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VIDEO: My ‘Safe Starches’ Panel At #AHS12

Safe Starches: Are they Essential to an Ancestral Diet?

The next Ancestral Health Symposium is already being planned for Atlanta, Georgia in August 2013 (#AHS13), but video footage from #AHS12 that took place at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts back in August is now being posted online for everyone to see. They’re doing a great job of releasing about one video every day or two, so don’t miss seeing all of them in the coming weeks at their Vimeo channel. I would post them all here on my blog as they release, but I’ve got a little trip to the land down under coming up that will be keeping me away until early December.

As the moderator of this panel discussion on the hot controversial topic Safe Starches: Are they Essential to an Ancestral Diet? I was pleased with nearly every aspect of how this went. After attending #AHS11 at UCLA, I came home from that experience after absorbing many of the messages I heard there and had one big question I wanted answers to: “Is There Any Such Thing As ‘Safe Starches’ On A Low-Carb Diet?” With lively debate on both sides of this issue in the months that followed, it became obvious this was a topic of great interest amongst members of the ancestral health community which is why I decided to pitch this idea for a panel to the organizing committee for the 2012 event. And I was enormously pleased when they said accepted my panel allowing me to moderate it!

The two obvious members of this panel who were no-brainers to include on it were Paul Jaminet and Dr. Ron Rosedale who perfectly represented the pro and the con positions respectively on “safe starches.” Paul had asked me to include Dr. Cate Shanahan on the panel as well which I thought was a fabulous idea since I had interviewed her previously on my podcast and appreciated her take on nutrition. The final member of the panel was still a toss-up with about a week to go because of a last-minute cancellation. In the end, we had the privilege of including a very prestigious pro-”safe starch” panelist in the great Chris Kresser. All in all, I think these four individuals did an outstanding job articulating the salient points in this debate.

In hindsight, I can say I was disappointed with two primary things about what happened: 1) The unnecessarily aggressive manner that Dr. Rosedale took towards Paul personally in debating the differences in their positions (good thing we had them on opposite ends of the table–but Dr. Rosedale could have been a bit more humble in his presentation rather than patting himself on the back so much in all of his answers) and 2) The unfortunate lack of time at the end for audience Q & A. There were at least 7-8 people at each of the microphones ready to ask questions and we were unfortunately only able to get to one question. It was nice to see the room packed full of people as one of the most well-attended panels of #AHS12. I appreciated seeing all the enthusiasm and curiosity about this topic that I think gets to the heart of a critical debate that needs to take place in this community.

Interestingly, both before and after #AHS12 I saw some open criticism about my presence as moderator of this panel on “safe starches” because my position on the issue as “the low-carb guy” is very much anti-starchy carbohydrates. But anyone who has listened to my podcast interviews with people I disagree with, I always attempt to be fair in my questioning and framing the conversation to allow for the open discussion of ideas allowing the listener to make up their own mind what they believe. Hopefully you sense that as you watch this one-hour video of the panel. Again, I am very grateful to the #AHS12 organizing committee for giving me this great privilege to participate in the program this year. After you watch the video, I’d love to hear your feedback about it in the comments section below.

  • Liz

    Ron Rosedale – his defensive and aggressive attitude very much reminds
    me of those who are anti-cholesterol/anti-fat, they will not be told
    otherwise … he needs to open his mind up. Paul Jaminet’s point of view
    is far more persuasive and makes much more sense.

    • LLVLCBlog

      I certainly think there are people who can articulate the opposite position to Jaminet in a much more tactful way. But I do appreciate the way Jaminet remains professional and willing to listen to the other side. That’s why I shared my disappointment in the style the Rosedale used in my panel discussion. So not cool.

  • abdurbrow

    I personally have found starch to be less of a problem than fructose or sucrose. I just don’t do well with it. However, a 1/2 c. of steel cut oatmeal doesn’t seem to cause a problem especially if I have had some cardio before hand. The other thing that wasn’t mentioned on the panel was whether or not the seed quality made any difference or not. The tubers available to many indigenous populations aren’t the product of major seed producers and are not treated with pesticides. Maybe the starch wouldn’t be as dangerous if it was a closer cousin to these wild plants. I guess what I’m saying is, a starch is not a starch is not a starch. Not all carbohydrates are created equal anymore. What if its not really about the starch, but what is in the plant itself? The Chinese use taro root to treat insulin problems. Its a starch for sure. But I wouldn’t use wheat to treat insulin issues.

