Tucker Max on How to Eat an Egg

A few months ago I blogged that a rat had persuaded me to eat more eggs.  This particular rat liked scrambled eggs. Rats are omnivores, like humans. Unlike humans, they ignore advertising, nutrition fads and disinformation. Related to this, Tucker Max emailed me:

Have you thought about eating your egg raw? It sounded weird to me at first, but after looking extensively into it, there was a lot of good evidence that cooking an egg destroys a lot of the beneficial nutrients/enzymes in it. Once I started doing this, I noticed a HUGE increase in energy from the egg. It was like I almost eating a different food. In fact, the very first time I did it was at night, like 9pm, and I couldn’t get to sleep until 3am I had such a huge burst of energy. It’s not quite like that anymore, but I take it about an hour or two before I work out, and its like taking a red bull (I may be a bit vitamin B12 deficient, which would explain this).

As to how I do it, I just crack the egg into a coffee cup, and swallow it whole. It has pretty much no flavor. I also only do it with organic pasture-raised eggs. I don’t think I’d do this with normal, crappy store bought eggs.

I replied:

On my blog I said that butter and egg were in that way different from other foods — butter or at least milk must be a complete nutrient since it is the only food the baby gets. Other foods are under no such evolutionary pressure.

Tucker replied:

Which is why its SO important to get raw milk/butter from grassfed cows. Almost a completely different food than normal grocery store milk.

Yeah. When I get back to California I will compare raw and cooked eggs. In Beijing I eat mainly fermented eggs.

Worldwide Butter Shortage?

The first sentence of this article is:

The soaring popularity of a fat-rich fad diet has depleted stocks of butter in Norway creating a looming Christmas culinary crisis.

Except it’s not a fad diet. It’s not going to go away, I predict. I eat lots of butter because I discovered it made my brain work better than a similar amount of pork fat. Pork fat made me sleep better. Desire for better sleep and a better-working brain are not desires that come and go. I haven’t even mentioned the conventional benefits (e.g., weight loss). The article continues:

Norwegians have eaten up the country’s entire stockpile of butter, partly as the result of a “low-carb” diet sweeping the Nordic nation which emphasizes a higher intake of fats.

“Sales all of a sudden just soared, 20 percent in October then 30 percent in November,” said Lars Galtung, the head of communications at TINE, the country’s biggest farmer-owned cooperative. . . .

Butter is now selling on Norway’s top auction website, with a 250-gram piece starting at around $13 (8.28 pounds), roughly four times its normal price.

At the Beijing store closest to me that sells butter, I seem to buy more butter than all other customers combined. Chairman Mao noticed the value of pork fat. What happens when the Chinese realize the value of butter?

Thanks to Dave Lull.

Butter and Eggs: What They Share

To many dieticians and much of the general public, the similarity between butter and eggs is that both are bad for you. Butter: Fattening! Clogs arteries! Eggs: High in cholesterol! To me, it’s the opposite: both seem to be unusually good for us. Butter seems to make my brain work better and may have reduced my risk of heart attack. Eggs — at least, scrambled eggs — are especially well-liked by Mr. T, a rat. There are many similarities between rats and humans. Humans also like eggs. The foods we like are a guide (imperfect) to what foods are good for us.

Here’s another similarity between butter and eggs: Both must be complete — contain all necessary nutrients — much more than any other food. Butter is large part of milk. When mammalian offspring are very young, mother’s milk is their only food. Eggs, of course, must contain everything needed to become a baby chick (as a commenter named Rashad pointed out). No other foods — not fruits, not vegetables, not whatever other foods your great grandmother or other ancestors ate — have been under this sort of evolutionary pressure.

The evolution of lactose tolerance and my butter discoveries.




