Ancestral Health Symposium Day 2: The fun continues

by lisa | 19 August 2012 16:10

Yesterday I wrote about Day 1 of the conference and you can read about that here in case you missed it. Now, on to Day 2!

Unlike Day 1 where there was only one room with one presentation going on, Day 2 had dual tracks going in two different rooms simultaneously. This meant some tough choices when it came to picking and choosing which presentations to listen to. Like the rest of you, I’m going to have to wait until the videos are released to see the presentations that I missed.

Esther Gokhale

Chris and I actually met Esther on Day 1. She approached us and asked if she could use a picture she had taken of Chris in her lecture on Day 2. So, just what did she want to use that picture for? Turns out her talk was called “Restoring our Primal Architecture” ie; pay attention to your posture people! She called up Aaron Blaisdell, the president of the Ancestral Health Organization, and had him take his shirt off (for which he received many cat calls!). Aaron sat and allowed Esther to use him as her model as she adjusted his sitting posture and she had the rest of us practice a technique called ‘stretchsitting’ along with him in our chairs. I was sure to sit up straight whenever I saw her during the rest of the day.

Keith Norris

Keith is one of the founders of the other Paleo conference (Paleofx) that took place in Texas back in March. His short talk was “Health vs. Performance: Two Distinct and Oftentimes Conflicting Wellness Goals”. Just because you are a competitive athlete doesn’t mean your underlying health is good. You will give up some health if you are over training. The good news is that it doesn’t take an inordinate amount of exercise (both in terms of time and intensity) to reach optimum fitness.

Jamie Scott

I’ve visited Jamie’s blog in the past and enjoyed reading much of what he has to say. His short talk was about using evolutionary biology principles to optimize training for endurance sports. Jamie is a big cyclist and so my husband Chris was particularly interested to hear him speak. He thinks the way forward is a renewed focus on adaptation to high-fat diets (gone are the days of carb-loading before all training), train low-race high nutrition strategies and a focus on training at both very low and very high exercise intensities. Marathoners don’t go out and run a fast paced marathon 5 days a week; most of their training is at a very low intensity.

John Welbourn 

John Welbourn is a professional football player (American football) who has played for the Eagles, the Chiefs and the Patriots. He is also the creator/founder of Crossfit football and the CEO of Evolve Foods (Paleo Products brands). If you have a stereotypical view of a dumb jock, you need to think again. John is very well spoken and intelligent (ok, so he looks a lot like the Incredible Hulk…I told you I saw superheroes at AHS!). His talk was about food for performance. He’s done a lot of work with professional level athletes and found that their performance and recovery benefited from a paleo diet.

 Panel Presentation: New Technologies and New Opportunities

This panel was moderated by Paul Jaminet Ph.D. and the panel members were Ned Kock, Ph.D., Chris Kresser, M.S., L.Ac., Frank Moss, Ph.D. and Dan Pardi, Ph.D. cand. I enjoyed this panel because I’m a big fan of Chris Kresser and Dan Pardi (little did I know that I would sit across from them later that night at dinner!). The paleo community consists of a lot of really intelligent and motivated people who are looking to optimize their health, ie; there’s a heck of a lot of n=1 experimentation going on out there. Well, these guys are interested in designing a pilot program in which the ancestral community at large would be able to systematically gather and share information using QS tools, web services, and analytical and annotation engines. We could input our raw data from testing theraputic strategies and then the results could be used for designing protocols for diagnosing and treating disease.

Peter Attia, M.D.

I am an avid reader of Peter’s blog and was happy to get to listen to him in person. I’ve read his whole series on cholesterol and it was a pleasure to see him present it. This talk was “The Straight Dope on Cholesterol” (or ‘Now you probably know about cholesterol than your doctor does’). This is a good subject to bone up on if you follow a paleo diet because you are bound to get asked (repeatedly) “Aren’t you worried about your cholesterol??” Get your facts straight on cholesterol and the answer will be “Nope!”. There was a lot of funny tweeting going on during this presentation about size (cholesterol particle size that is).Click on over to his blog right now and read about your cholesterol (and then go and enjoy some eggs).

Gary Taubes

Gary Taubes

Gary Taubes is the author of the popular books ‘Why We Get Fat’ and ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’ and he was one of the big hitters at this conference. He breezed in like a rock star and wore his shirt fashionably unbuttoned at the neck (sans gold chains though). Gary’s talk was “Calories vs. Carbohydrates: Clearing up the Confusion Over Competing Paradigms” It’s not just about calorie or carb restriction, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Grab one of his books or check him out on youtube and he’ll explain it very well for you. The science of obesity has been plagued by the controversial question: is it an energy balance problem or a hormonal (insulin, leptin etc…) one? Do we accumulate excess fat because we eat too many calories and exercise too little  or are our homeostatic mechanisms that regulate fat metabolism and fat storage out of whack? He came up with several hypotheses and discussed the kinds of experiments that could be done to find some definitive answers. Now here is something to look forward to: Gary Taubes is pairing with Peter Attia and they have formed NuSi which will publicly launch in September. “NuSi is a non-profit organization with the mission of reducing the economic and social cost of obesity and its related chronic diseases. We hope to achieve this by facilitating and funding the kind of rigorous, meticulously well-controlled and targeted experimental research that has been conspicuously lacking in nutrition research for the half past century.” Basically, the Manhattan Project of Nutrition. Cool, maybe we’ll get the answers to the questions he posed.

Panel Presentation: Safe Starches: Are they Essential to an Ancestral Diet?

This panel was moderated by Jimmy Moore and featured Paul Jaminet, Ph.D., Ron Rosedal, M.D., Catherine Shanahan, M.D. and Chris Kresser.  Everybody was pretty much on the edge of their seats waiting for the fur to fly. Who would win? Could we run right out and eat a bunch of potatoes after this? The idea of “safe starches” has been very controversial in the paleo world since it’s introduction in Paul Jaminet’s book ‘The Perfect Health Diet’ . Jaminet’s safe starches include white rice, white potatoes and other tubers like yams. He still maintains that his diet is relatively low carb and that he refers to these starches as safe because, when cooked, their toxins are destroyed thus rendering them safe. Kresser pointed out that some people may need to include these starches in their diet because they don’t do well on a very low carb diet and will experience down regulation of their thyroid. He is a big proponent of the “one size does not fit all” paleo diet saying that there are genetics and epigenetics to consider . Rosedale and Shanahan were on the anti-starch side of the debate basically stating that carbs=sugar period. From where I was sitting, Jaminet and Kresser came across as the more reasonable, more scientific and more credible panelists. Rosedale and Shanahan…not so much. Rosedale sort of reminded me of Al Gore when he said he invented the internet. At any rate, my take away was that we need to figure out for ourselves how much starch we can or cannot tolerate in our own diets. My husband who trains hard and has always been very lean and has a body fat in the single digits can eat a lot more carbs/starches than I can. Sometimes life just isn’t fair. If you do decide to eat potatoes, everybody seems to agree that white potatoes should be peeled first.

To potato or not to potato. The decision is yours.

There were a few more presentations left to the day and a book author signing but instead, we headed off to get ready for the Sustainable Feast. Torrential rains were on the way, there were tornado warnings and we had heard we could expect some pretty awful traffic on our way out to the farm.  The farm was so special it deserves a post all to itself…stay tuned!

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