Friday, 31 October 2014

It's Anseranas semipalmata hunting season

The motivation required for me to wake up at 3:30am on a Saturday morning is considerable, so it would seem that I quite like hunting Magpie Geese. The lean, gamey meat that is your prize is hardly a gourmet delight – you either like it or you don’t. The flesh requires considerable cooking smarts to make it palatable and considering it’s the only lean meat I eat these days, I wouldn't waste my time if I didn’t enjoy eating it.

No, it definitely does not taste like chicken.

The trip to the shooting reserve takes only 45 minutes to an hour, stopping briefly at one of the few service stations on the highway for ice and a breakfast that we’ll most likely regret. The only customers you’ll see at that time of the morning are either on their way fishing or shooting, some still inebriated from the night before and quite possibly have gone without sleep altogether. Guns or boats and stupidity don't mix, but unfortunately some people don't get it. Probably because they're stupid.

Of course a boat is a giveaway as to where they are headed, as is the camouflage shirts and the quad-bikes on trailers. We have neither, just a conservative-looking 4x4 with an esky in the tray, but we’re keen to get ahead of the hunters with more money than they know what to do with, so we don’t hang around.

Arriving at what we consider to be a good spot, it is still pitch black, the mosquitoes welcoming us with a frenzied affection. The convoys of headlights tell us we’ll have plenty of company on the reserve but the distinctive orchestra of honking geese tells us there should be plenty to go around. Assuming, of course, they decide to get off their arses and fly.

sunrise over honking waters
The first sign of light reveals a beautiful landscape of long grass covered with a thin layer of mist. You might suspect it a cold, frosty morning, however if it weren't for the mozzies, we’d be wearing a lot less than the long thin pants and shirts we have on. By the time the sun peeks over the horizon, it’ll be roughly 30 degrees (86F) and 85% humidity. By the time we leave around 11am it’ll be closer to 35 (95F). Heat is unimportant when you're having fun.

The weapon of choice is a double barrel (under and over) 12 gauge shotgun. Pump actions and semi-autos were outlawed in the late 90’s, indirectly as a result of the Port Arthur massacre, so gone are the days when six or more shots could be fired in a number of seconds – a good thing for many reasons, in my opinion. 

You get two shots, with roughly 5 seconds to reload, at which point the birds will most likely be out of the 30-50 metre range of the weapon. Geese are not as dumb as they look and will often fly just beyond firing range – you may hear the pellets hitting their wings, but not with enough force to break their stride.
My mate gives me the 'all clear'. Or something.
Regardless of shooting prowess, luck is always required on the reserve because the birds will decide to fly or they won’t – simply sitting in a massive congregation in the middle of the water. Even if they were within range, retrieval would be impossible due to the company they keep. No goose is worth the risk of getting eaten by one of the resident crocodiles that you don't see, but logic would suggest are there. Somewhere.

Our luck is pretty good and we finish with a bag of 23 geese and one duck from four shooters - the bag limit is 10 per shooter so we are well under. The birds are either dead in the air or despatched quickly upon hitting the ground – they do not suffer and are treated with respect.

Unfortunately there are some that will only take the breast meat and perhaps the legs, but we take almost everything, including the heart and gizzard, which make for a tasty stew.

The gizzard (or giblet as we call it) is an interesting organ - a ball of muscle that the birds use to mechanically digest their food. Like other animals, they swallow small rocks and sand to assist in the process, as you can see in this photo:
giblet, sliced open
The geese are either plucked or skinned - the birds are extremely lean, so there will be little to no fat and the skin will not crisp up as well as duck or pork. I'm guessing the calories people would consider them to be very healthy, but I can't see them being sold in supermarkets any time soon given the acquired taste - a gamey flavour and meat that will be tough unless you stew it for hours or lightly grill the breast meat for a few seconds.

I know hunting is stereotypically some macho bullshit thing that can be hard to comprehend for some people, but it's a hobby that we've enjoyed since we were kids. The annual season is only 3 and a bit months long, the meat is shared among family and friends and it's an enjoyable morning out. As long as you avoid the crocs and the stupid people.


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

A born again lipophile, but not actively spreading the Good Word

Luckily for me, this doesn't get you thrown out of the church. Not that there is a Fat Church, but logic or facts aren't important when you're trying to make lazy metaphors. 