An Unbiassed View of What We Should Eat . . . From a Rat

In nature animals must choose a healthy diet based on what tastes good. This doesn’t work for modern humans — lots of people eat poor diets — but why it fails is a mystery. There are many possible reasons. Are the wrong (“unnatural”) foods available (e.g., too much sugar, too little omega-3, not enough fermented food)? Is something besides food causing trouble (e.g., too little exercise, too little attention to food)? Are bad cultural beliefs too powerful (e.g., “low-fat”, desire for thinness)? Is advertising too powerful? Is convenience too powerful? Lab animals are intermediate between animals in nature and modern humans. They are not affected by cultural beliefs, advertising, and convenience (the foods they are offered are equally convenient). Their choice of food may be better than ours.

Nutrition researchers understand the value of studying what lab animals choose to eat. In 1915, the first research paper about “dietary self-selection” was published, followed by hundreds more. The general finding is that in laboratory or research settings, animals choose a relatively healthy diet. There are two variations:

[1.] Cafeteria experiments with chemically defined [= synthesized] diets showed that some of these animals, when offered the separate, purified nutrient components of their usual diet, eat the nutrients in a balance that more or less resynthesizes the original diet and that is often superior to it. [2.] Other animals eat two or more natural foods in proportions that yield a more favorable balance of nutrients than will any one of these foods alone.

Both findings imply that housing an animal in a lab does not destroy the mechanism that tells it what to eat.

Which is why I was fascinated to recently learn what Mr. T (pictured above), the pet rat of Alexandra Harney, the author of The China Price, and her husband, liked to eat. It wasn’t obvious. “We tried so many foods with him and always thought it made a powerful statement that even a wild rat turned his nose up at potato chips,” says Alexandra. “He hated most processed food. He also hated carrots, though.” Here are his top three foods:

  1. pate
  2. salmon sashimi
  3. scrambled eggs

Pate = protein, animal fat, complex flavors (which in nature would have been supplied by microbe-rich, i.e., fermented, food). Salmon sashimi = protein, omega=3. Scrambled eggs = ??

He liked beer in moderation, but not yogurt. “Owners of domestic rats say they love yogurt,” says Alexandra, “but Mr T only liked it briefly and then hated it, even lunging to bite a friend who brought him some. [Curious.] He loved cheese, stored bread for future consumption (but almost never ate it). Loved pesto sauce and coconut.” Note the absence of fruits and vegetables. Alexandra and her husband have no nutritional theories that I am aware of. They did not shape this list to make some point.

For me the message is: Why scrambled eggs? I too like eggs and eat them regularly and cannot explain why.

More Alex Tabarrok’s Thanksgiving post shows the connection between libertarian ideas (economies work better when more choice is allowed) and dietary self-selection.

Butter and Arithmetic: How Much Butter?

I measure my arithmetic speed  (how fast I do simple arithmetic problems, such as 3+ 4) daily. I assume it reflects overall brain function. I assume something that improves brain function will make me faster at arithmetic.

Two years ago I discovered that butter — more precisely, substitution of butter for pork fat — made me faster. This raised the question: how much is best? For a long time I ate 60 g of butter (= 4 tablespoons = half a stick) per day. Was that optimal? I couldn’t easily eat more but I could easily eat less.

To find out, I did an experiment. At first I continued my usual intake (60 g /day). Then I ate 30 g/day for several days. Finally I returned to 60 g/day. Here are the main results:

The graph shows that when I switched to 30 g/day, I became slower. When I resumed 60 g/day, I became faster. Comparing the 30 g/day results with the combination of earlier and later 60 g/day results, t = 6, p = 0.000001.
Continue reading “Butter and Arithmetic: How Much Butter?”

