More Dangers of Omega-6 Fats

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

For you long-time readers you have heard me mention how foods high in omega-6 fats (like industrial vegetable oils – corn, cotton, safflower, soybean, and sunflower) can be problematic and lead to health issues. I am a believer that excess consumption of these oils has contributed, along with high fructose corn syrup, overall excess calories, and a sedentary lifestyle to our obesity epidemic. Recently Stephan Guyenet wrote a great piece on the contributions of industrial vegetable oils to our obesity epidemic, read it here.

In that article he talks about two studies that look at mice that consume excessive omega-6 fats (meaning their omega-6 to omega-3 ratio was above the recommended 4:1) and how it lead to not only their obesity, but it even lead to obesity in their offspring, even if they did not consume excess omega-6 fats.

This leads me into my main focus for today. As important as weight regulation is and clearly excess omega-6 consumption alters that, at least in rats and mice, it also can increase risk of cancer, again at least in rats and mice.

A new study conducted by Sonia de Assis of Georgetown University showed that when pregnant rats were fed a diet high in omega-6 fats, it increased risk of cancer for the children and grandchildren of those rats, even if they themselves at normal diets. Granddaughters of the rats had a 30% greater chance of developing breast cancer than the granddaughters of rats who did not eat excess omega-6 during their pregnancy.

In many ways this also piggy backs on the thought that consuming the pesticides, herbicides and fungicides thought to be obesogens during pregnancy can alter the bodyweight and bodyfat of those children. I wrote an entire blog on that topic.

Now to be clear this does not mean that fat causes cancer. What it means is eating shitty food that is made up of man-made industrial oils is a bad idea. If you focus on eating real food, and take your fish oil, as well as eating fish 2x/week and getting in your share of flax and chia seeds, this is not an issue. However, if you rely a lot on fast-food or pre-packaged meals, they are usually made with these dangerous low-quality oils because they are cheap, so buyer beware.

It should also be noted that omega-6 fats are an essential part of your diet, you need them to function properly and for the inflammatory and healing process. The ideal ration of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is anywhere from 4:1 to 1:1. Unfortunately the typical American diet is between 16:1 to 20:1, which can lead to heart issues, depression, infertility and cancer.

A healthy omega-6 fat

A healthy omega-6 fat

The thought is that these powerful omega-6 fats can alter how our genes function or are expressed, without actually altering the genes themselves. There is mounting evidence that so much of what we do, as well as what our ancestors do, has a huge influence in how our genes are expressed and our disease risk.

Your lifestyle, environment and those of your immediate ancestors can all affect your disease risk tremendously, as our genes themselves only account for a small fraction of our risk, we determine the rest, so choose wisely.

Posted on April 30th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre


Simple and Delicious Portable Snack

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

Lately my wife and I have been loving one of the world’s most portable snacks: dried fruit!

I know it may sound boring or to dry, but if you make good choices you can enjoy some delicious and healthy fruit that still retain just a touch of moisture.

My favorites have been apricots, dried plums, and figs. They are fruits that I rarely eat, contain tons of fiber, potassium and antioxidants and have no added sugar. That is a combination that is hard to pass up. Plus they last a long time if needed, are incredibly portable and satisfy that sweet-tooth.

You can get into trouble with them if you go overboard, but each serving is about 25 grams of carbs, which is very reasonable. There are other dried fruits out there (raisins anyone?), but most have tons of added sugar, or are dried to the point of being hard and crispy. I steer clear of these and recommend you do the same.

Simple, nutritious, and delicious these dried fruits can be a great addition to your diet and add some much needed variety to your fruit intake. Enjoy!

Posted on April 29th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre


New FDA Deputy: Controversial Choice?

Filed under: General Health

There was a very interesting article in the Washington Post recently (thanks Andrew).

The FDA has appointed Michael Taylor as the new deputy commissioner for foods. This is a brand new position that will vastly increase the importance of food in an agency that always seems to have its focus on the drug aspect of its office.

The House passed a bill last year that grants powerful new authority to the FDA in ensuring food safety. The goal is to implement new laws that prevent foodborne-illness outbreaks, rather than just reacting to them.

This sounds all well and good, as long as George and his crew actually crack down on the actual problems with food safety: the CAFO’s and giant commercial food conglomerates. The problem is that Michael Taylor has some very suspicious ties to the food industry that certainly makes me very leery.