"Just read this book."

"Just watch this documentary."

Website comment sections, forums and social media are chocka-block full of similar pleading statements by well-meaning people who just want others to embrace and enjoy the nutrition that has brought them health improvements. The plant people will tell you to “just read the China Study” or “just watch Forks Over Knives”. The calories people might direct you to Super Size Me or the latest nutritional guidelines. For the low carbers, it will most likely be “read Good Calories, Bad Calories” and the paleo mob…well, I struggle keeping track of what they’re up to. I think I understand but then one of their crew will starting talking about early humans farming potatoes and then they just lose me.

All this amounts to a sea of good intentions that I wager will result in only a few drops of conversion. I guess that is OK - the Mormons that cycle around our neighbourhood certainly think so. The nutrition do-gooders may travel to dozens of websites to proclaim the benefits of their particular diet and if they can convert just one lost soul, then I suppose that may be worth the effort. The rest of the non-believers will probably look upon the missionary as a sad, ignorant fool who has been misled by a charlatan guru.

I suspect that I’ve been viewed as this ignorant fool on more than one occasion. For starters, I am not a salesperson, nor do I have an outgoing personality. Many years ago, after earning qualifications in the finance industry, I realised that my employers required me not to help people, but to sell stuff to clients that they clearly did not need. Failure at that career followed soon after.

Similarly, I am no good at selling health benefits to overweight or unhealthy people. I tried a few times early on after my conversion (my rebirth?). My intentions were pure and good – but the response was always an eerie silence and afterward observing the people weighing their nutritionally void, low calorie shit food. I sent them links to websites, to links for books that I’d read and enjoyed…nothing. Why could they not “see” my version of the truth? It was maddening.

Call me a quitter, but I eventually gave up on that too and I’m now much less worried about what people put in their mouths - my care factor as well as my anxiety about being viewed as a weirdo is fairly low these days. It saddens me that they struggle with health and seem unhappy but I also understand that when someone says “just read this book” or “just do this”– it’s about as convincing as a Jehovah’s Witness knocking on your door and asking you to read The Watch Tower. That the book you’re recommending requires them to ignore decades of nutritional dogma doesn't help.
I have a question. Why is Jesus white?
I suppose most people just need to find their particular solution (whatever that may be) themselves and if they want it badly enough, you hope they make an effort to find it. Say what you like about the internet age, but it means information is not hard to come by. Knowing how to look for it and discard the nonsense, is perhaps another matter.

I don’t remember exactly how I came to discover my method of self-nourishment. Always having an interest in human health, I veraciously searched for and read books with titles like “the secret to 6 pack abs” and “the Holy Grail of Body Transformation”. Not surprisingly, some provided helpful tid-bits but most were spruiking the usual rubbish about balancing calorie intake with expenditure and training hard in the gym or in the park. One of the last e-books I read in this vein was in regard to intermittent fasting, so perhaps that was a stepping stone to a diet void of processed carbohydrates.

What I eat isn't really important in this post and I imagine isn't that interesting anyway. I’m an internet nobody, I’ve never been morbidly obese (though I did a good impression of a marshmallow man in my early 20s) and I have little interest in selling or sharing my knowledge to anyone who isn't a member of my close family or friends. Which makes why I enjoy putting my thoughts down on a screen and publishing them for anyone or no-one to read is a bit hard to explain.

As a teenager I would have drowned a bag of cute kittens if it meant I could get the characteristic bicep vein that lean, muscular men had. Visible abdominal muscles were second on the wish list and, being a teenage boy, you can probably guess what body part came an extremely close third.

That it took me roughly 2 decades to discover a method of obtaining 1 & 2 (3 still eludes me, dammit) is a source of annoyance. That the method was so simple adds to the anger about being misled by people paid to tell me how to achieve ultimate health. 

I understand that quite a few of my posts can read as overly obnoxious or sarcastic and I suppose that’s where it stems from. It’s not about the biceps or the abs, it’s about being conned into punishing my internal organs for no reason other than simple incompetence or corruption. That I didn't develop type 2 diabetes over that time, I can only put down to good luck and a particularly hardy pancreas.

