Primate Parables.

March 1, 2011 | 5 Comments

Metabolism is an incredibly complicated thing. Set formulas do not apply to everyone. Followers of each approach have both “confirmation bias” (the tendency to pick and choose what confirms your hypothesis), as well as “surveillance bias”. The latter refers to the tendency to attribute everything to a certain transformation in your lifestyle. “I won the state lottery. It must be my paleo diet”.

That said, one cannot ignore the growing pile of evidence contradicting the mainstream “healthy carb, low fat” playbook. A recent New York Times article looks at the impact of specific diets on two sets of monkeys in two studies.

One followed the typical “high-fat” American diet with about 33% of calories coming from fat. The other followed the low-fat American Heart Association Diet.

SHIVA and friends

This was the set of “couch-potato monkeys” at the Oregon National Primate Research Center. They were put on the typical American diet – 33% of total calories coming from fat. They also drank a fruit-flavored punch with the fructose equivalent of about a can of soda a day.

They got very little exercise. This set included Shiva, a young adult who gained about 15 pounds in six months and weighs about 45 pounds, twice the normal weight for his age. Much like a lot of obese humans, he carries much of the excess fat in his belly, not in his limbs.

The monkey’s daily diet consists of dried chow pellets, with about one-third of the calories coming from fat, similar to a typical American diet, Dr. Grove said, though the diet also contains adequate protein and nutrients.

… Dr. Grove and researchers at some other centers say the high-fructose corn syrup appears to accelerate the development of obesity and diabetes.

“It wasn’t until we added those carbs that we got all those other changes, including those changes in body fat,” said Anthony G. Comuzzie, who helped create an obese baboon colony at the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio.

Moral of the story: Fat is not fattening. Being a couch potato and chugging sodas along with your fatty food makes you fat.

ALBERT and friends

This set of primates at the University of South Florida were on the American Heart Association’s Dietary recommendations.

Six servings of grains, less than 7% of energy from saturated fats, replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats, etc. More on that in a minute.

Back to the chunky monkeys. Barbara C. Hansen of the University of South Florida studied the effects of various diets on her band of simians.

Fat Albert, one of her monkeys who she said was at one time the world’s heaviest rhesus, at 70 pounds, ate “nothing but an American Heart Association-recommended diet,” she said.

… “To suggest that humans and monkeys get fat because of a high-fat diet is not a good suggestion”.

Moral of the story: The American Heart Association’s dietary recommendations are very beneficial – to cardiologists.

The NYT article also cites the pharma companies who are salivating at the number of drugs they could develop to treat Americans who eat like these monkeys.


I. Eat less fats and eat more “healthy carbs”.

That’s exactly what Americans have been doing since the 1970s. How has it worked out for us?

During 1971–2000, a statistically significant increase in average energy intake occurred . For men, average energy intake increased from 2,450 kcals to 2,618 kcals, and for women, from 1,542 kcals to 1,877 kcals. For men, the percentage of kcals from carbohydrate increased between 1971–1974 and 1999–2000, from 42.4% to 49.0%, and for women, from 45.4% to 51.6%. The percentage of kcals from total fat decreased from 36.9% to 32.8% for men and from 36.1% to 32.8% for women.

In addition, the percentage of kcals from saturated fat decreased from 13.5% to 10.9% for men and from 13.0% to 11.0% for women. A slight decrease was observed in the percentage of kcals from protein, from 16.5% to 15.5% for men and from 16.9% to 15.1% for women.

During 1971–2000, the prevalence of obesity in the United States increased from 14.5% to 30.9%.

The decrease in the percentage of kcals from fat during 1971–1991 is attributed to an increase in total kcals consumed; absolute fat intake in grams increased. USDA food consumption survey data from 1989–1991 and 1994–1996 indicated that the increased energy intake was caused primarily by higher carbohydrate intake. (Source)

II. Replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated ones.

In 2009, the AHA recommended replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats. Why? ‘Cos it’s supposedly good for the heart.

Going back to the data from the 1970s to 2000, absolute fat intake increased, the percentage of saturated fat intake decreased. So where did the additional fat come from? Unsaturated (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats) and trans fats.

They seem oblivious to the evidence that oxidised LDL from PUFAs is more detrimental to heart health than saturated fat. The corn and other polyunsaturated oils they recommend promote tumour growth.

La la la la la … I can’t hear you.

As for the Israeli paradox? They don’t acknowledge that either.

Israel has one of the highest dietary polyunsaturated/saturated fat ratios in the world; the consumption of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) is about 8% higher than in the USA, and 10-12% higher than in most European countries. In fact, Israeli Jews may be regarded as a population-based dietary experiment of the effect of a high omega-6 PUFA diet, a diet that until recently was widely recommended. Despite such national habits, there is paradoxically a high prevalence of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and obesity-all diseases that are associated with hyperinsulinemia (HI) and insulin resistance (IR), and grouped together as the insulin resistance syndrome or syndrome X. There is also an increased cancer incidence and mortality rate, especially in women, compared with western countries. (Source)

Yet, vast sections of the medical community like the AHA and PCRM (Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine) will dismiss as fringe faddists those who do extremely well with saturated fats and have no use for “sugar in moderation” or whole grains. The PCRM “New no-cholesterol all-vegan Four Food Groups” can’t stomach the fact that animal protein can be an integral part of a heathy diet. (They actually consider fruit juice a legitimate “portion”.)

When an elite athlete who espouses a contrarian viewpoint gets hugely successful, he deserves to be reviled with accusations of cholesterol-laden debauchery and zealotry.

Why are eggs and organ meats bad? They have high cholesterol. Why is high cholesterol a problem? Because it’s bad. But why? Because ummm… it’s cholesterol. Why is cholesterol worse than sugar in fruit juice? ‘Cos it’s saturated fat, which is …. well, saturated. But I eat more veggies than the average vegetarian. Still, you’re just a meat-eating troll. But maybe it’s the vegetarian part of the diet that is the problem. As a meat-eating troll, you need to curl up in a corner and stop speaking about what you think works for you.


… doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein


- The Jugalbandits

Filed Under: , , , , ,



  1. Grok Goddess says:

    If you are subject to the PCRM brainwashing, you’ll be a pious vegan eating muffins with whole wheat flour and agave nectar. Been there done that. It was a hopeless carb addiction.

  2. Mamatha says:

    Can I send you guys flowers?

    That picture of the 2nd monkey perfectly represents what I’ve been facing for close to 2 years now. Oh, and the ridicule that comes with it!

    Anything that doesn’t fit in with the USDA agenda becomes a paradox…French, Israeli. It was easy to eat healthy – one had to do the exact opposite of what the USDA recommended – more SFAs, less PUFAs, more red meat, less “heart-healthy” whole grains until they came up with the recommendation of eating less sugar last year, creating confusion.

    May I suggest the madness that are statins for one of your future posts?

  3. Ramya says:

    Hey Jai and Bee,

    I wanted to commend you on your immense research and interest in food for health. I read through your posts. Lots of information and a lot that is opposite to what I believed was right. Your posts have thrown me and I believe a lot others to think again about our food which is very important. Thank you very much.

  4. Ann says:

    good article…..i bet ur a regular reader of the heart scan

rss email

  • Archives

  • Categories