cells. As fat is released from the fat cells due to insulin lowering, the estrogen is released as well. Sometimes this plays havoc with the menstrual cycle in the same way as taking estrogen. Usually things stabilize after the fat cell mass decreases.”

    Since I started losing weight on a PPLP type diet, I have been getting hot flashes, although previously I thought I was done with them. (I’m 55 and definitely well past menopause.) My guess was that estrogen release from the fat cells was causing this, but I am glad to have this confirmed. I am also happy to know that it should eventually go away!

    Thank you for clarifying that.

  39. Here is the Science Daily description for the Layman study above: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090304114256.htm

    “Any diet will do? Not if you want to lose fat instead of muscle. Not if you want to lower your triglyceride levels so you’ll be less likely to develop diabetes and heart disease. Not if you want to avoid cravings that tempt you to cheat on your diet. And not if you want to keep the weight off long-term.”

    “The protein diet was easier to follow and maintain long-term, with 64 percent of the moderate-protein dieters completing the study compared to 45 percent of dieters using the high-carbohydrate diet, Layman said.”

    Seems like a recommendation for the PP plan 🙂

    Indeed it does.

  40. I retired in June 2008 and found your blog in September. This comment is to tell you how much you and your blog mean to me. I have sent links to several folks that I know and some are starting to come around to the low carb diet. You are a walking gold mine of information for a person like me. I love you book recommendations. Hope Amazon tips you for my purchases. Keep up the good fight.

    Thanks for the compliment. I really appreciate it. I’m glad the posts are having an impact on some of the people you’re sending them to. Amazon tips me about a buck for every hard cover book ordered that goes through this site. I appreciate the help. And my web guy really appreciates it since it allows me to pay him. 🙂

  41. Yes Doctor, you are right. while the koreans eat alot of sugar and junk food, their portions sizes are certainly smaller than those in the US, Canada and other Western countries. In fact, i haven’t come across any “super size me” options.

  42. Thanks for posting about the Lucy exhibit! We were in Seattle on Saturday to visit my parents and invited them to go see it with us. I thought the exhibit was really disjointed (no pun intended) as far as the Ethiopia part (focused on religion and political history) having little connection with the Lucy exhibit and the film afterward.

    As far as the Lucy exhibit itself, it was amazing. You’ve pretty much said it all, though did you check out the mural depicting the evolution of H. Sapiens? The earliest scene depicting A. Kadabba reaching for a firefly immediately made me flash on the Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” in the Sistine Chapel. Somehow I doubt the resemblence was accidental.

    Off topic – I ordered two copies each of Fat Head and Lucy (the book) from Amazon via your site. I enjoyed the movie very much, and will give the other copy to my parents. I think it will reach my mother better than GCBC (I couldn’t get her to read it, though my father devoured it in a couple days). I wish the movie were shorter though, because aside from the length it would be the perfect “wellness” lunch time activity at work. I’m afraid if I have to split it up over two sessions it won’t reach nearly as many people. If you know of a similar resource that’s no more than an hour long (or could maybe talk Tom Naughton into editing it down a bit) please let me know.

    Thanks very much for the orders through the site. Unfortunately, I don’t know of a shorter film on the benefits of low-carb. Maybe other readers will. I did love the mural. I can’t believe I didn’t include something about it in my post.

  43. Typing in a rush…trying to get two kids to bed shortly…my apologiesI bumped into some info in the past few days…not sure if you have addressed it here previously, and I don’t remember seeing it in your new book (although maybe I should reread).
    Does fish oil negatively impact blood sugar? The FDA (I know, useless 😉 ) says something about reduced glycemic control in diabetics using EPA/DHA/Omega 3 supplements?

    I haven’t pulled up the original study but the blurb I read listed this reference:
    Stacpoole, P, Alig, A., Ammon, L, October), 1989, pages 946-956 (this was how it was listed…no journal name).

    It also mentioned another study
    The report is titled “Omega 3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, Inflammation and Immunity,” by Philip C. Calder, Institute of Human Nutrition, University of Southampton, Bassett Crescent East, Southampton, UK.

    Supposedly indicating that fish oil may suppress some immune function?

    LIke I said, I haven’t had time to go digging yet, but if you are familiar w/ these studies I was wondering if you might comment. As a non-overweight woman with PCOS, I’m trying to figure out whether fish oil might worsen insulin resistance? (I don’t test + for IR based on a 2 hour GTT but I do better on metformin and eating lower carb, at least in terms of it making my cycles (somewhat) more regular.