Assorted Links

  • Doctoring to the test. Megan McArdle describes the medical equivalent of “teaching to the test”. Although she had the usual symptoms of too-little thyroid hormone, her doctor would not give her more synthetic hormone because her Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) level was within “normal range”.
  • The Rotten Heart of Europe: The Dirty War for Europe’s Money by Bernard Connolly is out of print, but you can buy a used copy  ($600) or download it (free).
  • More evidence that butter is good for you.
  • The trouble with lab mice. Nobel Prizes in Medicine, I’ve said, show the continuing failure of researchers to make significant progress on all major diseases. This article is a closer look at the problem. “We’ve had thousands of mouse studies of tuberculosis, yet not one of them has ever been used to pick a new drug regimen that succeeded in clinical trials. ‘This isn’t just true for TB; it’s true for virtually every disease,’ he tells me.”

Thanks to Ivy Hsieh and Allan Jackson.

Seth Roberts Interview With Pictures

This sidebar appeared in an article about self-tracking (only for subscribers) by James Kennedy, who works at The Future Laboratory in London. The top photo is at a market near my apartment. Below that are photos of my sleep records, my morning-faces setup, my butter, and my kombucha brewing jars. Back then I was comparing three amounts of sugar (each jar a different amount). Now I’m comparing green tea/black tea ratios.

Assorted Links

  • Benefits of fermented wheat germ extract
  • Why Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is unlikely. A list of AGW-associated “miracles”. Some of my favorites: “Unique among all sciences, climatology develops yet finds no surprises whatsoever, apart from when it’s worse than we thought” and “AGW is a grave threat to humanity, yet it can take the backseat when AGWers have to score their petty points (such as not sharing their data with the “wrong” people)” and “Having won an Oscar, a Nobel Prize and innumerable awards, having occupied more or less every audio or video broadcast for years, having had the run of more or less every newspaper for the same length of time, suddenly AGW leaders declare they’re not “great communicators” and blame this for the generally high levels of skepticism.”
  • Denmark has started to tax butter. “To discourage poor eating habits and raise revenue.”
  • Life-saving personal science: Mom figures out cause of daughter’s problems. “One spring night in 2002, she stumbled upon an old photocopy of a 1991 Los Angeles Times article that described a young girl whose condition had uncanny parallels with [her daughter’s].”

Thanks to David Cramer.

Assorted Links

  • Lard chic. ““I might have a cold,” she says. “Eat this, then,” I say, proffering a piece of hot toast with a thin, transparent slice of cured pork fat.”
  • Skeptical Science is a blog devoted to rebutting every argument offered by AGW skeptics like me. Bishop Hill points out that after two comments were critical of a post about Antarctic ice,  the post was rewritten. Rather than point out the rewriting, replies were added to the critical comments saying that the commenters hadn’t read the post (“read and reread the post above”).
  • Nobel Laureates Behaving Badly. “In his Nobel Prize Lecture of December 12, 1946, Hermann J. Muller argued that the dose–response for radiation-induced germ cell mutations was linear and that there was ‘‘no escape from the conclusion that there is no  threshold [below which radiation is harmless]”. However, assessment of correspondence between Muller and Curt Stern 1 month prior to his Nobel Prize Lecture reveals that Muller knew the results and implications of a recently completed study at the University of Rochester under the direction of Stern, which directly contradicted his Nobel Prize Lecture.” This is related to radiation hormesis — the observation that low doses of radiation are beneficial. Airport screening may be making people healthier.
  • Harvard’s “Healthy Eating Plate”. No fermented food, nothing about omega-3 (beyond the recommendation of fish). “Limit butter”.  “Stay active” but nothing about sleep.
  • Dangers of compact fluorescent lighting.

Thanks to Steve Hansen and Anne Weiss.

Ancestral Health Symposium: Meat versus Fat

Yesterday I was telling a relative about the Ancestral Health Symposium and I mentioned the emphasis on meat eating — for example, two vendors gave out samples of beef jerky. To most people, I think paleo means eating lots of meat. I told my relative I disagreed with this. I find nothing wonderful about meat protein; I would happily get my protein from plants.  I eat meat almost only for the associated fat. Which I can get from butter. A lot of meat I am served, such as in fancy restaurants, strikes me as too low in fat. Yesterday I requested butter at a sushi restaurant. The waitress was unsure if they had some.

