I do recall making at least one mistake. When discussing heart attacks,I said "atrial fibrillation" when I meant "ventricular fibrillation".
Given the difficulty of growing rice in most places, and hand milling it, the modern widespread consumption of white rice in Asia must be a 20th century phenomenon, originating in the last 20-100 years depending on location. Therefore, white rice consumption does not predate the emergence of the "diseases of civilization" in Asia.
In the book Western Diseases: Their Emergence and Prevention, there are several accounts of traditional Asian diets I find interesting.
Taiwan in 1980
The staple constituent of the diet is polished white rice. Formerly in the poorer areas along the sea coast the staple diet was sweet potato, with small amounts of white rice added. Formerly in the mountains sweet potato, millet and taro were the staple foods. During the last 15 years, with the general economic development of the whole island, white polished rice has largely replaced other foods. There is almost universal disinclination to eat brown (unpolished) rice, because white rice is more palatable, it bears kudos, cooking is easier and quicker, and it can be stored for a much longer period.
Traditionally, coronary heart disease and high blood pressure were rare, but the prevalence is now increasing rapidly. Stroke is common. Diabetes was rare but is increasing gradually.
China is a diverse country, and the food culture varies by region.
Snapper (1965)… quoted an analysis by Guy and Yeh of Peiping (Peking) diets in 1938. There was a whole cereal/legume/vegetable diet for poorer people and a milled-cereal/meat/vegetable diet for the richer people.
Symptoms of vitamin A, C and D deficiency were common in the poor, although coronary heart disease and high blood pressure were rare. Diabetes occurred at a higher rate than in most traditionally-living populations.
On the Japanese island of Okinawa, the traditional staple is the sweet potato, with a smaller amount of rice eaten as well. Seafood, vegetables, pork and soy are also on the menu. In Akira Kurosawa’s movie Seven Samurai, set in 16th century mainland Japan, peasants ate home-processed millet and barley, while the wealthy ate white rice. Although a movie may not be the best source of information, I assume it has some basis in fact.
White Rice: a Traditional Asian Staple?
It depends on your perspective. How far back do you have to go before you can call a food traditional? Many peoples' grandparents ate white rice, but I doubt their great great grandparents ate it frequently. White rice may have been a staple for the wealthy for hundreds of years in some places. But for most of Asia, in the last few thousand years, it was probably a rare treat. The diet most likely resembled that of many non-industrial Africans: an assortment of traditionally prepared grains, root vegetables, legumes, vegetables and a little meat.
Please add any additional information you may have about traditional Asian diets to the comments section.
Investigators have noted repeatedly that obese people have a lower blood concentration of a number of nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin K, several B vitamins, zinc and iron (1). Although there is evidence that some of these may influence fat mass in animals, the evidence for a cause-and-effect relationship in humans is generally slim. There is quite a bit of indirect evidence that vitamin D status influences the risk of obesity (2), although a large, well-controlled study found that high-dose vitamin D3 supplementation does not cause fat loss in overweight and obese volunteers over the course of a year (3). It may still have a preventive effect, or require a longer timescale, but that remains to be determined.
Hot off the Presses
A new study in the journal Obesity, by Y. Li and colleagues, showed that compared to a placebo, a low-dose multivitamin caused obese volunteers to lose 7 lb (3.2 kg) of fat mass in 6 months, mostly from the abdominal region (4). The supplement also reduced LDL by 27%, increased HDL by a whopping 40% and increased resting energy expenditure. Here's what the supplement contained:
Vitamin A(containing natural mixed b-carotene) 5000 IU
Vitamin D 400 IU
Vitamin E 30 IU
Thiamin 1.5 mg
Riboflavin 1.7 mg
Vitamin B6 2 mg
Vitamin C 60 mg
Vitamin B12 6 mcg
Vitamin K1 25 mcg
Biotin 30 mcg
Folic acid 400 mcg
Nicotinamide 20 mg
Pantothenic acid 10 mg
Calcium 162 mg
Phosphorus 125 mg
Chlorine 36.3 mg
Magnesium 100 mg
Iron 18 mg
Copper 2 mg
Zinc 15 mg
Manganese 2.5 mg
Iodine 150 mcg
Chromium 25 mcg
Molybdenum 25 mcg
Selenium 25 mcg
Nickel 5 mcg
Stannum 10 mcg
Silicon 10 mcg
Vanadium 10 mcg
Although the result needs to be repeated, if we take it at face value, it has some important implications:
- The nutrient density of a diet may influence obesity risk, as I speculated in my recent audio interview and related posts (5, 6, 7, 8, 9).