    That said, I did agree with Dr. Cate, that easing into a low carb diet was more feasible for me and I experienced less low carb flu. I also found that avoiding ‘goitergens’ was much more important than just keeping my carbs higher. If you find losing weight to be difficult and your body temperature dips in a low carb diet, you may have hidden thyroid problems which can be made worse by many of the popular low carb veggies especially spinach and the cruciferous family. Soy is one of the more well known goitergens. Millet is also one that crops up because sometimes people want to try a gluten free diet, and millet appears to be harmless. Its GF, its low in carbs per cup, its low in sodium (not that I’m on low salt but some people are.) But, guess what? it blocks your own thyroid hormone from doing its job properly.

    The other thing that I do agree with is that a diet high in fat and lower in protein is a better choice. I personally found that my kidneys much preferred a low protein diet. For a time I tried the ‘Protein Power’ diet. It looked great on paper. But, it can be high in purines depending on which protein sources you pick. I wanted that diet to work because I love to eat protein. Its super tasty. However, when you are person that is willing to try low carb, you tend to be willing to try almost anything that will actually work. And for me, protein power just didn’t actually work, even though I did it by the book. That by default, brought me to a high fat, lower carb (I prefer 45-60 grams/day and I’m an active person.) and fairly low protein diet. I really do well with the broth off the animal, extra fat, and plenty of veggies.

    I wish I could go back in time and tell myself 5 years ago to just go high fat. I could have saved some time.

    Jimmy I thought you did a great job as moderator. I think that the true answer to your question: Can starch be safe? Is dependent on the health of the subject. I don’t think that some starch for my nephews who are naturally skinny and extremely healthy, will hurt them. But, excess starch for me is a one way ticket to fat/insulin resistance/diabetes ville.

    Maybe its like you always say: N=1.

    I’m sorry, I think I wrote a novel.

    • LLVLCBlog

      I could not agree more! Well stated.

  • LLVLCBlog

    I just wish there wasn’t such scaremongering about very low-carb diets as if they are somehow “dangerous.” I’ve been eating a 3% carbohydrate (25g daily) diet for six months and have never felt more amazing in my life.

    • http://www.facebook.com/olivia.fischer Olivia Fischer

      Totally Jimmy. The low carb diet that made me feel wonderful, got me pregnant, was the diet that would “retard the fetus” per the scaremongering ob office — they scared the hell out of me. So I went off my diet, felt like I was starving and gained a ton of weight to the point that the doctor wanted me to diet. I still avoided sugar but I essentially “safe starch” gained a good 80lbs. But I know there are hyper nausea cases where women vomit their way through a third to half the pregnancy losing a ton of weight and still deliver healthy babies — they had to have been burning ketones.

      And I think Dr. Rosedale’s entire point was that something *else* was making the patients hypothyroid and it wasn’t the lack of glucose in the diet — which certainly was my personal experience. Now there are different people & metabolisms and I don’t think a cup of rice is what’s killing people, but still would be curious what results Dr. Rosedale would have with the vlc hypothyroid candidates (or if indeed he *has* seen it and treated it by increasing fat and reducing protein).

      • melancholyaeon

        Let’s be clear – the folks reporting thyroid problems are – in the main – crash dieting, heavily restricting calories. It’s the sharp calorie restriction all at once that largely cause the thyroid to malfunction. You can see lots of cases of this on the Atkins community board. Lots of people arrive there doing the “Chet Atkins” diet – low cal, low fat, low carb – and after a few months of that, their thyroids obviously just freak out.

        • LLVLCBlog

          That’s right.

    • NM

      Jimmy, this is precisely why I *appreciate* Rosedale’s no-nonsense approach. I prefer prophetic honesty to mealy-mouthed mood-music. If people have a scaremongering agenda (and for all his polished words, this is *exactly* what the Safe Starchers are doing!) then they deserve to be called out for it – clearly and without “sugar coated” compromise. If some people think that a candy-coated lie is better than the bitter truth, that is their problem, to be honest.

      • LLVLCBlog

        I’m a big fan of telling it like it is, but there is a tact about doing it that doesn’t make you look like a madman.

        • js290

          Sometimes it’s the “madmen” that have the better insights. Highly educaional interview with Dr. Rosedale by Shelly Schlender.