    In my experience fish oil neither suppresses immunity nor destabilizes blood sugar levels. If you are concerned yet want to increase intake of omega-3 fats, try krill oil. You get less EPA/DHA but more bioavailability.

  44. You might like the book Big Brain by Richard Granger and Gary Lynch, of which a good chunk is about the Boskops and their huge skulls in the 1900 cc range, dating from around 10,000 years ago in South Africa.

    Have been reading your blog and books for just over a year now and have gained so much.

    Many thanks

    Thanks for the book tip. I haven’t read that one.

  45. Hey Doc,

    My psychology professor and I got into an argument about how the brain processes energy. I said that while the brain will use glucose primarily it can use keytones and they are actually preferred. He was trying to say that it is a last resort in starvation, etc.

    Is there any studies that are available to show him?

    Thanks

    Evidence seems to indicate that ketones may be the preferred fuel for the brain. It’s a tricky explanation as to why and better reserve for an entire post. Off the top of my head, I don’t know any specific studies to show your professor, but if he’s smart and has a logical mind, he ought to be able to figure it out. I just did, tooling down the highway at 79 miles an hour.

  46. Dr. Mike,

    I have been a supporter of low carb dieting for almost 9 years now. I have a question about a private matter on which I would dearly love to get your feedback. Would you be willing to email me off-list? My email address is dmcallahan4@gmail.com. It is in regards to low carb and liver disease.

    Sincerely,

    Deana Callahan
    Cincinnati, OH

  47. What a cool post this was. I’ve had a passing interest in paleoanthropology since reading the gripping children’s book, ‘The First Men in the World’ by Anne Terry White some 40+ years ago (pre -Lucy). I loved that book so much I read it multiple times in my childhood, but had not read anything on the subject in years. After reading this blog post I took “Lucy” from the library. What a fascinating read. Interesting that A. robustus, with the large crushing molars designed to break down plant materials came to a dead-end, but the smaller-molared, more omniverously-oriented teeth found in Lucy and her kind were the sort that continued on into genus Homo.

    But thinking of those teeth help keep my focused during discouraging weeks like this one where I’ve currently gained five pounds, despite staying faithfully low carb, sugar-free, grain-free, and keeping my ECC in the 20-40 range. (and no it’s not any sort of pre-menstrual fluid gain since I’m some years past that). Sad to think that calories must still count. Even on low carb I can not seem to be able to eat enough to be satisfied and hope to lose weight.

    I’m glad you enjoyed Lucy. It’s the best, by far, of all the books that have come along since. BTW, I met Johanson this past weekend at a conference.

  48. Hey Doc, thanks for the heads up re estrogen release from fat cells. Could this be why my TST levels are flucuating between 2 and 4 like a yoyo? Lost 50 #s so far, BGs finally averaging in the 120s. Still on Mazxide, down to 750 ER Metformin, dropped Januvia & Cozaar in Jan…delighted with my progress & continuing wt loss, still have lots to lose. ‘nother question: fell last month (then cellulitis, IV antibiotics, and got laidoff)…stress drove average BGs to 140, then my systolic BP went up. I had to add 1/4 dose Cozaar to get it back down. If I understand the Brownlee article (you posted a link) on the pathobiology of diabetic complications, did my BP go up as my endothelial cells were irritated, um, damaged from first the infection, then IV treatment, and finally the increased BGs? If that is true, then I can drop the Cozaar unless my average BGs start going higher than the high 130s (I really dislike the breathlessness that I get with continued dosing of Cozaar). Or, did he mean long-term effects and not relatively short-term effects as I appear to have experienced — or am I making unreasonable assumptions?

    from his article:
    “thiamine derivative called benfotiamine” is this safe to take? I read that some report reduced systolic taking 150 mgs twice/day
    “PARP inhibitor” is there one that is safe to take?
    “SOD/catalase mimetic” is there one that is safe to take?

    Brownlee presents powerful albeit non-human evidence for his theory of a unified cause of the pathobiology.

    I’m sorry, but medico-legal issues prevent me from being able to answer specific medical questions.

  49. Just found this on Drudge Report. After reading just a little bit of Lucy, I think this must be wrong:

    MONKEY SKULL FOUND: THE LINK IN HUMAN EVOLUTION?

    This fossil predates Lucy by about 40 million years. It is supposedly the ancestor of all primates, but I’ll be curious to see what kind of controversy it stirs up once all the paleontologists get a chance to evaluate it.

  50. I was amazed to see “Lucy” on your 2009 bestseller list! My grandfather, Mait Edey, was the author of “Lucy”. Don Johanson was the scientist/researcher, but my grandfather did all the writing. I’m thrilled that you loved the book and are recommending it to others.