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Archive for October, 2013

Abdominal part 2

Last week we talked a little about certain myths that exist around the abdominal and about what the abdominal really is. This time we will talk about how to properly train the abdominal and things you shouldn´t be doing, like for example sit-ups.

Before talking about sit-ups, I first have to talk a little about the lower back, so that everyone understands what I will be saying later on in this blog.

As most people know, the back is made up of vertebrae and in between these vertebrae we have discs. A herniation occurs when a disc comes out posteriorly (it can also come out anteriorly but this is very rare). The bad thing of a herniation is when it ¨pinches¨ a nerve, this can lead to the terrible ¨sciatica pain¨. Well, recent studies have shown that a herniation is almost impossible without full flexion of the back, to be exact you need a compressive load and flexion (1). This is where it gets interesting: a compressive load doesn´t have to be produced by an external weight, like for example carrying a backpack, but compressive load is also produced by our own muscle!!

Every time a muscle contracts, it produces a compressive load somewhere in the body. That is normal but some exercises produce more than others and the traditional full sit-up imposes approximately 3300 N of compression load on the spine (2), you might think this is not a lot but the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has set the action limit for low back compression at 3300 N (3); repetitive loading above this level is linked with higher injury rates in workers!! So if you take into account that when performing a sit-up you are in flexion, and then the compression force produced by the exercise, you realize just how bad sit-ups really are. A curl-up, for example, produces a compression force of 2009 N (2) but the good thing is that with a curl-up you don´t really flex your back. But even a curl-up really doesn´t work the abdominal the way it is supposed to. So how do you really train the abdominal? Let´s first explain what the abdominal really does.

The main purpose of the abdominal is not to flex the body, most of  us think that is the main purpose and that is why we have always done curl-ups and sit-ups and other flexion exercises, but it really isn´t. The main purpose of the abdominal is to transmit forces produced in our hips to our shoulder, or the other way around, and it does this by preventing as little movement as possible and maintaining a stiff torso. For example, if a sprinter didn´t have a stiff torso he would lose energy, that is why most sprinters run with very little motion in the spine (Michael Johnson, Usain Bolt) and have a great abdominal. There are of course exceptions, if your job or your physical activity requires a lot of flexion then maybe you should train with curl-ups and sit ups, but very few people have those kinds of activities. So to train the abdominal we should be ¨straight¨. For example, most people don´t know this but, when you are doing push-ups your abdominal is working and it only produces a compression force of 1838 N on the back (2).

With this information you should be able to think of some good abdominal exercises, but just in case I will name some. These exercises are not for everybody because some of them are quite hard, but even the hard ones can be made easy. You just have to remember that in all the exercises there should be spine stability, meaning there should not be any movement in the spine. Let us take an example of a hard exercise that can be made easy: the plank on the ground. This is quite hard but can be done on the wall standing up, which is much easier and for beginners. So let´s start listing a couple of good abdominal exercises. I will just mention four. These exercises are quite hard and are not for beginners.

  1. Planks: You are in a typical push-up position but instead of resting on your hands, you rest on your forearms. In that position, squeeze your ass as hard as possible, and at the same time try to bring your elbows back towards your legs. You are not actually moving your elbows, you are just producing a force without movement. You should really feel it in your abdominal.
  2. Side bridge: this one is hard to describe so I add a link so that you can take a look at it.
  3. Stir the pot: this is a very hard exercise. You are in a plank position but your forearms are on a fitball. From this position you make circles with your arms. The important thing here is that there should not be any movement in your spine. Everything comes from your arms and shoulders:
  4. Medicine ball tosses are an excellent progression to power and speed strength. Quick catch and throw sequences are a form of plyometric training to enhance the elastic energy storage and recovery system of the abdominal wall. The important thing with medicine ball tosses is that the hip and the shoulder move at the same time. This video explains 3 medicine ball tosses perfectly:

And to finish off, I will recommend this video where Dr. Stuart Mcgill explains different exercises and basically everything I have written about in this blog:  I highly recommend you guys watch this one, it´s only 5 minutes long!!


  1. Callaghan JP, Mcgill S. Intervertebral disc herniation: Stuides on a porcine model exposed to highly repetitive flexion/extension motion with compressive force. Clinical Biomechanics 2001, 16(1):28-37.
  2. Axler C, Mcgill S. Low back loads over a variety of abdominal exercises: Searching for the safest abdominal challenge. Med Sci.Sports.Ex 1997,29(6):804-11.
  3. The National Institude for Occupational Safety and Health 1981.