Today I see Melissa McEwen said the same thing much better:

It was interesting to observe that [at the Ancestral Health Symposium] among the low-carbers, there seemed to be an epidemic of puffy red skin, particularly in older men. I’m sure the pictures, when they are posted, will make obvious who these people are.  The ones who had healthy complexions like the Eades and Nora are those espousing a high-fat diet. It goes very well with some of the anthropological stuff I’ve been working on showing that almost all cultures that eat meaty diets are doing so because they have access to high-fat game.


The Evolution of Lactose Tolerance and My Butter Discoveries

From a BBC documentary called Are We Still Evolving? I learned that after the development of farming there was intense selection in Europe for “lactose tolerance” — meaning the ability to digest lactose as an adult, which requires the enzyme lactase. (The technical name is lactase persistence.) The necessary gene spread rapidly. Now most Europeans have the gene. In Ireland almost everyone has the gene. Mark Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist interviewed on the show, who does research on lactose tolerance, said this:

It’s probably the most advantageous characteristic that Europeans have evolved in the last 30,000 years.. . . The advantage that’s been measured is just incredible, absolutely incredible, how big an advantage it was for these early farmers in Europe.

“Why would drinking milk into adulthood be so strongly selected for?” asked Alice Roberts, the presenter. Thomas replied,

Milk has got lots of energy in it, it’s very nutrient dense, it’s got lots of other goodies, like various vitamins, calcium, and so on. Also, it’s a relatively clean fluid, so it’s much better than drinking stream water or river water or well water or something like that. Another advantage is if you’re growing crops you have a boom and bust in terms of the food supply.

Not a word about butterfat — “lots of energy” is true of all fats. The rapid spread, the “incredible” advantage, suggests that milk supplied something resembling a necessary nutrient. As if everyone had been suffering from scurvy and the new gene allowed them to eat citrus — something like that. Such a gene would spread rapidly.

Does milk supply a necessary nutrient? My results suggest that butter — half a stick (60 g)/day — provides two clear benefits: 1. Better brain function. 2. Less risk of heart disease (probably). As far as I can tell, roughly everyone in America would get these benefits because their diets now lack enough of whatever it is. Both benefits reflect invisible problems. Like everyone else, I had no idea my brain function could be substantially improved and had no idea of my rate of progression (narrowing of arteries) toward atherosclerosis. Only because of unusual tests (the arithmetic test and a “heart scan”) did I notice sudden large improvements when I started eating lots of butter — what you’d expected from addition of a missing necessary nutrient. This explains why Thomas and almost everyone else is unaware of these benefits.

Keep in mind that before I started eating butter, I already ate a high-fat low-carbohydrate diet. Yet I wasn’t getting enough of something in butter. I already ate lots of pork fat. Perhaps the saturated fat in butter is better digested than the saturated fat in pork. Or perhaps the fat profile is better.

If lactose tolerance is so helpful, why are most Asians lactose intolerant? My work suggests two answers: 1. Yogurt. Long ago, Asians ate lots of yogurt. I know the Mongols did. There are present-day indications of this. The Chinese appreciate the value of yogurt more than Americans. Yogurt is more common in Chinese supermarkets than American ones. Yogurt makers are better and more common in China than Europe and America. Lots of Chinese make their own yogurt; as far as I can tell, home yogurt making is more popular in China than America. You can buy a cheap good yogurt maker many places in Beijing, unlike San Francisco. Yogurt provided butterfat. 2. Pork. The Chinese, of course, eat far more pork than Europeans. Unlike cows, pigs supply a cut with a large amount of fat: pork belly. I found it easy to get plenty of pork belly in China and eat it as the main course. Difficulty getting pork belly in the Bay Area is what pushed me to eat butter. This view predicts that European farmers raised more cows than pigs.