          • http://www.facebook.com/shari.baratono Shari Baratono

            How about the safe starchers believe every bit that they too are also indeed correct, but they supposedly tactfully conveyed this and Rosendale didn’t? Rosendale got excited about his understanding and now, “looks like a madman”? Go back to Webster’s dictionary and define madman. Obviously Dr. Rosendale has dedicated his life to learning and understanding what he knows and is here sharing it with us. Thank you. We should dampen his passion for a “better” discussion? Why does passionate have to be turned into perceived tactlessness when it goes against someone else’s belief. We could leave the fanny packs at home, and have a discussion. Health choices always come back to: How it that working for you? Each of us have personal some answers to this. Emotions aside, this was an excellent talk. It’s lame that it turns into a discussion about HOW it was discussed. How about asking did Paleo people live with emotion? Does history show strong emotioned, passionate people to be helpful? Maybe suggesting castrating emotion is a problem?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jill.mitchell.792 Jill Mitchell

    Excellent video and reactions. Thank you everyone. One topic that I wonder about is soil. Some soil is acidic, some is high in minerals, some is volcanic, some is low in phosphate or iodine etc. This might be a factor in health?

  • abdurbrow

    Soy is a goitergen and an estrogen.

    • http://www.facebook.com/olivia.fischer Olivia Fischer

      Don’t forget “crap” and not safe for human or animal consumption… (Non-GMO/fermented is a different discussion).

  • J Sternfeld

    YAY
    Cate Shannahan and Ron Rosedale!!!!

    I
    grew up on Okinawa, and I can say unequivocally that the traditional Okinawan
    diet is NOT 50% starches. They eat rice in
    amounts similar to a traditional Japanese diet (and mainland Japanese are NOT
    as long-lived as Okinawans) plenty of seafood and chicken, plenty of vegetables
    (including sea vegetables) and plenty of pork. They cook primarily in pork fat. I don’t
    even remember ever being served sweet potatoes there.

    Chris is relying on a study of the Okinawan
    diet done in the early 1950’s when Okinawa was still trying to recover from the
    utter devastation of the island and its agriculture in WWII. At that point Okinawans may have still been
    on a subsistence diet, because the fishing grounds and the agriculture were
    completely destroyed during the war. Rice
    and meat were probably still scarce on the island at that time. Prior to WWII, Okinawans were desperately poor,
    and may not have been able to afford rice, which didn’t grow well there (I do
    remember rice pattys, though). I don’t
    believe that starch was EVER a majority of the Okinawan diet. They also eat sparingly because they ascribe
    to a philosophy of “hara hachi bu”—eating only until satisfied, no more. Very different from gluttonous SAD
    eaters.

    Cate had it right—a lot of Okinawans immigrated to Hawaii, where they adopted the local Pan- Pacific Islanders diet including lots of “unsafe” starchy junk (deep fried foods, noodle dishes, sweetened junk) and they got sick just like everyone else. They did NOT eat that way on Okinawa when I lived there in the 1960’s.

    • NLM

      I also grew up in Okinawa (my mom was Okinawan) and agree with J.Sternfed about Chris’ statement on the “traditional” Okinawan diet in the 50′s . My mother told me that before the war, her family hardly ever had rice, even miso was hard to come by. She took a sweet potato to school for lunch everyday. Many families in her village raised pigs, and would take turn slaughtering a pig and share with the other families. I know this continued into the late 70′s, because remember my uncle saying that it was his turn to kill one of the pigs during one of our visits to mom’s village. I actually don’t remember seeing rice paddys in Okinawa in the 1960-1980. The first time I ever saw one was when I went to mainland Japan. At one family reunion, I remember a conversation about their diet before the war and them laughing about how they used to eat like “prehistoric man”. Haha. Of my mom’s 5 siblings, all of them died in their 90′s, except for my mom and a brother, both moved away from Okinawa (both died at the age of 77).

  • Philis Hileman

    Enjoyed reading of your experiences, abdurbrow. :)

  • NM

    I felt that Rosedale was merely passionate about defending proper science from the, frankly, rather dangerous pseudoscience that was being proposed there by his opponents. Sometimes, when people are trying to provide post-hoc justifications for carb addiction, I *appreciate* the sort of no-nonsense prophetic honesty we see from Dr Rosedale!

    • LLVLCBlog

      I hear ya. Just the perception of his style from the people who heard him in the room was arrogance, condescension and egotistical. I agree he’s a passionate dude about this stuff. There’s a proper balance of taking what you know, sharing it without coming across as a know-it-all, and effectively communicating information that people can absorb and learn from. It’s a delicate balance.

  • Don

    Sorry for the threadjack but want to share.

    I just went back on low carb yesterday morning after a total several month absence. Lots of reasons for it that I won’t go into but like always it took it’s toll – 15 pounds of flab, bad moods, etc.

    So I started back at breakfast yesterday; it was ROUGH for 18 hours…rougher than I recall it ever being…but around noon today I could “feel” ketosis kicking in. If you’ve been there before, you know that feeling at the point your body is shifting over from glucose to fat burn.