Abdominal, I don´t think there is a more popular muscle group than this one. Everyone is obsessed with it. But why this obsession? And are they really that important?

First, let me describe what the abdominal muscle group is. The abdominal muscle group is composed of:

  1.  Rectus abdominis:  this is a muscle that goes from your sinfisis pubis, pubic crest and pubic tubercle, to the xiphoid process and costal cartilages from the 5th to the 7th (1). So in other words, this is the famous ¨6 pack¨ or ¨8 pack¨ muscle we sometimes see people have at the beach. Important note: although the muscle seems like it is divided, it actually is not. Meaning it is just one muscle, and a upper rectus and a lower rectus does not exists. (2) Thus, training the rectus for nearly everyone can be accomplished with a single exercise. So all that raising the legs, lowering the legs, and other stuff we usually see when we go to the gym, is BS. If we want to train the rectus abdominis one exercise is sufficient to activate all portions of the muscle. So a simple curl up would work.
  2. Obliques:These are the muscles which some of us see to our sides. There is an internal oblique and an external oblique. The external oblique is more superficial than the internal oblique. The upper portion and lower portions of the obliques are activated separately, meaning, here it would be useful to have an exercise for the upper portion and another for the lower portion of the obliques (2).
  3. Transverse abdominis: This is the muscle that is under the rectus abdominis. So it is quite deep inside. You cannot see this muscle. This is a muscle that became very popular especially thanks to pilates, where they would teach you to  ¨hollow¨ (drawing in the abdominal wall) to activate the muscle. Let me explain that you don´t need to hollow to activate the transverse, the transverse can be activated when you activate the other abdominal muscles. For example, imagine someone is going to punch you in your stomach, what do you usually do? You brace, which is a contraction of all the abdominal muscles. This bracing is much more effective for stability than hollowing, and this is the technique you should be using whenever you want to pick up something heavy (3,4). To demonstrate this, let us do an experiment. Sit on the edge of a chair and hollow (draw in the abdominal wall), and while maintaining that position try to get up. Then sit on the edge of a chair again, but this time brace (just a little), and  try to get up. You see the difference?

Ok, now that we know a little about the ABDOMINAL, let´s try to clear up some of the myths that exist.

  1. First myth: ¨By having a strong abdominal you won´t get back pain ¨ or¨ you have back pain because of your weak abdominal or because of your weak core¨. That is the biggest BULLSHIT there is (and something I used to say, I´ll admit it) !! The only thing that consistently prevents low back problems is exercise (5-6). Doesn´t matter what you do, just move and the chances of having back pain will diminish. And when you have back pain, specialized exercises like targeting the ¨core¨ will do no better than for example going for a walk (7-8).
  2. Second myth: ¨Do abdominal exercises to lose the fat¨. If you are overweight, you want to burn as many calories as possible. Doing curl ups or other abdominal exercises doesn´t really burn up that many calories. And even if doing curl ups would burn a lot of calories, it probably wouldn´t burn the fat that you have around your belly. So if you are overweight you should be doing more important things than ¨curl ups¨.
  3. Third myth: ¨Do a lot of abdominal exercises and you will get the 6-8 pack¨. We all have the 6 or 8 pack, the problem is that there is a lot of fat that is preventing us from seeing it. Lose the fat and you will see the abdominal muscle. This doesn´t mean you should not be working out your abdominals, of course you should! But you should not be obsessed with them. The best way to get a 6-8 pack is eating properly and doing exercise. Most people who have a 6 pack is thanks to the fact that they have an incredible active lifestyle that makes them burn a lot of fat. They have that 6 pack because of their way of life, not because they exercise with that specific goal to have a 6 pack.

So in conclusion, the abdominal muscle is important and everyone should train it but you should not be obsessed with it. Everyone has a 6-8 pack, the problem is that it is hidden under our ¨fat¨. Burn that fat and you will see that 6 pack. There is no point in trying to train the upper and lower abdominal because, as I have stated before, there is no such thing. What you feel when you raise your legs is another muscle called the psoas iliacus. A simple curl up is good enough to activate the whole rectus abdominis. With all that said, there are still exercises that target and make the abdominal work in a much more effective way than the simple curl-up or sit-up, which by the way I wouldn´t recommend anyone doing. That is something I will talk about in my next blog, why you shouldn´t be doing sit-ups and what exercises are the most effective for the abdominal. Stay tuned and until next time.