Anyway, to summarize, the great advantage conferred by lactose tolerance suggests the great value of something in milk if you eat a European-farmer-like diet. My work supports this; it suggests the crucial ingredient is butterfat. Which many Americans carefully avoid!

Note: The danger posed by the high level of AGEs (advanced glycation endproducts) in butter I don’t know about — but of course this danger has nothing to do with why lactose tolerance was so beneficial. My experience so far (the heart-scan improvement) suggests that that ordinary butter is not “artery-constricting”. Presumably AGEs are formed when milk is pasteurized so I would prefer to eat unpasteurized butter.

How Rare My Heart Scan Improvement?

In 2009, I had a heart scan — a three-dimensional X-ray. The scan was used to calculate an Agatston score, a measure of arterial plaque. Higher scores mean a higher risk of heart attack. A few months after that, I discovered that butter improves how fast I do arithmetic.

Because butter was good for my brain, I started eating half a stick of butter (66 g) every day. Surely the butter was improving overall brain function. The effect of butter on the rest of my body I didn’t know. However, I thought it was highly unlikely that a food that greatly improves brain function is going to damage the rest of the body. The food you eat, after digestion, goes to the whole body (leaving aside the blood-brain barrier). Every part of the body must have been optimized to work well with the same food.

As I have posted earlier, I had a second heart scan, producing a second Agatston score, about a year after the first one. Amazingly, the second score was better (lower) than the first score. The woman in charge of the testing center said this was very rare — about 1 time in 100. The usual annual increase is about 20 percent.

Now I have gotten more information about the annual rate of change in Agatston scores. The graph above (thanks to Harry Rood) shows data from 40 people who listed their scores at the Track Your Plaque site. It is based on pairs of consecutive scores: it plots change versus level (average?). Because some people provided more than two scores, the data allowed 77 points to be plotted. My two scores were 38 (log 38 = 1.58) and 29 (log 29 = 1.46). So the decrease in log units was 0.12. If you look at the graph, you can see what an outlier this is — as I was told, it really is about 1 in 100.

Here we have the conjunction of two unusual things: 1. Eating half a stick of butter per day. Almost no one eats so much butter. 2. An extremely rare drop in the Agatston score over the same period. A principle of reasoning called Reichenbach’s Common Cause Principle says if two rare events might reflect cause and effect, they probably do. You can think of it like this: Lighting doesn’t strike twice in one place for two different reasons. Indeed, there is other evidence that high levels of saturated fat cause heart-scan improvement (even though this contradicts everything you’ve been told). Mozzafarian et al. (2004) found that in postmenopausal women, “a greater saturated fat intake is associated with less progression of coronary atherosclerosis.” So it is quite plausible that my butter intake improved my Agatston score.

Science in Action: Why Energetic?

Last night I slept unusually well, waking up more rested and with more energy than usual.  I slept longer than usual: 7.0 hours versus my usual 5.1 hours (median of the previous 20 days).  My rating of how rested I felt was 99.2% (that is, 99.2% of fully rested); the median of the previous 20 days is 98.8%. Because the maximum is 100%, this is really a comparison of 0.8% (this morning) with 1.2% (previous mornings); and the comparison is not adjusted for the number of times I stood on one leg to exhaustion, which improves this rating. During the previous 20 days I often stood on one leg to exhaustion six times; yesterday I only did it four times. Above all, I felt more energy in the morning. This was obvious. I have just started to measure this.  At 8 am and 9 am, I rate my energy on a 0-100 scale where 50 = neither sluggish nor energetic/energized, 60 = slightly energetic/energized, 70 = somewhat energetic/energized, and 75 = energetic/energized. My ratings this morning were 73 (8 am) and 74 (9 am). The median of my 9 previous ratings is 62. The energy improvement (73/74 vs 62) is why I am curious. I would like to feel this way every morning.

What caused it? I had not exercised the previous day. My room was no darker than usual. My flaxseed oil intake was no different than usual. I had not eaten more pork fat than usual. However, four things had been different than usual:

1. 2 tablespoons of butter at lunch. In addition to my usual 4 tablespoons per day.