He started his career at the FDA as a staff attorney, and then moved on to the law firm that represents the evil food corporation Monsanto (watch Food, Inc and you will despise everything about Monsanto). This is only the tip of the iceberg concerning his conflict of interests. He worked there for a decade before returning to the FDA.

Upon his return to the FDA, this time as the deputy commissioner for policy, the FDA approved Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone (that pretty much every major dairy producer has or will be abandoning due to consumer concern – 20 years later). Taylor was somewhat responsible for the policy that stated that milk from cows given bovine growth hormone did not have to be labeled as having received that treatment (this is no longer the case, thankfully). Think his decisions there had something to do with his previous ties to Monsanto? Certainly makes me wonder.

Fortunately there is some good news in the hiring of Michael Taylor. He has worked for the USDA and required meat and poultry producers to implement new measures to help prevent bacterial contamination, though of course these industries fought tooth and nail against them. While at the FDA he also required seafood and juice manufacturers to also implement new procedures to help prevent bacterial contamination.

Unfortunately after his stint at the USDA where it seems he did some good, he went to work directly for Monsanto as vice president for public policy. That is most troubling to me, as so many people who have worked for Monsanto are already in high places in the FDA, USDA and other agencies that control policy. It is a complete in-bred nightmare where the concerns don’t seem to actually be for public safety and quality food production, but seem to be to appear concerned for public safety and quality food production, so as to make Monsanto and companies like it boat-loads of money.

Monsanto was the 2009 Forbes company of the year. That is how much money they make by destroying our health, whether they want to believe it or not. Here is an interesting article on Monsanto corn causing organ damage in mammals.

Now many people are hoping he repeats some of the great things he has done. Marion Nestle among them (directly from the article) –  “He is the quintessential revolving door,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. Taylor’s support for BGH and Monsanto’s other genetically modified products at the FDA was “questionable,” she said. “On the other hand, when he went to USDA, what he did there was absolutely heroic. He’s been very strong on food safety.”

Maybe he will really help to turn things around, but I tire of seeing people in high positions who have such blatant ties to these giant food conglomerates (Clarence Thomas anyone?). I guess only time will tell.

Posted on April 28th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre


Lovers of Camellia Sinensis

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

Most people know that they should drink more green tea for better body composition, energy and health. Green tea can decrease the likelihood of cancer and cardiovascular disease, along with lowering LDL, blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

In fact Jonny Bowden just wrote a great 2 part blog series titled the 14 Keys to Longevity. His Number One tip? Drink green tea every day. It is that good for you.

Unfortunately many people feel like they have to drink straight green tea, which can be a little grassy. If you are one of these people, you are missing a whole world of awesome teas!

While green tea has the most research backing its health benefits, other teas are also of equally tremendous value. White, green, oolong and black tea are all from the same plant (camellia sinensis), they are just picked at different times and subjected to different fermentation methods. It is essentially just a giant spectrum of kick-assery!

So as you can see, white tea has the highest catechin content and is especially effective at helping to prevent colon cancer. On the other end of the spectrum black tea has the greatest amount of theaflavins and thearubigins (the catechins get converted to these in the fermentation process) and is the best at preventing stroke.

Don’t just fixate on green tea, you should enjoy all types of the camellia sinensis plant. I recommend people find high quality teas with great natural flavors (nothing artificially sweetened or with sugar). A great website to check out reviews and ratings of teas you might consider buying is

Below are some of my favorites:

There are obviously a ton of teas to choose from, and those are just a few of my current favorites, though it is changing all the time! The point is that drinking tea does not have to be spartan and plain, it is to be enjoyed. So find a few flavors that you like, and drink a few cups a day, your body will thank you.

Posted on April 26th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre


Training for Actual Results

Filed under: Training

The past few weeks I have had to train a few times at a commercial gym since I am at CP only a few days per week. That shit is depressing. I look around and feel like everything that high level strength coaches like Mike Boyle, Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, etc espouse just does not reach the masses.

I look around the gym and guys are still just training like meat-heads. I know that was crude, but it is also unfortunately true. Guys bench pressing for what seems like hours, with horrendous form. People using machine after machine. Using Smith machines and the leg press if legs are being done at all. It really frustrates and saddens me.

If all of that wasn’t bad enough, I watched several of the personal trainers take their clients through a session, and it was an embarassment to the profession. Clients doing squats on a Bosu ball, machine circuits, sit-ups, the atrocities were endless. You are not making your clients better!

I have harped on this before but properly warming up, working hard and smart, and cleaning up your diet will give you truly astounding results. Far better than doing 1-leg bicep curls with your eyes closed.