1.Mcgill S. Low Back Disorders: Evidence Based Prevention and Rehabilitation. Human Kinetics. 2007.

2.Mcgill S. Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance, Fourth Edition. Backfitpro Inc. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada 2009.

3.Brow S, McGill SM. Transmission of muscularly generated force and stiffness between layers of the rat abdominal wall. Spine 2009, 34(2): E70-E75.

4.Kavcic N, Grenier S, Mcgill S. Quantifying tissue loads and spine stability while performing commonly prescribed stabilization exercises. Spine 2004. 29(20):2319-29.

5.Kavcic N, Grenier S, Mcgill. Determining the stabilization role of individual torso muscles during rehabilitation exercises. Spine 2004. 29(11): 1254-65.

6.Bigos SJ, Holland C, Webster JS, Battie M, Malmgren JA. High-quality controlled trials on preventing episodes of back problems: systematic literature review in working-age adults. Spine J 2009 Feb;9(2):147-68.

7.van Middelkoop M, Rubinstein SM, Verhagen AP, Ostelo RW, Koes BW, van Tulder MW. Exercise therapy for chronic nonspecific low-back pain. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol.2010 Apr;24(2):193-204.

8.Mannion AF, Caporaso F, Pulkovski N, Sprott H. Spine stabilisation exercises in the treatment of chronic low back pain: a good clinical outcome is not associated with improved abdominal muscle function. Eur Spine J.2012 Jan 24.

The myth of high repetitions. Do you really tone up by doing more repetitions?

Everyone who has ever gone to the gym probably has heard that ¨if you want to tone up or lose fat you have to do more repetitions¨, but is this really true? Well, in principle it is, but most people do it wrong, let me explain.


It´s not the repetitions that make you lose weight, it´s the time that your muscles are under stress, which it turn will make them burn more calories and at the end cause you to tone up or lose fat. So when the trainer at the gym gives you a training plan and tells you to do certain exercises, and tells you that you have to do 12-25 repetitions, you have to have certain things in mind:

  • First, you should chose a weight that allows you to perform 12-25 repetitions at a slow controlled tempo. Meaning chose a heavy enough weight, but a weight that you can control.
  • Second, like I said before, the most important thing is TIME. It makes no sense to do the exercise fast,  that is the mistake most people make.
  • Third, the object of high repetitions is to increase the time our muscles are under stress to burn more calories.
  • Fourth, when you do the exercise your muscle should be under continuous tension for 60-120 seconds.

So now, let us imagine you have to do 20 repetitions for an exercise, every repetition should at least take you 3 seconds to perform, to reach the minimum objective of 60 seconds. The American College of Sports Medicine, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and the National Academy of Sports Medicine usually recommend a tempo of 2 seconds up, 2 seconds hold and 2 seconds down.


Also, something very important and that people usually forget is that, after you are done with your ¨set¨ or exercise, you should only rest in between 30 to 60 seconds. We don´t want our heart-rate to go down and we need to keep moving to continually burn calories.


A good training that is effective for this type of workout is a circuit training. A circuit training consist of for example 6-8 machines or exercises. You do one machine and go right to the next one. After you are done with all the machines (that´s called a set) then, and only then, you rest 30 to 60 seconds. You do can do that 3 times and that would be an effective training for weight loss.


In my next blog I will talk about the abdominal. Why are we so obsessed with this muscle? Is it so important? What´s the best exercise for the abdominal and is there such a thing as upper and lower abdominal? I will try to answer all this questions in my next blog. Until next time.




Clark M, Corn R. NASM OPT Optimum Performance Training for the Fitness Professional, 2nd Edition. National Academy of Sports Medicine.2001


Baechle T, Earle R. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 1994 National Strength and Codition Association.2nd Edition:2000.



International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk part 2

Since my last blog was so popular and so many people liked it, I wanted to do a part 2 on it. But this part 2 is going to be a little different. It´s going to be only about facts and statistics. Most people seem to remember the information better when given only numbers. Remember, all this data was given by the International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk.