    Then this evening, I felt physically WONDERFUL. Clear headed, stable energy (blood sugar finally stabilized). Best of all, it was the night of carry in at work. I brought in a plate full of crisp bacon – it was a hit – and a friend brought some wonderful Jarlesburg cheese dip (shredded Jarlesburg, full fat mayo, a bit of garlic powder…TRY IT). I could feel my body re-energize as I ate a high fat, moderate carb and NO CARB dinner. When I was full, I knew I was full.

    BEST of all, no temptations whatsoever by the various cakes, brownies and cookies laying all around.

    Gonna try to use Jimmy’s new top 12 fat foods list to see if I can be more consistent in my habits than I have been in the past.

    Thanks for listening to my rant!

    • LLVLCBlog

      Keep it going!!!

      • Don

        Thanks, I just forgot to add that I think my problem with sticking with it long term in the past is similar to what I understand your problem was, at least until recently: too much protein and (probably) not quite enough fat. If those ratios are off, I’m convinced from my own experience that you can be extremely low carb and you’ll still stall or even gain.

        Thanks again Jimmy!

    • Marielize

      Loved the debate! I thought dr Rosedale was passionate and made the talk quite lively. Although I eat at the higher end on carbs (fruit, the odd potato and a little rice now and then) I do think Rosedale’s approach would be better for me and increasingly so as I pass the 50yr mark. You did a great job moderating.

      • LLVLCBlog

        Thank you!

  • docww

    Jimmy–I was there and you were fair!! It was a good dialogue but I agree that Ron Rosedale sometimes uses a flamethrower to make a point when a little gentile conversation would work even better. That’s what I loved about the conference–smart people learning from each other. None of us has all the answers. I still haven’t made up my mind on the matter of safe starches. I think genetic makeup plays a role.

    • LLVLCBlog

      I agree this issue is highly individualized based on level of metabolic damage.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1040492698 Andre Chimene

    Jimmy, I was prepared to see a bar fight out of Blazing Saddles. Instead, I got a well moderated discussion all the way through till the last 1 minute. I had read that you had lost control, that Dr. Rosedale was outta control, that Robb Wolf had to leave the room cause it was not a good discussion. This is not what I just witnessed. I am surprised that you feel that Dr. Rosedale was “out of control or a madman”.

    In his defense, I will say this. He is not a saint. He doesn’t pretend to be. Everything he is saying about glucose and insulin, he has been saying for 30 years. Long before Taubes or Wheat Belly or Paleo. He has been one of the few voices of sanity and science fighting the battles of the bulge and ill health and one of the last guys from that generation still standing. The science of today validates the predictions of Dr. Rosedale 30 years ago. His frustrations of being a voice in the wind caused him to depart the US just as the Paleo movement were getting started here 5 years ago. He was tired of “no one ” getting it. Then he comes back to help the science of Paleo, only to find that some “experts” in the Paleo sphere make him out to be a nut job. I was the guy that put out the call to him to return and jump into the fray. It seemed natural that he would find a great base of support in a community that purported to seek science and not dogma.

    I have found, to my astonishment, that the Paleo world is just as dogmatic and close minded as the rest of allopathic medicine. There are great people in the community who seek the truth and do not push an agenda. Yet , too many, in an infantile gesture to kill those whose shoulders they are standing on, trash the science and sanity of the giants who paved the way before them. He predicted this too. He said the Paleo science was built on shifting sand and would not show us how to live a long and healthy post reproductive life.

    I do not regret encouraging him to enter the Paleo World. I am not so smart as others in the community who have brilliant analytical and deconstructive minds. I do, however, learn from my mistakes and replace my lack of intellectual IQ with Common Sense IQ. Dr. Rosedale speaks the truth with no agenda. He has no recent book to sell or clinic to fill. He only speaks the truth and Truth is what works.

    • LLVLCBlog

      Andre, thanks for your insights on a man you know well. I never characterized him as “out of control or a madman” (where did I say this?) but he was coming across in the wrong way. He could have communicated what he was saying without the contempt in his voice and face. I know what he was saying but you attract more flies with honey than vinegar.

  • http://twitter.com/T4T3D Paul

    Hi Jimmy

    I enjoyed the video and would like to thank you for doing a great job. I like Ron Rosedale, but I am not convinced that a low T3 (with a normal TSH) is always a good thing. I have attached a link to a study of heart disease patients for whom a low T3 was the highest independent predictor of death. http://www.circ.ahajournals.org/content/107/5/708.full Yawn Yawn I got ill when I went VLC (I am hypothyroid) and I think RR needs to dig a bit deeper yet.

    • LLVLCBlog

      I don’t think VLC is an issue once you are fully keto-adapted. It can take months.