My Highlights from the Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS or AHS11) 2011 - Aspire Natural Health

My Highlights from the Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS or AHS11) 2011

I was lucky enough to attend the Ancestral Health Symposium this year in Los Angeles, and even more honored to be able to be one of the presenters.

The Ancestral Health Symposium is the first conference to be devoted to the Paleo diet and lifestyle.

Here are some of the notes I jotted down at the conference. My notes are kind of sparse for the first day where I mostly sat and listened, and got better the second day when I thought to write stuff down:

Day 1:

Boyd Eaton, PhD – Ancestral Health: Past, Present & Future

-Of the 20 foods with the highest antioxidant intake 13 are fruits, 6 are vegetables, 1 is a nut, and 0 are grains

Mark Cohen, PhD – The effects of cultural evolution on human health

-Foraging theory (calories required to get calories) explains a lot of animal behavior. We try to use the least amount of calories to get the most calories. Obviously this ratio is totally screwed up in our society.

-Permanent habitation is strongly linked with hookworm parasitic load. More hookworms = more anemia, and this is evident in skeletal remains.

Guy-Andre Pelouze, MD – Paleodiet and atheroma: A cardiovascular surgeons perspective

-26 nanometers is the space between endothelial cells (the cells that line your blood vessels). So cholesterol (technically LDL particles) must be 25nm or less to cause plaques. It’s not the amount that matters, as much as the size.

Robb Wolf – The Paleo Solution

-Cured his Ulcerative Colitis with a Paleo (no grain, no dairy) diet.

-The Paleo movement must be exceedingly careful not to fall into dogmatism. We must stay open minded and change when the evidence demands it.

-We know the Paleo diet is very effective in improving people’s health, but we are undoubtedly wrong about the how of why it works.

Richard Jacobsen – Vitamin D & Disease of aging

-Because of changes that occur in aging skin, skin production of Vitamin D begins to decline around age 50 and is very low by age 70.

Emily Deans, MD – Resiliency: Human friendly pathways to optimal health

-Yellow dye #5 (tartrazine) given to kids with ADHD showed a tremendous increase in zinc they were urinating out (so loss of zinc)

-Prisoners given extra nutrients showed a 30% drop in violence.

Dr. BG and Tim Gerstmar, ND – The Rainforest in your gut

This was our talk, and it seemed well received.

-Key point: You must have healthy gut flora to be healthy. If you have significant health problems and or gut problems you probably have unhealthy gut flora. See our talk for some tips/suggestions on how to improve it.

Michael Eades, MD – Protein Power

-Isotope studies of early humans suggestion Homo Sapiens hunter gatherers ate plenty of animal protein.

Chris Masterjohn – Heart disease & molecular degeneration

-Those with familial hypercholesterolemia (a genetic mutation) do have a higher risk of heart disease. Those with a different mutation that results in very low cholesterol do have a lower risk of heart disease. But the study of these two populations don’t tell us anything about “normal” people with cholesterol that falls in “normal” ranges.

-It’s not about the concentration (or amount) of cholesterol, it’s about oxidized cholesterol

Day 2:

Robert Lustig, MD – The trouble with fructose: A Darwinian perspective

-Leptin is a hormonal signal from yoru fat cells that tells your body how much to eat and how much to move. If you are leptin deficient your brain will drive you to eat more and move less. Most of us are not leptin deficient but leptin resistant. Insulin is intimately tied to this. Get insulin levels down and leptin resistance improves.

-Dr. Lustig has used the drug octreotide with some patients – some with brain damage, others without – to reduce insulin levels and restore leptin sensitivity

-High insulin = insulin resistance & leptin resistance = weight gain

-High fructose intake = (hepatic) insulin resistance

-The original Gatorade was an oral rehydration solution – glucose, sodium, water – and it didn’t taste very good. When Pepsi bought Gatorade they had to make it more tasty so they added a lot of high fructose corn syrup and got Michael Jordan to promote it. If you’re an athlete or work out intensly Gatorade can be okay for you. If you’re not, don’t drink Gatorade.

Mat Lalonde – An Organic Chemists Perspective on Paleo

-A huge smackdown on the Paleo community for using a lot of correlation (A is associated with B) as if it was causation (A causes B)

-“Be honest about the limitations of the science your are quoting”

-Lectins are largely destroyed by cooking to 100 C

-“There has been insufficient time and evolutionary pressure for Homo Sapiens to fully adapt to seed (grain) consumption.”

-Tolerance to grains is a bell curve – some people are very tolerant of grains, some people are very intolerant of grains, and the bigger middle is mixed with varying degrees of partial tolerance / intolerance.

-If humans were evolved to eat meat we would have claws and sharp teeth. Our tools are our brain  and hands, they have shaped our evolution.

Mark Sisson – The Lost Art of Play

-Hunter Gatherers generally spent about 3-5 hours daily gathering food, 3 hours attending to other basic needs, 10 hours sleeping / resting, and 6 hours of leisure time (play, music, dance, art, etc.)