  1. 1.5 Billion Adults are overweight – 500 million of them are OBESE. These numbers are projected to reach 2.3 Billion and 700 million, respectively, by 2015.
  2. The childhood prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity increased from 4.2% in 1990 to 6.7% in 2010, with 43 million children estimated as overweight or obese in 2010!!
  3. The International Diabetes Federation estimated that in 2012 there were over 366 million people worldwide with type 2 diabetes. By 2030 this is projected to reach 552 million.
  4. SSBs are sugar-sweetened beverages. They include the full spectrum of soft drinks, fruit drinks, and energy and vitamin water drinks containing added sugars. Beverages that do not contain added sugar, such as 100% fruit juice are not considered SSBs. SSBs offer only ¨empty¨ calories and provide almost no nutritional value. A typical 12-ounce (355mil) soda contains about 35-40g sugar and 140-160Kcal.
  5. Numerous studies have linked consumption of SSBs to weight gain and obesity in children and adults. In one study it was seen that for each additional serving of SSBs consumed each day, the odds of becoming obese increased by 60% after 1.5 years!!
  6. In another study individuals with the highest SSB intake (usually1-2servings/day) had a 26% greater risk of developing diabetes compared to those with the lowest intake (none or less than 1 serving per month).
  7. One serving (12oz) daily increment in SSB consumption was associated with a 22% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  8. Women who drank more than 2 servings of SSBs had a 40% higher risk of heart attack or death from heart disease than women who rarely drank sugary beverages.

Now I will give stats about different European countries. These stats are from the World Health Organization. According to the WHO, you are overweight if your BMI is equal or greater than 25, and you are obese if your BMI is equal or greater than 30. BMI stands for Body Mass Index. Remember in my last post that, although the BMI is important, it is more important where that fat is distributed.

  Overweight                                                 Obesity

  1. Turkey 63.6%                                         1. Turkey 29.3%
  2. Czech Republic 61.7%                            2. Czech Republic 28.7%
  3. Malta 61.6%                                           3. Malta 26.6%
  4. United Kingdom 61.5%                          4. Israel 25.5%
  5. Ireland 60.9%                                         5. United Kingdom 24.9%
  6. Israel 60.1%                                           5. Russian Federation 24.9%
  7. Spain 58.2%                                          6. Ireland 24.5%
  8. Russian Federation 57.8%                       7. Spain 24.1%
  9. Luxembourg 56.7%                                 8. Luxembourg 23.4%
  10. Poland 55.7%                                         9. Poland 23.2%
  11. Portugal 55.3%                                       10. Portugal 21.6 %
  12. Germany 54.8%                                   11. Germany 21.3%
  13. Finland 53%                                           12. Finland 19.9%
  14. Belgium 51.5%                                     13. Belgium 19.1%
  15. Sweden 50%                                          14. Austria 18.3 %
  16. Austria 49.6%                                         15. Greece 17.5%
  17. Italy 49.2%                                             16. Italy 17.2%
  18. Greece 49.1%                                        17. Sweden 16.6 %
  19. Denmark 48.4%                                     18. Denmark 16.2%
  20. Netherlands 47.8%                                 18. Netherlands 16.2%
  21. France 45.9%                                         19. France 15.6%
  22. Switzerland 44.3%                                  20. Switzerland 14.9%

And the last stats, and probably the most surprising, are the ones that talk about the prevalence of obesity and overweight children among 7 years old. I only have the stats for 12 countries but it is still pretty interesting. This study was done in 2008.


Boys                                                    Girls

  1. Italy- 50% are overweight.                                 42%
  2. Portugal- 41% are overweight                            37%
  3. Malta- 33% are overweight                                29.5%
  4. Ireland-32% are overweight                               28%
  5. Slovenia-32% are overweight                             29%
  6. Belgium-24.7% are overweight                           25.7%
  7. Norway- 22.% are overweight                            22.8%
  8. Sweden-  22.4% are overweight                         21.5%
  9. Czech Republic- 21% are overweight                 20.5%


