More About Pork Fat and Sleep

One day in 2009, I ate a large amount of pork belly (very high in fat — pork belly is the cut used to make bacon). That night I slept an unusually long time. The next day I had more energy than usual. This led me to do an experiment in which I ate a pork belly meal (with lots of pork belly, about 250 g) on some days but not others. I compared my sleep after the two sorts of days. I kept constant the number of one-legged stands I did each day because that has an effect. During the first half of the experiment I kept this constant at 4; during the second half, at 2. I originally posted the results only from the first half.

Now I’ve analyzed the results from both halves. Here are ratings of how rested I felt when I woke up, on a scale where 0 = 0% = not rested at all and 100 = 100% = completely rested.

The two halves were essentially the same: pork belly produced a big improvement.  Here are the results for sleep duration.

No clear effect of pork belly in either half of the experiment.

The main thing I learned was that pork fat really helps. The effect is remarkably clear. With micronutrients, such as Vitamin C, the body has considerable storage. It may take months without the nutrient to become noticeably deficient. With omega-3, which is between a micronutrient and a macronutrient, my experiments found that it takes about two  days to start to see deficiency. With pork fat there seems to be no storage at all. I needed to eat lots of pork fat every day to get the best sleep. That repletion and depletion are fast made this experiment easy. How curious we are so often told animal fat is bad when an easy experiment shows it is good, at least for me.

22 Replies to “More About Pork Fat and Sleep”

  1. Intelligence is not consciousness.

    You can tell pigs don’t have human-style consciousness, because a similar argument about a pig killing me would have no effect on the pig. Even assuming we can speak pigese, the pig would just kill me anyway, regardless of any rational, legal, or moral persuasion.

  2. Seth, your premise about pork fat impacting your sleep is based on your Rested Rating values and those values seem incomprehensible to me. For myself, I think my subjective “Rested Rate” varies much more than your 94%-100% range and I can’t imagine subjectively distinguishing between 97% and 98%, never mind having three values at 97.5%. Did you really have a night (Oct 24th?) with less than 3 hours sleep that you rated as 99% Rested?

    I feel only about 80% rested this morning so maybe I’m missing something obvious 🙂

    Seth: Perhaps my values are higher than yours because I did several things to increase them — e.g., one-legged standing — that you aren’t doing. Years ago they were much lower. If you can distinguish between 2 and 3 you can distinguish between 97% and 98% — they are equally different from 100%. And I have had years of practice making these ratings. The values for Oct 24 are correct, I checked. Strange, huh?

  3. Alrenous

    Isn’t it a disingenuous argument? I mean the pig can still feel pain and wants to avoid it all costs – in that respect the nervous system of the pig and the human operates similarly. Whether the pig can reflect on the pain or the universality of suffering (!) or whether it can compose a poem/essay on the pig condition is besides the point. All beings seek security and wish to avoid pain.

    Is it right for me to kill a pig? Whether pigs have human style consciousness does not help me answer that question.


    Pork consumption has a strong epidemiological association with cirrhosis of the liver. Startlingly, pork may be even more strongly associated with alcoholic cirrhosis than alcohol itself!

    The evidence was summarized by Francis Bridges in a recent (2009) paper [1], building on earlier work by Nanji and French [2]. A relation between pork consumption and cirrhosis of the liver is apparent across countries and has been consistently maintained for at least 40 years.

    We would expect that if pork can cause liver cirrhosis it will also promote liver cancer, since injured and inflamed tissues are more likely to become cancerous.

    Indeed, there is an association between pork consumption and the primary liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma. Nanji and French [3] write:

    The authors investigated the possibility that dietary fat, meat, beef, and pork consumption might be factors that would, in addition to alcohol, correlate with mortality from hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in different countries….

    The correlation between HCC and alcohol was 0.40 (p < 0.05); that with pork consumption was also 0.40 (p < 0.05). There was no correlation with total fat meat, beef, and cigarette and tobacco consumption.

    Seth: That’s good to know, I didn’t know that. When I started eating lots of butter, I stopped eating lots of pork fat.

  5. Interesting, Seth. A couple of questions related to your original post, and then a question for peter on the risks of pork.

    1. Can you quantify what kinds of pork belly quantities you’re talking about here?

    2. How are you consuming it? In other words, what kinds of foods are you eating (I’m assuming you’re not just tucking into some lard with a spoon, but rather are eating other foods with a lot of pork belly in them).

    Then, to the animal rights activist, we are designed/evolved to be omnivores. That means we are supposed to be meat eaters.

    Peter: the article you reference regarding the risk of eating pork. Do you know if there is a distinction made in that work between CAFO pork and pastured, organic pork?


    Seth: The pork belly weighed on the order of 250 g. I ate it in soup with vegetables, such as onion, carrot, and mushrooms, and spices. No potatoes.

  6. My problem with eating pigs has nothing to do with religion.

    @ Adam, “He didn’t kill the pig, he just ate part of it.”

    That’s like saying I didn’t whip the slave, I just bought the cotton.

    @ Sky King: I wouldn’t be surprised if plants are much more intelligent than they seem – that doesn’t mean they’re as intelligent as mammals, or that killing intelligent animals is ok.

    @ Alrenous

    A similar argument wouldn’t work on a 3 year old either, and it wouldn’t work on millions of mentally handicapped humans out there, but I’m pretty sure they have “human style consciousness”, and I doubt you’d be ok with killing children. Pigs generally don’t kill people, and even if they did that doesn’t mean it’s ok to kill them. Psychotic people sometimes kill other humans, but we don’t kill them – we just make sure they don’t hurt anyone else.