2. 0.5-1 tablespoons of butter at bedtime. Again, in addition the usual 4.

3. 1 tablespoon (15 g) coconut butter at bedtime. Part of a longer study of the effect of coconut butter. Gary Taubes suggested this. I had eaten 1 T coconut butter at bedtime 13 previous days. On the first of those 13 days, I had felt a lot more energetic than usual in the morning. On the remaining days, however, the improvement was less clear. I started measuring how energetic I felt in the morning to study this further. Last night was Friday night. On the previous two nights (Wednesday and Thursday) I had not eaten the coconut butter. Maybe absence of coconut butter followed by resumption of coconut butter is the cause.

4. Fresh air and ambient noise. Following a friend’s suggestion, I opened one of my bedroom windows.

My first question is whether the improvement is repeatable. If so, I will start to vary these four factors.







Assorted Links

Assorted Links

Thanks to Craig Fratrik, Tom George and Sean Curley.

The Buttermind Experiment

In August, at a Quantified Self meeting in San Jose, I told how butter apparently improved my brain function. When I started eating a half-stick of butter every day, I suddenly got faster at arithmetic. During the question period, Greg Biggers of genomera.com proposed a study to see if what I’d found was true for other people.

Continue reading “The Buttermind Experiment”

Different Effects of Omega-3 and Omega-6 on Heart Disease

You have probably read hundreds of recommendations to eat more polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which in practice means omega-6 and omega-3. If you shop at Whole Foods, you may see Udo’s Blend, a blend of PUFAs which includes both omega-3 and omega-6, as if someone isn’t getting enough omega-6. It is unquestionable that omega-3 is beneficial but there is plenty of evidence that omega-6 is harmful, starting with the Israeli Paradox. Why are they lumped together?

A just-published paper in the British Journal of Nutrition makes several new points about the relation of PUFAs and heart disease. Its main point is a new look at experiments in which one group was given more PUFAs than another group.  Those experiments — there are only about eight — can be divided into two groups: (a) experiments in which the treated group was given both omega-3 and omega-6 and (b) experiments in which the treated group was given only omega-6. The two groups of experiments seem to have different results. In the “both” experiments the treated group seems to benefit; in the “only omega-6” experiments, the treated group seems to be worse off. Suggesting that omega-3 and omega-6 have different effects on heart disease. They have been lumped together because experiments have lumped them together (varied both at the same time).
Experiments that try to measure the effect of PUFAs usually say they are replacing saturated fats. More PUFAs, less butter. The paper points out that studies of the effect of PUFAs have at least sometimes confounded reduction in saturated fats with reduction in trans fats. Benefits of the change may be due to the reduction in trans fats, not the reduction in saturate fats.

The paper also makes several good points about the Finnish study, a classic in the fat/heart disease literature. Supposedly the Finnish study showed that PUFAs (replacing saturated fats) reduce heart disease. It had hundreds of subjects but they were not randomized separately. The subjects were divided by hospital. Everyone in one hospital got one diet, everyone in a second hospital got a different diet. This meant it was easy for there to be confoundings (i.e., the treatment wasn’t the only difference between the groups). Indeed, there were big differences in consumption of a certain dangerous medication and margarine between hospitals. (Margarine is high in trans fats.)

Perhaps the first author, Christopher Ramsden, who works at NIH, is responsible for the high quality of this paper.
Thanks to Susan Allport.

Food For Thought

A perfectly good Economist article about food and brain function includes the following:

Many studies suggest that diets which are rich in trans- and saturated fatty acids, such as those containing a lot of deep-fried foods and butter, have bad effects on cognition. Rodents put on such diets show declines in cognitive performance within weeks.

Whereas I found butter improved my cognitive performance within a day. And pork fat improved my sleep within a day. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if foods deep-fried in plant oils, such as corn oil, are bad for the brain.