  1. Italy- 27% boys,                                               17.5% girls
  2. Portugal-17% boys                                           12% girls
  3. Slovenia-16% boys                                           10.3% girls
  4. Malta-14.9% boys                                             12% girls
  5. Ireland-12%boys                                               7% girls
  6. Belgium- 9% boys                                              7.8% girls
  7. Czech Republic- 9% boys                                  6% girls
  8. Norway- 6% boys                                              5.5% girls
  9. Sweden- 6% boys                                              5.2% girls

It is amazing, looking at these stats, that 50% of the population of most European countries are overweight. And that in countries like Spain and Portugal, where the Mediterranean diet comes from, and experts say it´s the best, over 55% of the population are overweight!! But what is more scary and amazing are the stats about the kids. Kids are supposed to be running and playing around all day, but society is changing that. Kids spent more time watching TV, playing video games or at the computer, than actually being outside. They are fed junk food all the time and, what is more worrying, a lot of people consider that normal, they say ¨they are kids, they are supposed to eat those candy’s, chips and donuts¨. I have actually experienced that first hand with family members, where I refused to buy ¨junk food¨ for my nephew and gotten told that ¨I was being mean and that they are just kids¨. The ¨junk food companies¨ have done such a good job on advertisement that it´s ¨normal¨ to give your kid a 12 ounce soda with 35-40 grams of sugar, or candy, or chips, or frozen pizza., and that is exactly what parents are doing, not realizing the impacts that those foods have on kids and on society.

Hopefully by seeing these stats people will start to change the way they think and realize what a huge problem society is facing. So until next time: Eat well, drink better, and move more!

International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk

This will be a special blog, since it was not programmed. Yesterday, I went to a conference (A Lifestyle Disease) where they talked about the cardiometabolic risk we as a society are facing right now. It was very interesting, thanks in part to all the scientists at the conference, who talked about the latest scientifically research data available related to these diseases. First, let’s clear up what cardiometabolic risks are.

  • Cardiometabolic risks: Primary deal with obesity and type 2 diabetes. So all the problems that are associated with these diseases are related to having a cardiometabolic risk.

Before I start talking about what was said at the conference, I want to show some stats. Numbers are always easier for people to understand and to memorize. So I think this will have a bigger impact than anything else I say.

  1. Europe as of 2009 has 55.4 million people with diabetes.
  2. Half the people who have diabetes don´t even know it.
  3. In 2030 it is predicted that worldwide 430 million will have diabetes!!
  4. In Europe alone we spend 110 billion dollars annually.
  5. 400,000 kids in Europe are obese.
  6. 34.6% of adults are overweight.
  7. There are 5.1 million deaths from smoking, there are 5.3 million deaths related to inactivity!!
  8. Sugar Sweetened Beverages stand for SSB. People who consume 2 servings of SSB increase the risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 25%.
  9. 2 servings of SSB a day and your chances of having a heart attack increase by 40%!!!

I could go on forever but I think these stats have made their point. Obesity is a worldwide epidemic and the consequences of it are horrible. Most people know that the more fat we accumulate the greater the chance of suffering some kind of cardiovascular disease. But what most people don´t know is that where we accumulate that fat is much more important than anything else. Recent studies have shown the importance of body fat distribution as a key determinant of the health risk. Imaging studies have revealed that excess visceral adipose (fat) tissue at undesired sites (such as the liver, the heart, the kidney, the pancreas) may have detrimental effects on the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In other words, the fat that is in your organs (visceral obesity), is much more important than the overall body fat.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. They have done studies that have shown that obese or overweight people who engage in physical activity on a regular basis, lose visceral fat and decrease their chance of getting a cardio vascular disease, although their overall weight has NOT gone down. Even more interesting and amazing, people who are overweight or obese and do 30 minutes of physical activity per day have a less chance of getting a cardiovascular disease or cancer, than a ¨normal¨ person who does nothing!!!  These recent studies are amazing and I want everyone really to understand the importance of this, so I will try to clarify it even a little bit more.

  • Your overall weight is not that important!! We have always been obsessed with our scale, but in terms of health, weight is not that important. What is important is the fat you accumulate under and around your organs. And by doing physical activity of at least 30 minutes a day, it has been shown that the fat under and around your organs goes away, although you may still weigh the same!!
  • So for all those people who have ever started in a physical activity and gave up because they never lost weight, these recent studies say DON´T STOP!!! Even if you are not losing weight on the scale, it doesn´t matter. You are doing more good to your body than you can imagine!
  • So if you do exercise and produce weight loss that is GREAT. If you exercise and you don´t lose weight that is also GREAT!!! ¨ We must look beyond weight loss as the only indicator of health.¨- attributed to Dr. Ross.