- Many nutrients act together to create health, and multiple insufficiencies may contribute to disease. This may be why single nutrient supplementation trials usually don't find much.
- Another possibility is that obesity can result from a number of different nutrient insufficiencies, and the cause is different in different people. This study may have seen a large effect because it corrected many different insufficiencies.
- This result, once again, kills the simplistic notion that body fat is determined exclusively by voluntary food consumption and exercise behaviors (sometimes called the "calories in, calories out" idea, or "gluttony and sloth"). In this case, a multivitamin was able to increase resting energy expenditure and cause fat loss without any voluntary changes in food intake or exercise, suggesting metabolic effects and a possible downward shift of the body fat "setpoint" due to improved nutrient status.
Does this mean we should all take multivitamins to stay or become thin? No. There is no multivitamin that can match the completeness and balance of a nutrient-dense, whole food, omnivorous diet. Beef liver, leafy greens and sunlight are nature's vitamin pills. Avoiding refined foods instantly doubles the micronutrient content of the typical diet. Properly preparing whole grains by soaking and fermentation is equivalent to taking a multi-mineral along with conventionally prepared grains, as absorption of key minerals is increased by 50-300% (10). Or you can eat root vegetables instead of grains, and enjoy their naturally high mineral availability. Or both.
Nitrate (NO3) is a molecule that has received a lot of bad press over the years. It is thought to promote digestive cancers, in part due to its ability to form carcinogens when used as a preservative for processed meat. Because of this (1), nitrate was viewed with suspicion and a number of countries imposed strict limits on its use as a food additive.
But what if I told you that by far the greatest source of nitrate in the modern diet isn't processed meat-- but vegetables, particularly leafy greens (2)? And that the evidence linking exposure to nitrate itself has largely failed to materialize? For example, one study found no difference in the incidence of gastric cancer between nitrate fertilizer plant workers and the general population (3). Most other studies in animals and humans have not supported the hypothesis that nitrate itself is carcinogenic (4, 5, 6), but rather that they are only carcinogenic in the context of processed meats due to the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines. This, combined with recent findings on nitrate biology, has changed the way we think about this molecule in recent years.
A New Example of Human Symbiosis
In 2003, Dr. K. Cosby and colleagues showed that nitrite (NO2; not the same as nitrate) dilates blood vessels in humans when infused into the blood (7). Investigators subsequently uncovered an amazing new example of human-bacteria symbiosis: dietary nitrate (NO3) is absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream and picked up by the salivary glands. It's then secreted into saliva, where oral bacteria use it as an energy source, converting it to nitrite (NO2). After swallowing, the nitrite is reabsorbed into the bloodstream (8). Humans and oral bacteria may have co-evolved to take advantage of this process. Antibacterial mouthwash prevents it.
Nitrate Protects the Cardiovascular System
In 2008, Dr. Andrew J. Webb and colleagues showed that nitrate in the form of 1/2 liter of beet juice (equivalent in volume to about 1.5 soda cans) substantially lowers blood pressure in healthy volunteers for over 24 hours. It also preserved blood vessel performance after brief oxygen deprivation, and reduced the tendency of the blood to clot (9). These are all changes that one would expect to protect against cardiovascular disease. Another group showed that in monkeys, the ability of nitrite to lower blood pressure did not diminish after two weeks, showing that the animals did not develop a tolerance to it on this timescale (10).
Subsequent studies showed that dietary nitrite reduces blood vessel dysfunction and inflammation (CRP) in cholesterol-fed mice (11). Low doses of nitrite also dramatically reduce tissue death in the hearts of mice exposed to conditions mimicking a heart attack, as well as protecting other tissues against oxygen deprivation damage (12). The doses used in this study were the equivalent of a human eating a large serving (100 g; roughly 1/4 lb) of lettuce or spinach.
Nitrite is thought to protect the cardiovascular system by serving as a precursor for nitric oxide (NO), one of the most potent anti-inflammatory and blood vessel-dilating compounds in the body (13). A decrease in blood vessel nitric oxide is probably one of the mechanisms of diet-induced atherosclerosis and increased clotting tendency, and it is likely an early consequence of eating a poor diet (14).