A basic program that just about anyone could do would be something more like this:

Pre Work: Foam Roll & warm up (10 minutes)

do yourself a favor and pick up a foam roller, it will save you a lot of pain

do yourself a favor and pick up a foam roller, it will save you a lot of pain

Weight Train (35 minutes)

A1. Goblet Squats 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps

A2. Stability Ball Rollouts 3 sets of 8-12 reps

B1. Pushups 3 sets of 8 reps

B2. Standing 1-Arm Cable Rows 3 sets of 10 reps/side

Conditioning (15 minutes)

Bike Intervals:

  • 4 minute warm up
  • 8 intervals – 15 seconds hard, 45 seconds easy
  • 3 minute cool down

Or Just 15 minutes of steady state cardio

This is obviously a very simple program and just one day, but it would be an excellent starting point for the vast majority of trainees. If your personal trainer has you doing ridiculous circus tricks, you are only wasting your money.

Posted on April 22nd, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre


Weighing the Evidence on Exercise

Filed under: General Health, Training

Weighing the Evidence on Exercise was a story recently published in the NY Times (a big thanks to Lou for sending it to me). The article looks at the interesting fact that exercise alone does not cause much weight loss. It delves into the reasons behind why this is, why men and women react differently to exercise, why lean people and overweight people react differently, and everything in between. It is a good read and definitely worth checking out.

For those of you who seem to train their asses off and never quite seem to reach your goals, this article can shed some light on some physiology as to why, as well as some good information to help you get around that. Plus cleaning up your diet along with a good training program is the real trick of the trade, as the two work synergistically to melt the weight off.

Below is a part of the article that I found most interesting:

Scientists are “not really sure yet” just how and why exercise is so important in maintaining weight loss in people, Braun says. But in animal experiments, exercise seems to remodel the metabolic pathways that determine how the body stores and utilizes food. For a study published last summer, scientists at the University of Colorado at Denver fattened a group of male rats. The animals already had an inbred propensity to gain weight and, thanks to a high-fat diet laid out for them, they fulfilled that genetic destiny. After 16 weeks of eating as much as they wanted and lolling around in their cages, all were rotund. The scientists then switched them to a calorie-controlled, low-fat diet. The animals shed weight, dropping an average of about 14 percent of their corpulence.

Afterward the animals were put on a weight-maintenance diet. At the same time, half of them were required to run on a treadmill for about 30 minutes most days. The other half remained sedentary. For eight weeks, the rats were kept at their lower weights in order to establish a new base-line weight.

Then the fun began. For the final eight weeks of the experiment, the rats were allowed to relapse, to eat as much food as they wanted. The rats that had not been running on the treadmill fell upon the food eagerly. Most regained the weight they lost and then some.

But the exercising rats metabolized calories differently. They tended to burn fat immediately after their meals, while the sedentary rats’ bodies preferentially burnedcarbohydrates and sent the fat off to be stored in fat cells. The running rats’ bodies, meanwhile, also produced signals suggesting that they were satiated and didn’t need more kibble. Although the treadmill exercisers regained some weight, their relapses were not as extreme. Exercise “re-established the homeostatic steady state between intake and expenditure to defend a lower body weight,” the study authors concluded. Running had remade the rats’ bodies so that they ate less.

This article makes about as good of a case for exercise and its importance in weight regulation (not to mention numerous other health factors, it truly is our Fountain of Youth) as I have seen. Enjoy!

Posted on April 21st, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre


A Sweet Treat

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

Many people are self-professed chocoholics. They just can’t get enough. Fortunately for them there is a lot of emerging evidence about the health benefits of dark chocolate (though not milk or white unfortunately). These benefits include: decreased blood pressure, decreased LDL, stimulates endorphin production, is high in fiber, tons of antioxidants, high in magnesium, high in iron and tastes awesome. I wrote an entire blog on the benefits of dark chocolate, so that is not really where I am headed with this today.

Another great food that I have always loved are plums. They are small and delicious and there is nothing like biting into a perfectly sweet plum. Recent research has also shown that one plum has equal or higher antioxidant capacity and phytonutrient content as a handful of blueberries! This is no small feat. It has also been shown that the phytonutrients in plums can disrupt the growth of breast cancer cells without affecting the healthy cells. I wrote an entire blog about the benefits of plums as well, and that is also not where I am headed with this today.