In conclusion. 5.3 million people will die because of inactivity. Meaning that instead of walking to their job, they will take their car. Instead of going up the stairs, they will take the elevator. Instead of going for a walk, they will sit home and watch a movie.

Throughout this blog I have said physical activity, not sports. They are completely different. You can be poor and do physical activity, you may have the busiest life on the planet and still engage in a physical activity. Physical activity is moving and no one in this world can have an excuse for not doing that.

So until next time, eat healthy, drink healthy and MOVE.

The academic evidence at the conference was giving by:

  1. Jean-Claude Coubard- He is the Directo of Research in Cardiology at Centre de recherche de L´institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec.
  2. Ulf Smith- Directo of the Lundberg Laboratory, Vice Chairman of the Departement of Molecular and Clinical Medicien, The Sahlgrenska Academy, Göteborg University, Sweden and Vice President of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes
  3. Luc Van Gaal- A member of the Editorial Board of a series of scientific journals. He is borad member of the Belgian Association for the Study of Obesity (BASO) and Past-President of the Belgian Diabetic Society. He is the running secretary of the Belgian Endocrine Society
  4. Marja-Ritta Taskinen- Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Cardiology Division, University of Helsinki, Finald.
  5. Jean-Pierre Després- Director of Research in Cardiology at Centre de recherche de l´institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec. He is also the Scientific Director of the International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval, Quebec, Canada.
  6. Frank B. Hu- He is Director of the Harvard Transdisciplinary Research in Energetics and Cancer (TREC) Center, Harvard School of Public Health as well as CO-Director, Program in Obesity Epidemiology and Prevention, Harvard School of Publich Health, Boston, MA, United States.
  7. Robert Ross- Director of the Centre for Obesity Research and Education, Queen´s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada; Queen´s University Research Chair, and President of the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.
  8. Franco Sassi- Senior Health Economist at the Health Division of the OECD and a former lecture at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Is food addictive part 3?

Last week I did two blogs on how certain foods can be addictive and how we have a hereditary predisposition for wanting to eat foods with lots of calories. I also mentioned how we really don´t have strong instincts to engage in physical activity because, before in the past, physical activity used to occur automatically every time we needed to hunt. No one would just go for a run and waste precious calories, we needed all the calories we had. Now, everything has changed. It´s easy to get food and we barely move, and those are two of the reasons why obesity is a WORLD WIDE EPIDEMIC.

Well, in this third part of ´is food addictive´, I’m just going to mention some facts that most people don´t know and should, and that I consider pretty important. So let´s start off.