The Long View
Leafy greens were one of the "protective foods" emphasized by the nutrition giant Sir Edward Mellanby (15), along with eggs and high-quality full-fat dairy. There are many reasons to believe greens are an excellent contribution to the human diet, and what researchers have recently learned about nitrate biology certainly reinforces that notion. Leafy greens may be particularly useful for the prevention and reversal of cardiovascular disease, but are likely to have positive effects on other organ systems both in health and disease. It's ironic that a molecule suspected to be the harmful factor in processed meats is turning out to be one of the major protective factors in vegetables.
Grain fermentation is widespread in Africa and is probably nearly as old as agriculture on the continent. The nutritional importance of fermentation is suggested by the amount of time and effort that many African cultures put into it, when they could save themselves a lot of trouble by simply soaking and cooking their grains.
Ogi is a common West African porridge that's eaten as a staple food by people of all ages. It's even used as a weaning food. It's made in essentially the same manner from corn, sorghum or millet.
Whole grain is soaked in water for one to three days. It's then wet milled, mixed with water and sieved to remove a portion of the bran. Extra bran is fed to animals, while the white, starchy sediment is fermented for two to three days. This is then cooked into a thin or thick porridge and eaten.
South America: Pozol
At first glance, some people may think I left the 'e' off the word 'pozole', a traditional Mexican stew. However, pozol is an entirely different beast, an ancient food almost totally unknown in the US, but which fueled the Mayan empire and remains a staple food in Southeastern Mexico.
To make pozol, first the corn must be 'nixtamalized': whole kernels are boiled in a large volume of water with calcium hydroxide (10% w/v). This is a processing step in most traditional South American corn recipes, as it allows a person to avoid pellagra (niacin deficiency)! The loosened bran is removed from the kernels by hand.
The kernels are then ground into dough, formed into balls and placed into banana leaves to ferment for one to 14 days. Following fermentation, pozol is diluted in water and consumed raw.
Europe: Sourdough Bread
Sourdough bread is Europe's quintessential fermented grain food. Before purified yeast strains came into widespread use in the 20th century, all bread would have been some form of sourdough.
Although in my opinion wheat is problematic for many people, sourdough fermentation renders it more nutritious and better tolerated by those with gluten/wheat sensitivity. In an interesting series of studies, Dr. Marco Gobbetti's group, among others, has shown that fermentation partially degrades gluten, explaining the ability of fermentation to decrease the adverse effects of gluten in those who are sensitive to it (3). They even showed that people with celiac disease can safely eat wheat bread that has been long-fermented with selected bacteria and yeasts under laboratory conditions (4). Rye contains about half the gluten of bread wheat, and is generally nutritionally superior to wheat, so sourdough rye is a better choice in my opinion.
To make sourdough bread, first the dry grains are ground into flour. Next, the flour is sifted through a screen to remove a portion of the bran. The earliest bread eaters probably didn't do this, although there is evidence of the wealthy eating sifted flour in societies as old as ancient Egypt and ancient Rome. I don't know what the optimum amount of bran to include in flour is, but it's not zero. I would be inclined to keep at least half of it, recognizing that the bran is disproportionately rich in nutrients.
Next, a portion of flour is mixed with water and a "sourdough starter", until it has a runny consistency. The starter is a diverse culture of bacteria and yeast that is carefully maintained by the bread maker. This culture acidifies the batter and produces carbon dioxide gas. The mixture is allowed to ferment for 8-12 hours. Finally, flour and salt are added to the batter and formed into dough balls. These are allowed to ferment and rise for a few hours, then baked.
I've tried making ogi (millet) and pozol, and I have to admit that neither attempt was successful. Pozol in particular may depend on local populations of bacteria and yeast, as the grains' microorganisms are killed during processing. However, I do eat fermented grains regularly in the form of homemade brown rice 'uthappam' and sourdough buckwheat 'crepes'. The buckwheat crepes are tasty and easy to make. I'll post a recipe at some point.
The first two recipes are from the FAO publication Fermented Cereals: a Global Perspective (5).
You bet it is! Bicycling is one of the best possible exercises for burning calories. Whether it is on a stationary bike in a gym, at home or riding outdoors, riding a bicycle burns more calories than almost any other exercise in a given amount of time. On top of that bicycle riding is a lot more fun than most other exercises.