I am actually going to blog about a nice little product that my wife and I found which is a delightful dessert or a perfect addition to home-made trail mix: Plum Sweets. These tasty little treats are made up of dried plums coated in dark (sorta dark, probably like 65%, so not as dark as I would like, but still) chocolate. They are absolutely delicious and provide a ton of antioxidants, with some vitamins, minerals and a little bit of fiber to boot.

While these may not be the healthiest snack on earth, when consumed in moderation or used in a home-made trail mix where they double as the dried fruit and the chocolate, they are great. 1 serving provides about 130 calories, 6 grams of fat, 19 gram of carbs, 2 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of protein.

They market it as the ultimate antioxidant snack. They base this on the tremendous ORAC score of both dried plums and dark chocolate. ORAC is a measure of antioxidant capacity of a given food. Dried plums (more commonly known as prunes, but dried plums don’t sound like they are only eaten to keep elderly folk regular) score incredibly high on this scale, as does dark chocolate. So a food combining the two is a food to be enjoyed!

Check them out, they might just become your new favorite dessert!

Posted on April 20th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

1 Comment »

An Interview with Me

Filed under: General Health

Robbie Bourke from All Things Strength recently interviewed me for his site. It covers a lot of ground, and if you want to know how I got into this industry, as well getting a peak inside this awesome brain of mine, you have to check it out!

An Interview with Brian St. Pierre

Posted on April 19th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

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Stuff You Should Read

Filed under: General Health

1. K.I.S.S Principle of the Day: Progressive Overload – by Tony Gentilcore. A great blog about how important progression is, and how simply it can be done.

2. Full-fat Dairy for Cardiovascular Health – by Stephan Guyenet. As you long-time readers surely know, I am generally not a fan of fat-free dairy. Stephan gives a great look at why full-fat dairy is actually protective of the heart, and why it just generally kicks ass.

3. 4 Weeks to a Healthier Heart—Week 1- by MSN Health. I am taking this one a different direction. This is an article I want you to read to find out what not to do to get a healthier heart. Granted there are some good tips in there, but telling people to not let fat intake exceed 30% of calories, keep saturated fat under 7%, and to start your morning with juice is just not correct. That might be applicable to some people, but that should not be information given to the masses. MSN Health traditionally gives out pretty crappy advice, as I have enumerated on many times. They just dumb down information to the point where it is no longer true, or it was never even true to begin with! A lot of people read this and believe it, and for the rest of us trying to give out actually good information, it is like shoveling shit against the tide.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Posted on April 16th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

1 Comment »

You Asked, I Answered

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

Q. Brian,

Due to things like “bioaccumulation” and “biomagnification” in the food chain, would you say that if having to prioritize, it is far more critical to worry about the source of animal products than whether or not produce is organic or conventional? Ideally we’d have the best on all fronts, but if I understand things correctly, even conventional produce wouldn’t yield nearly the potential toxic loads on the body that “poorly” sourced animal products can.

On a side note, is there any particular method for washing fruits and veggies that you do recommend and use yourself?

A. Yes if you have to prioritize, like even I do, I would most definitely say it is more critical to obtain grass-fed or pasture-raised animal products than organic produce. You can’t change the fatty acid composition of meat, nor can you remove residual amounts of antibiotics and growth hormones from it either. You can however wash fruit and vegetables to remove most if not all pesticide residues. So again, if you have to choose between pasture-raised animal products or organic produce, I go pasture-raised animal products every time, and maybe try to squeeze in organic produce on only the biggest offenders like peaches and apples.

I just recommend a simple fruit and vegetable wash, and follow the directions. I just use Citrus Magic Veggie Wash. I spray on a good amount, rub it in for 20 seconds, and thoroughly rinse off. It removes pesticide residues, fungicides, waxes, soil, etc.

Q. Brian,

Do you know of any study that directly links the accumulation of pesticides and herbicides in produce and the antibiotics in meat, dairy, with infant obesity? Possibly something we need more research on?

I do not know of any study that directly links it. It would most likely be deemed unethical to attempt to induce obesity in infants with chemical exposure. There is certainly growing evidence as I noted here, that these chemicals can contribute to obesity in infants. In mice and rats they most certainly contribute to obesity. This is definitely an area we need more research on, because if many of these “safe” pesticides/herbicides/fungicides/plastics/etc contain chemicals that actually disrupt the ability for the human body to regulate bodyweight, they could certainly be disrupting many other sensitive systems in the body as well.

We do not know nearly enough about many of our current food production practices, and in reality about food in general. More research is needed in nearly all aspects of food and nutrition, and hopefully it will keep coming.

Posted on April 15th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre


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