Cluck cluck – keeping an eye on the poultry scientists

On September 12, 2012, in Paleo, by Robert Dallison

My attention was recently drawn to Science Alert, an educational web site that posts updates on scientific news and research in Australia and New Zealand. So far so good – I enjoy keeping up with science news from around the world, so after adding them to my RSS feed I checked to see if there was a UK equivalent.

Surprise surprise – takes me to the International Journal of Poultry Sciences. This publication, whose articles are freely accessible online, describes in exhaustive detail the methods used by the poultry industry to manufacture (for there is no other word) the product that is then sold, somewhat misleadingly, as meat.

Of course, the Science Alert I mentioned first has absolutely nothing to do with this UK-based web site of the same name. Before any feathers get ruffled, I only mention them here as the reason I stumbled across the poultry scientists in the first place.

I know it’s all been said before, so I’m not going to deliver my own version of Food, Inc. right here on my blog. But I’ll definitely be following this web site (and reviewing their articles) to see just how mind-boggling their practices can be. Read a few of them yourself, and you’ll never see a chicken from Sainsbury’s or Publix in the same light.

An example from the current issue:

Strategies to Improve the Utilization of Tannin-Rich Feed Materials by Poultry

Tannins are well known as anti-nutritive factors that hinder the utilization of feeds by monogastric animals especially poultry. Tannins depressed growth rate and feed utilization by forming complexes with proteins and carbohydrates or inhibition of digestive enzymes. Unlike ruminant animals, poultry do not have microbes in their gastrointestinal tract to detoxify or reduce the effect of tannins, but several methods have been used to reduce the tannin content of poultry feeds for better utilization. These methods are mainly physical and chemical in nature. The physical methods are cooking, dehulling, autoclaving, toasting / roasting and soaking, while the chemical methods include, use of wood ash, addition of tallow, use of tannin binding agents, use of enzymes, germination and urea treatment. The choice of method(s) will depend on their effectiveness in reducing tannin and the cost involved.

Sounds delicious. Wood ash? Urea treatment? If I were a battery chicken I’d be licking my chops at the thought of my next meal.

In the meantime Alex and I are now making a point of purchasing only locally sourced organic free-range meat, which actually tastes as one imagines a chicken, lamb or cow should taste. Poultry scientists, eat your hearts out – we’d already abandoned you well before I stumbled across your Frankenstein journal – but it would definitely have tipped the balance for us, and I hope it will for others!

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Ten Days of Paleo and Going Strong

On August 20, 2012, in Paleo, by Robert Dallison

Just a quick post this evening to say that my paleo journey is starting smoothly. I have now spent ten days following the basic guidelines – no grain or derivatives, no legumes, no dairy. I am feeling quite normal, and adapting to the new routine is much easier than I expected.

As with any new regime it takes a while for the body to settle into the new conditions. But already I see some effects. I’ve lost nearly 5 pounds (without any significant running mileage or other physical exertion). My resting heart rate has dropped from 60bpm (my normal average during all the marathon running earlier this year) to around 50bpm, which indicates that my heart is now working slightly less hard.

Of course it is far too early to read anything significant into these numbers, but they encourage me to believe that the paleo path can actually make a positive difference to my overall health.

Most importantly this has not been particularly difficult. Our weekly shop now looks a little different, with larger than normal quantities of fruit and vegetables. I used to eat massive amounts of pasta and rice, but these have dropped to zero. Coffee in the morning is now black rather than latte. And the evening beer (or whisky) is unfortunately a thing of the past.

But it’s not too hard. It is actually enjoyable to come up with creative new meals, and breakfast in particular is a delicious start to the day! This weekend we were invited to a barbecue, which would be something of a challenge on most diets – but since meat and veg are “all you can eat” in paleo, I was able to go back for seconds and thirds, and nobody even realised I was watching what I eat!

I definitely feel my metabolism changing, and I have not yet faced the challenge of fuelling for high weekly running mileage. One step at a time – but I already look forward to running my first paleo marathon…

Click on the images to taste – I’ll bet your mouth starts watering!!

Morning fuel station

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My Paleo Journey Begins

On August 12, 2012, in Paleo, by Robert Dallison

I’ve never been fussy about what I eat. Actually, that’s not true. I am fussy, but in a good way. I avoid fast food like the plague, and I’ve always preferred organic and free-range over the mass-produced output of Food, Inc.

My preference is based on common sense, the desire to remain healthy, and a taste for quality. In addition, I believe it is important to support one’s local economy and producers rather than lining the balance-sheet of yet another industrial corporation.