Bicycling is also much more user friendly than most forms of exercise. It is not a high impact sport that that wears on joints like running or many aerobic exercises. It is even an exercise that can be enjoyed after hip or knee replacements.
The longer you stay at it the more calories you burn. The amount of calories burned bicycling or any other exercise, depends on the time you spend at the exercise along with your intensity. This is a great plus for bicycling because it is very easy to continue bicycling for an hour or more. The longer you stay at it the more calories you burn.
Most of the bicyclists I know can easily ride for two hours or more. Some of my wonderful fanatic friends are randonneures. Their rides are anywhere from 60 to 750 miles at a time. These folks ride day and night to reach their goals.
Talk about long rides, I recently met a very nice young lady on the University of Texas, Austin, bicycle team and they just completed a ride from Austin, TX to Anchorage Alaska and back in eighty days. They raised over $250,000 for cancer research.
Then there is the Ride Across America (RAAM) from Oceanside, CA to Atlantic City, NJ every year. This is a truly amazing race. The 8 person men's team completed it in 5 days and 16 minutes with an incredible average speed of 22.42 mph. The solo men's race was won in 8 days and 20 minutes with an also incredible average speed of 14.38 mph.
Those riders are incredible! I'll bet they can tell you about calories burned bicycling.
Join a Bicycle Club
Join a bicycle club and you will meet some very interesting people. Or join the CelebrateCycling.com community to meet other bicyclists living near you. Don't worry about that little bicycle seat, you'll soon get used to it. We all did.
Most riders started out with short rides and slowly increased so that now bicycling has become part of their lives. Many of them join clubs or groups where they enjoy long weekend rides with their friends on peaceful country roads. When I started, I thought 10 miles was a big deal but today a 30 mile ride after work twice a week is my norm. I also try to get a longer ride in on the weekend.
While they are at it they burn calories galore. Let's look at a list of the amount calories a 200 pound person burns at various activities in one hour to see how bicycling compares:
Bicycling for one hour at 12 mph = 725 calories
Running for one hour at 6 mph (10 min mile) = 908 calories
Basketball game for one hour = 725 calories
Rowing (Moderate) for one hour = 862 calories
Jump Rope (Moderate) for one hour = 908 calories
Aerobics (General) for one hour = 544 calories
Weight Lifting (Moderate) for one hour = 275 calories
As you see, bicycling is right up there with the rest and this list does not take into account headwinds and hills. They can easily increase the calories you burn bicycling.The real reason bicycling is such a great way to burn calories is that outdoor bicycling is so enjoyable that it beckons you to return. There is always a new landscape to look at and a new hill to conquer. There are friends to gab with and new routes to explore. Bicycle riding is simply fun.
Bicycling is great, but you should also do something else. Bicycling is a great exercise for the lower back and all of your leg muscles, heart and circulation, but it does not do much for your abs, chest, arms and upper back.
Spending a little time on the rest of your body will work wonders. If you have already conditioned your body to the discipline of bicycling, it is ready for some upper body work.
Bicycling groups and clubs have members who are all sizes and shapes, but it is easy to recognize those who combine cycling, along with some weights and core body exercises like palates or yoga. They look great and have the complete sculpted bodies we all wish we had.
Lose Weight While Gaining Strength And Form
We all know that exercise is important if we want to lose weight the right way. Burning those calories bicycling is a great way to start, but we need a little more. We need to burn fat while building lean muscle mass to lower our Body Mass Index (BMI). It would seem like eating less and exercising more is the right formula, but it may not be.
Depending on what we currently eat, we may need to exercise more AND eat more. Our bodies are very complex machines. If we exercise at even moderate intensity for more than an hour, we need to eat while we are exercising.
Even if we carbo loaded for two days before our exercise, our blood and liver only store an hour and a half of energy for a trained athlete. Once we go beyond an hour our tank starts to run dry and we need a refill. Passing an hour and a half, we start to go into a hypoglycemic state where runners hit the wall and cyclists bonk. Neither one is any fun.
Riding a bike beyond an hour and a half without additional food is self defeating. Not only are we out of energy and wobbly, but we could be burning up some of that new lean muscle mass that we have worked so hard to build.
10,000 Calories a Month! Keep at it! The calories you burn bicycling can easily add up to 10,000 a month or more. Wouldn't that be great?
If we keep this up, we will all be tri-athletes before we know it.