    Seth: I have no trouble with your avoidance of meat (for example, I can’t imagine arguing that it’s not “ok” to avoid meat), yet you seem to dislike the fact that I do eat meat. The asymmetry of tolerance is interesting, can you explain it?

  7. @Seth, if you replace ‘meat’ with ‘slavery’, I think you’ll see where I’m coming from.

    That said, I’m not trying to come down on anyone for eating meat. Rather, I’m sure that someone as open minded as you are has thought about the rightness of killing intelligent animals for food; you don’t seem to have a problem with it, so I was curious about how you justify it.

    Seth: I have watched many nature documentaries — most recently, Frozen Planet. We are surrounded by animals killing animals.

  8. Wayne wrote, “…we are designed/evolved to be omnivores. That means we are supposed to be meat eaters.” You’re deriving “ought” from “is”. Some evolutionary psychologists claim that we evolved to be rapists. That doesn’t mean that we are supposed to rape. Presumably, we can rise above our evolutionary tendencies. It’s perfectly possible to be healthy on a vegan diet. See, for example, the story of Scott Jurek, who is a vegan ultramarathoner:

    @Sky King: Your first link was unconvincing, and the second link was a joke.

    In any case, even if plants are sentient (which is highly unlikely), you’d still be better-off being a vegan, because animal agriculture is inefficient — you have a feed a lot of plant material to an animal in order to produce a small amount of meat.

  9. @curiousguy: “That’s like saying I didn’t whip the slave, I just bought the cotton.”

    What is your point? Buying cotton is not an immoral act, but whipping a slave is. Killing a pig isn’t widely considered to be an immoral act, and buying pork most certainly is not.

  10. Mitra,

    Nerves are not consciousness.

    Wasps avoid pain.

    There’s this one wasp you can trap in a behavioural loop until it starves to death. It blocks its den with a rock, and it checks the immediate environs whenever it opens the ‘door.’ If you replace the rock, it will check again.

    Whether pigs have proper consciousness is the whole of the question. And since you argued that they do, not against the idea they cannot act differently than they do, I must conclude you agree that the argument works if the consciousness point is sound.


    >A similar argument wouldn’t work on a 3 year old either,

    Yes it would. I’m insulted that you’d think I’d believe this nonsense. As such, I will not reply again.

    >and it wouldn’t work on millions of mentally handicapped humans out there

    I’m thinking of a girl who had a severe head injury after a car accident. I saw her caretaker using these arguments and it worked on her too.

    You’re claiming that someone with handicapped consciousness has full consciousness. No, by definition, they don’t.

    I still argue against killing them, because in the case of humans the thing is never certain.

    >Pigs generally don’t kill people, and even if they did that doesn’t mean it’s ok to kill them.

    The point is that pigs cannot be meaningfully distinguished from squishy machines.
    Psychotics can easily be distinguished – they only kill when they think they can get away with it. There’s a thing called a high-functioning psychotic who act well-adjusted, because they understand it is in their best interest. Rational arguments work on them.

  11. @Seth: We’re surrounded by both animals and humans doing all sorts of things, that doesn’t mean we ought to do the same things.

    Seth: That’s awfully vague (“all sorts of things”). I already knew you disagreed with me so I am not sure what this adds.

  12. @Alex:

    Alex, I”d be more than happy to debate you on the merits of meat-eating vs. vegetarianism, but first I was wondering if you could answer for me a few questions. I clicked on your name which brought me to your website. I saw your pics and most had you with a dog or a cat in those pics. It also appears that you work at, or own, a pet store. So it’s pretty obvious that you love pets, as do I, but my question is: since your pets are carnivores, what are you feeding them?

  13. Sun King: I work at a large animal shelter. When I was first hired, I worked as a farm hand. After interacting closely face-to-face with the cows, pigs, and chickens, I decided that farm animals are just as worthy of our compassion as are dogs and cats. I then gave up eating all animal products (eggs and dairy are actually worse, in some ways, than meat). I also don’t wear fur, leather, or wool. Animals have an inherent interest in living out their lives, just as human beings do.

    My wife and I share our home with cats. We considered converting our cats to a vegan diet, but there is evidence that cats develop health problems when fed currently available vegan cat foods. The vegan foods are also expensive and reportedly unpalatable to cats. (Dogs do much better on vegan diets, but we don’t have any dogs.) Our cats eat conventional commercial cat foods. If someone develops a healthy and palatable vegan cat food, then our cats will likely be switched to that diet.

  14. @Seth: Why is it relevant that we are surrounded by animals killing animals? We are also surrounded by animals raping animals, humans killing/raping humans, etc.

    Seth: Many enormously useful insights — e.g., about the immune system — have come from studying animals. That’s why I think animal behavior is relevant.

  15. Not everyone can be healthy on a vegan diet. I tried and nearly killed myself. People need to be less myopic. N=1 is great, but does not mean n=every1.

  16. @Alexia

    You need to stop being ignorant and start educating yourself concerning the biology and the evolutionary development of humans (and carnivores) so you’ll be in a position to better understand nutrition that will enable you, and your pets, to long and healthy life.

    If you need links to sites and/or books that will help you to understand how vegetarianism is slowly, but surely, killing you and your pets then I’ll be more than happy to provide you with some links. Let me know.

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