-We were “made” to have plenty of play

-Play = non-attachment to the outcome. You enjoy the activity for the activity. “Wasting time”

-Job = attachment to outcome. The activity is only important for the outcome it produces.

-Centenarians top longevity secrets

  1. Go with the flow
  2. Preserve a youthful spirit

-Take play breaks – 5 minutes at a time.

-Workout to support your ability to play. Mark Sisson trains only so that he has the strength, stamina, and resiliency (protection from injury) to do the “play” activities that he wants to do like paddle boarding, ultimate frisbee, etc.

Nora Gedgaudas – Primal Mind: Diet and mental health

-There is no mind-body connection because there is no separate mind or separate body. There is just one bodymind. “Your body is your subconscious mind” Candace Pert

-Nothing is more destabilizing to the brain than blood sugar swings (hypoglycemia and diabetes)

-Chronic blood sugar surges lead to magnesium wasting (excreted in the urine). Magnesium deficiency leads leads to hampered ability to engage the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and therefore excess sympathetic nervous activity (fight or flight).

-Our prehistoric ancestors weren’t making food choices to maximize health, they were making food choices to avoid starvation.

-Fat is critical for normal neurologic development. It should be a crime to give pregnant woman, babies, toddlers, children, and teens low fat diets.

-Caloric restriction with a nutrient dense diet has shown very positive results in improving memory, overall brain function and healthy aging.

Tom Naughton – Science for Smart people

-Everyone needs basic logical scientific thinking to help them understand the mass of conflicting health info that is out there.

-There are two types of studies:

  1. Observational studies – these are NOT experiments. It is just observing something. “People who ate more fruit were sicker or healthier or…” These studies can ONLY show correlation, they cannot prove anything.
  2. Clinical trials – these are experiments. Give something and track the effect. “The group that received extra fruit became sicker or healthier or…” Can prove causation (which must be backed up by further validating trials)

-When you see a health claim made, you must check and see if it’s from an observational study (the claim cannot be taken seriously, it might be true but we don’t know) or from a clinical trial (much more likely to be worth listening to).

-80% of the results from observational studies are wrong. 20% of the results from clinical trials are wrong.


  1. Laymen’s terms – worthwhile, meaningful
  2. Scientific terms – more than a 95% chance that the results (no matter how large or small) were not caused by chance

Vivian Shelton – Evolutionary Bariatrics

-The standard bariatric diet post surgery is protein, veggies, fruit, other carbs last and only if you have room, no sugar, and a vitamin. This is quite similar to a Paleo diet.

John Durant’s – A Brief History of Zoos

-My take away: Zoos should be designed for the animals sensibilities not human ones

Andreas Eenfeldt, MD – Evolution of a diet revolution

-The obesity epidemic has largely occurred in the past 25 years.

-Up to 23% of Sweded are reducing carbs and moving toward a low carb, high fat (LCHF) diet – rich in meats, vegetables, some fruit, high fat dairy – after the highest medical board in Sweden reviewed the medical evidence and found benefit and no harm from doing so.

-There is no link between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease

-Of the 14 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing low carbohydrate diets to low fat diets, 14 showed superior results from the low carbohydrate diets.

-There were 30 million diabetics in the world in 1985. It’s projected that in 2030 there will be 438 million diabetics in the world.

-One of the biggest problems with the low carb movement has been fake foods – low carb pasta, low carb bread, etc. EAT REAL FOOD.

-A trial of a popular low carb pasta showed EXACTLY the same blood sugar response to eating it and eating a regular high carb pasta. In other words, it’s a scam.

Doug McGuff, MD – Body by Science

-Glucose is both a fuel and a poison. We need just enough, too much damages our cells. So our body stores excess as fat.

-Intensity of exercise is perhaps the most critical factor in getting benefit from exercise.

-High intensity training (HIT) stimulates ‘active genes’

-Use HIT to create strength and conditioning. Then go out and pursue the physical skills you want more safely and effectively.

-You cannot ultimately exercise your way out of a bad diet

Erwan LaCorre – MovNat: Evolutionarily Natural Fitness

-Exercise deficiency produces a dysfunction in gene expression

-When we don’t move we don’t look good, we don’t feel good, and we don’t move well.

-Are we physically devolving?

-How do other animals get and stay fit? They move naturally (the way they were “designed” to).

-There is more to building a healthy body than just changing it’s shape

-With gym workouts people get bored. We need varied stimulus.

-Move naturally. Do what little kids do (not play video games!).

-Natural movements – walk, run, jump, balance, throw, carry, etc.

-Pullups in the gym do not necessarily translate into real world climbing skills. In “real life” you won’t have to do pullups, but you will have to climb something.

In conclusion this was a great seminar! A huge thank you to all the volunteers, presenters and attendees that made this happen, you rock!

To all the people I met, you were awesome and I can’t even start to remember all your names.


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