I’m sure the anger will subside eventually. Just not yet.
Just read this book. 
Shantaram has no nutritional advice, and quite possibly is a 'true story' based on one man's imagination, but it rates as one of my favourite books. 
 P.S. I first read the term “lipophile” on Peter’s blog in reference to those who love to eat fat, but urban dictionary tells me it is also a term used for someone who is sexually attracted to fat people. Not that there is anything wrong with the second definition, but I use the word in the first context.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Brain food

I sort of understand the lack of interest in Vitamin K. Mention it to the average human and they’ll most likely think you made it up or suspect it is the latest hippy naturopath cure-all sourced from the summit of one particular mountain in the Andes that nobody’s heard of.
What may be surprising to people who get all their advice from mainstream experts is that it is a real thing and that Dane Henrik Dam and American Edward Doisy were awarded a Nobel Prize in 1943 for “discovering” Vitamin K and its chemical structure.
The benefits of torturing chickens
Dam and his mates were studying chickens in the late 1920s and early 30s and feeding them a synthetic diet void of cholesterol, as you do, and they noticed that some of them developed haemorrhages under the skin and had delayed blood clotting. Scientists and their ability to dream up interesting new ways of fucking up animals is probably worth writing a PhD thesis on, but despite the unpleasantness, they eventually figured out that the poor chicks were being deprived of a previously unknown fat soluble vitamin. The called it K because of the Scandinavian and German spelling of koagulation.
For more on the trip down history lane, Dam’s Nobel lecture is worth a read and can be found here. An interesting quote – “Rabbits have been observed to develop the disease only to a moderate degree. These animals as well as rats eat faeces directly from the anus during the night and thereby partially protect themselves against vitamin K deficiency.”
Vitamin K in recent times
New born humans in many countries now get a K-shot in the first week or so of life and suggestions that K will help those at risk of osteoporosis appear to be creeping into mainstream medicine (sort of – more in countries like Japan than elsewhere).
Over 70 years since Dam’s speech and we still don’t know just how many fields that K likes to play in. It is an evolving area of research that is evolving incredibly slowly. The list of K-dependent proteins and lipids has increased over that time, which would suggest that we've seriously underestimated K as a significant player in human health. Vitamins like C are treated like rock star celebrities and K has the reputation as the ‘weird one, who’s probably quite talented, but also a bit vague and weird, so let’s ignore it’.
Sciencey soporific stuff
Vitamin K is a group of fat soluble vitamins, and for soporofic reasons I’ll be brief and say there are two main types, K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 - (menaquinone). K1 is usually sourced from green leafy plants and animals can, if required, convert this to K2 in the gut or other tissues.
K2 is further classified into subtypes and if we ignore the obscure, these are MK-4 and MK-7, where M= menaquinone, K= vitamin K and 4 & 7 = the number of isoprenoid residues in its side chain.
MK-7 can be found in non-animal foods and in massive amounts in a fermented bean concoction  that the Japanese seem to like. MK-4 is from animal products like butter, eggs, cheese, meat and organs.
ApoE and K
All that is terribly fascinating in itself, however during my travels through one of the many ApoE rabbit warrens, I learned that E4 carriers tend to have lower plasma levels of K, than do E3 and E2 carriers. In fact, just like the relationship for ApoE concentration, the levels of K have been observed as follows:
Why that is, is a little tenuous, but it may relate to E4’s binding preference for triglyceride-rich lipoproteins - the same lipoproteins that are most likely to transport fat-soluble vitamins through the body.
E3 and E2 bind preferentially to cholesterol-rich lipoproteins like LDL. Are the ApoE4 whisking away the chylomicrons and the VLDLs before they’ve had a chance to deliver the K to where it can be utilised? I don’t know, but it’s at least possible.
Does it matter what type you eat?
No one seems to agree consistently on what is the best form of K2 to digest, i.e. MK-4 vs MK-7. Research suggests that 7 stays in your system for longer, but others suggest that may be because 4 is readily taken up by the cells that require it. If 4 is required in the brain, as is proposed below, maybe it takes the quickest and shortest route to your grey matter and doesn’t hang around in your blood for long. Speculating is fun when there are so many unknowns.
K is brain food
Canadian Guylaine Ferland, says K’s role extends past coagulation and into the brain and nervous system. If we take it as a given that any research done on rats is not necessarily going to extend to humans, and then sort of ignore that for a minute (ha ha), the studies Ferland references depict a fascinating association between K status and cognition.