In summary I will eat pretty much anything – so long as it is healthy, and if possible not processed or artificial. I avoid sugary drinks and (to the best of my ability) anything with high fructose corn syrup.

Combined with an active lifestyle and significant amounts of endurance running, surely this should be enough to keep me in good shape?

Yet like so many people, I struggle with bad cholesterol and chronic weight gain. For a while now I have been resigned to this as my genetic lot. There is nothing more I can do about it that I’m not already doing.

Or is there?

During the last few months, my complacency has been challenged. I have heard many stories, some from close friends, about weight coming off and staying off. They feel ten years younger and their energy levels are through the roof. Health is greatly improved, with dramatic reductions in cholesterol, and in at least one case disappearance of diabetes. These stories sound too good to be true, but as they come from people I know and respect, I have to listen to them.

I approach most things in life as a sceptic, meaning simply that I take nothing for granted. This does not make me negative – on the contrary, I am ready to give any idea a chance, but it has to stand up to scrutiny (the original meaning of scepticism) and rigorous testing.

This approach leads me to dismiss dietary trends, for the most part, as marketing-driven social or commercial fads that are designed primarily to sell books and products.

I watch people try them and fail, either because the systems don’t work, or because they are too complicated for any normal person to sustain for more than a few weeks. They fail my tests of logic, or science, or plausibility, or simplicity, or commercial honesty, or observable success rate.

In my world, a dietary trend has to pass all these tests before I will even consider trying it for myself. To date I have never come across anything that passed just one test, let alone all of them.

Enter the paleolithic diet. From the Wikipedia article linked here:

Paleolithic nutrition is based on the premise that modern humans are genetically adapted to the diet of their Paleolithic ancestors and that […] an ideal diet for human health and well-being is one that resembles this ancestral diet.

Proponents suggest that with the advent of agriculture 10,000 years ago we started eating grains, legumes and dairy products, which had played no part in our diet for the previous 2.5 million years. Until then we had eaten essentially the meat we hunted and the vegetables we gathered.

This change is so recent in evolutionary terms that our bodies have not had time to evolve genetically to accommodate the “new” foods. Our metabolism strains to process the starches and sugars, and arguably many of our modern health disorders spring from this root cause. Weight, insulin, cholesterol, hormones, immune system are all affected.

Interestingly the paleolithic diet is not a diet in the usual sense, but rather a lifestyle. It is based on a simple principle that is easy to understand and easy to implement: avoid certain food types, but eat as much as you want of the rest. The underlying science is intuitively plausible, and increasingly confirmed by unbiased peer reviews. Last but not least, the real-life stories in my own circle of friends provide evidence of some fairly remarkable benefits.

So for the first time since I first became concerned many years ago about my propensity to gain weight, I have reached the next step. After talking to friends and reading the literature, everything stands up to scrutiny. At this point I cannot in all honesty dismiss the concept without first trying it for myself. It would appear that I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

So starting this weekend I am officially “paleo”. No more grains, flour, bread, pasta or rice. No more legumes (beans, peas, peanuts). No more dairy products. Minimal amounts of starchy vegetables. Otherwise as much fruit, vegetables, nuts, meat and fish as I can eat. Not difficult to remember, and actually not much of a constraint once I get used to fuelling for marathons on something other than pasta.

Here is lunch for today, after 3 hours of vigorous gardening: romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, mandarin pieces, sardines, nuts, oil & vinegar dressing. I would have eaten a second bowl, except I was too full to move.

As part of my experiment I will document my progress from time to time, in the hope that it may provide insight for others following a similar path. Check back soon for my next post, and feel free to leave your comments.

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  • Running PRs

    5K - 23:17 (Oct 16, 2010)
    5K - 23:37 (Mar 13, 2010)
    5K - 26:23 (May 23, 2009)
    10K - 49:09 (Oct 3, 2010)
    10K - 49:36 (Nov 26, 2009)
    10K - 51:36 (Oct 4, 2009)
    13.1 - 1:46:28 (Mar 07, 2010)
    13.1 - 1:52:23 (Nov 13, 2009)
    26.2 - 3:53:49 (Jan 30, 2011)
    26.2 - 4:39:14 (Jan 31, 2010)

    Running Goals

    5K - 22:00
    10K - 45:00
    13.1 - 1:40:00
    26.2 - 3:45:00
    Feb 2012, four marathons in 4 days
    May 2012, ten marathons in 10 days