Ferland says K plays an important role in modulating enzymes that are vital to the “sphingolipid biosynthetic paythway”. I’m not sure if she made that up, but it sounds intelligent, so I’ll take her word for it.

Sphingolipids are fats that are crucial to cell membranes and are highly concentrated in our nervous system. Two such sphingolipids are Gas6 and Protein S and the good function of these is related to sufficient supply of K.

The type of K that is most present in the rat brain is MK-4 and low levels are associated with poor brain function. 
Source: Ferland
To suggest that association flows through to humans is of course arguable. To then take a gigantic leap of faith and suggest that diseases of the brain are caused by, or at least significantly associated with, low levels of K would be ridiculously premature and most likely obtuse. But it’s worth doing a few humans trials sooner rather than later considering the list of people that can be included in studies that have dementia is not getting any shorter.
Apparent lack of interest
After writing this post, I found that I’m terribly late to the party and there are a lot of people with similar thoughts on the topic. One such person was about 13 years and probably at least 30-50 IQ points ahead of me and made his argument without resorting to indiscriminate swearing.
Kidding of course - Anthony Allison suggested, way back in 2001 that the link is plausible but as far as I’m aware, the number of decent studies done on humans in that time is quite pathetic – patience is not one of my virtues. I’m hoping that isn’t just because the probability of making truck-loads of money from prescribing K to dementia patients is exactly zero.

Making money out of preventative medicine is important
Tin foil hat on for a minute - even if there does prove to be a link between K and brain health in humans, how pissed off would the pharmaceutical companies (and therefore their quislings, the nutritional authorities) be if the answer to reducing rates of dementia was simply to eat more meat, butter, eggs, cheese and fermented foods like natto?
I think the answer to that is “extremely”. You can’t tell people to eat animal products because they’re full of saturated fat and we all know Mrs Evolution invented that as a sick joke on us all. What a bitch.
Obviously the answer should come in a pill. Preferably one that makes a lot of psychopaths rich and has side effects that can be ignored or blamed on the patient’s eroding brain.
Massive amounts of conjecture on my part
Conspiracy theories aside, ApoE4 carriers like me have some issues to worry about. Wondering whether you’ll slide into dementia before or after developing heart disease is not exactly a nice thing to contemplate. Given there has been no level at which Vitamin K2 has proven to be toxic, I would have thought making sure your intake is high would be worth the effort. Whether that means eating plenty of animal products or supplementing with a tablet each day – the down-side appears to be non-existent.
And while it’s tempting to taunt the anti-meat brigade about the apparent association between mental health and not eating animals (or is that just low cholesterol levels, I can’t remember), that’s probably pushing things, even for me. I’m sure they get plenty of K1 or MK-7, which can be converted to MK-4, but it seems like an inefficient way of doing things. A bit like making pretend bacon out of tofu. Just eat the damn pork.
Is this (skyrocketing dementia rates) yet another item to add to the list of things our wonderful mainstream nutrition experts have given us?
Stuff I haven’t even touched on here
The role of K in preventing heart disease is also important and the association is one that appears to be significant. It has also been suggested that if people are supplementing with vitamin D and/or calcium, they’d want to be taking K as well or ‘nasty stuff could happen’. ApoE E4 carriers have the obvious Alzheimer’s risk, but they also have some worries with bone density, another field in which K likes to play.
In summary, K is a bit of a super star substance that we need to take a much closer look at and spend a lot more money on to watch it perform.
TLDRCGAF summary:
·         Vitamin K is important for a number of reasons
·         The well-known reasons are coagulation and bone density
·         The not-so-well-known reason is brain health
·         I’m obviously late to the topic, but it seems the lab geeks have been sitting on this stuff for decades and doing SFA about it.
·         Further human studies are needed to clarify the link, if any, between K and dementia and/or other age-related conditions.
·       Feeding your body and brain some K on a regular basis is probably decent insurance against forgetting your kids’ names when you’re older.
I have a new phone. It is awesome.
Frogs are out, but they refuse to tell me how long the wet season will take to arrive. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Pressure on the Heart

In the last few months I've been watching with interest the stink that Pete Evans has been kicking up in regard to the Australian Heart Foundation's bullshit – it’s very entertaining.
my new man-crush
Pete is somewhat of a minor celebrity in these parts - hell, I even own some of his fry pans, they’re fantastic. He’s taken it upon himself to spread his belief that eating real food might actually be better for you than the processed garbage that the Heart Foundation is advising people to digest.

Crazy, I know, but predictably the experts from nutritionist land have responded by suggesting people who eat real food will be sorry when all of a sudden they develop whole grain and glucose deficiency. Apparently living without canola oil is like driving without your seat belt on. Scary stuff.

A lady by the name of Jesse Reimers started a petition a while ago, demanding that the HF stop the tick program nonsense and it seems like she has a fair amount of support. People power is alive and well.

I find all of this incredibly amusing and bloody good fun. But I've been told more than a few times that I’m a bit weird.

The Heart Foundation are in the process of 'reviewing' their tick program, and you can comment on whether you believe their fairy stories in that survey. That's all very lovely but you don't have to be a total cynic to assume nothing much will come of it. Maybe some more bizarre excuses for pretending sugar is innocuous, but I wouldn't expect anything logical.

Interesting times.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Passive aggressiveness and not sucking at life

I've been a member of a particular gym for many years, but the passive aggressive environment has gradually intensified in direct proportion to my paranoia about being told off for putting a dumbbell down in a manner that the owner disapproves of.

The 'gym rules' are plastered on just about every wall and they're your typical bullshit about not doing stuff that no semi-intelligent person with common sense would do anyway - like grunting loudly and not using a towel. "Do not spit in the water bubbler" was intriguing - a bit like "do not shit in the showers", which is probably equally as important, but a rule they seem to have neglected.

Of course there are the mandatory occupational health and safety (OHS) nonsense rules  - brought about because every business owner is petrified of being sued by their incompetent customers. The rule about wearing covered shoes is a particular non-favourite of mine. The material that covers your toes in a pair of runners/sneakers is approximately 2mm thick and made of polyester or fake leather. The suggestion that it will protect you from injury in the event of a 20kg steel plate falling on it is, quite frankly, totally fucking stupid. I see this is a just a tiny example of the slow extinction of common sense in modern society.

My point, laboured though it is, is that I'm too old and grumpy to put up with crap like that, so I joined a new gym. 

It's a bit light-on in terms of equipment, but has everything I need and rules that I can easily abide by. Namely:
  1. Feel free to drop the weights as hard and as often as you like - they are made of steel and the only thing that will break is the floor or your foot.
  2. If you drop something on your foot, it's your own damn fault.
  3. Sing along to the music.
  4. Have fun but work hard.
  5. If you are sharing the gym with someone else, make eye contact and speak to them so they do not feel like they're invisible.
  6. Don't be a dick.
  7. Rules 1-5 are suggestions only.
No need for mirrors, I know what I look like
Some people like to run for fun. Some people like to sit and watch TV all day. I find both of those uninteresting but everybody has their hobbies and it’s not for me to say whether that hobby is idiotic or not. Even if it obviously is.

Wherever your interests lay, I believe that as a human gets older, the aim should be to get a little more efficient and productive in most things over time. If you’re not, then I figure you’re probably sucking at those things, and potentially sucking at life in general. I like to think I don’t suck as much as I used to, particularly when it comes to my hobby of putting stress on my muscular system. Good stress – not the bad stress that running 42km in 3-4 hours generates*.

2 barbells, 3 sets of dumbells, a squat rack and the bar that runs along the roof are all that I have in my new gym. Which suits me fine because there are 5 exercises that I consider the bare minimum to keeping our bodies used to the idea that all muscles will be utilised on a regular basis and need to be up to the task.
  1. Squats
  2. Deadlifts
  3. Pull-ups
  4. Push-ups/bench press
  5. Dips
Of course you can throw in as many bicep curls or calf raises as you want, but if we're talking about functional strength, i.e. the strength to do our regular tasks with no pain or struggle, then that list of five will do nicely. Obviously you could do them all without weights and just use your body weight, but that's not as much fun.
No treadmills, no elaborate machines that work some obscure muscle while measuring your heart rate. No nonsense.
spot the monkey boy
The mozzies can be a bitch at night, but other than that, this is the most relaxed and comfortable gym I've ever had the pleasure of frequenting. Entry is also free, which is a nice bonus. 

*Marathon runners – that was my imitation of an ignorant prat. I hope you liked it.