  1. Did you know that the last 10,000 years of our history only represents 1% of  human history? The body changes and adapts over time but it usually takes thousands of years for that to happen. Agriculture first arrived 9,000 years ago, if you think about it, in terms of human evolution, that´s not a long time ago.
  2. Before agriculture we were hunter-gatherers. Fossils records show that Paleolithic hunter-gatherers lifespan averaged 26 years, but with the invention of agriculture the lifespan went down to 19!!! (1)
  3. In Greece and Turkey, near the end of the Paleolithic hunter-gatherer era, men averaged 5´9 (175cm) and women 5´5 (166cm). By 3000 BC, with agriculture a way of life, the average height had dropped to 5´3 (161cm) for men and 5´ (152cm) feet for women (1,5). This could be because the Paleolithic hunter-gatherers ate hundreds of plants and animals, supplying lots of complete proteins and vitamins. Farmers ate mainly three crops, wheat, rice and corn, because they were the easiest to cultivate, harvest and store without spoiling.
  4. Human milk matches the exact proportions of amino acids and fats used for brain circuits and contains antibodies to prevent infections. Cows milk contains very different proportions of amino acid and much more fat. Babies fed on breast milk average 8.3IQ points higher by the age of 8 than those fed on milk-based formula.(3)
  5. Predators consistently have larger brains than herbivores. You require more cunning to catch prey than to find the next leaf. Omnivores, who must switch between these tasks, tend to have larger brains yet.
  6. Brains and nervous systems are for mobility; plants don´t have brains, animals do. Exercise especially generates neurons in the hippocampus, an organ associated with memory, and these new neurons have been demonstrated to enhance learning. What I´m basically stating here is: MOVE, it will make you smarter.
  7. Dieting, in the long run, almost never works! Maximal weight loss is typically achieved at around 6 months, followed by weight regain.(2)
  8. Evidence has been building up that if you consume less calories, far below that needed to maintain normal weight, but still consume vitamins, protein and other important nutrients, your lifespan could increased by up to 65 percent.. (8)
  9. They have done studies with a low-calorie diet on different animals such as rats, yeast, worms, flies, spiders, fish and several types of rodents, and have seen the lifespan of the animals increase from 25 to 65 percent.(6-7)
  10. The people who live the longest come from Okinawa, Japan. Their diet consists of a higher percentage of fresh vegetables than in most places, and fish and soy make up virtually all the protein. Okinawans consume 40 percent fewer calories than Americans and 17 percent fewer calories than the average Japanese.  (9)
  11. There have been studies that have demonstrated the effect of larger portions on consumption. Did you know that the standard serving portion size for almost everything is larger than it was a generation ago? We sometimes see this in restaurants, especially in the USA, were the servings are huge. The problem with huge serving sizes is that we eat more than we are supposed to. They did a experiment on people, where people were invited to a lab for a ¨taste test¨of soup. Some of  the participants got a bowl that had a tube connected to the bottom of the bowl, so that it was always full. The other participants ate from a normal bowl. All the participants thought they had a ¨normal¨ bowl. Those with the ¨bottomless¨ bowl ate 40 percent more!!


Certain foods are addictive, we have a hereditary predisposition for storing fat and we don´t have a strong instinct to engage in physical activity. On top of that we have changed drastically the way we eat, especially the last 80 years. Remember, and I know I have stated this a couple of times but it´s quite important, the last 10,000 years only represent 1% of the human evolution. Before agriculture we were hunter-gatherers and ate hundreds of plants and animals. The animals we ate were animals that were in the wild and had a high content of protein. The animals we eat now, are in farms, fed ¨shit¨ food, and given hormones to grow as fat and as quick as possible.  Another problem is that we eat much more than what we are supposed to. Just bear in mind that the people who live the longest on the planet are the Okinawans and they eat quite less than the average American or Japanese. Also, let´s not forget that the bigger the serving the more we eat (compare the dishes you have now with the ones your grandparents have).

So, with all this said, I think I found a solution to the problem. Instead of moving more, eating well and drinking better……… just buy smaller dishes !!! 😉

My next blog will finally be about sports. It will talk abou the myth of high repetitions. I think we have all heard that if you want to lose weight and tonify you have to do more repetitions, but is this true??  We will see in my next blog…. until then .

      1. Deirdre B. Waistland. The Evolutionary Science behind our weight and fitness crisis. W.W. Norton & Company. New York, 2007. pg 11.
      2. Mann T, Tomiyamas J, Westting E, Lew A-M, Chatman J. Medicare´s Search for Effective Obesity Treatments. American Psychologist, 2007;220-30.
      3.Lucas A. Breast Milk and Subsequent Intelligence Quotient in Children Born Preterm. Lancet 339,1992; 261-4.
      4. Reuters, ¨Researcher Links Obesity , Food Portions.
      5. Angel. Paleoecology, Paleodemography and Health.
      6. Lawler F-D. Influence of Lifetime Food Restriction on Causes, TIme and Predictores of Death in Dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 226, 2005; 225-31.
      7. Delaney M, Walford L. The Longevity Diet: Discover Calorie Restriction. Marlowe & CO. New York, 2005.

    9. Wilcox B. How Much Should We Eat? The Association Between Energy Intake and Mortality in a 36 Year Follow-Up Study of Japanese-American Men. Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences 59,2004; 789-95.

Is food addictive part 2?

In our last post we talked about how certain foods can be addictive by producing chemical changes in our brain. We also saw that eating refined fatty meals makes us stop producing Leptin. Leptin is a hormone which signals the body to stop eating, but we also saw that the reverse can also happen. Meaning that if you stop eating the junk food and start eating healthy, the levels of those hormones return to normal, so there is hope. But what is eating healthy?

10,000 years ago, which may sound like a long time but it equals to only 1 percent of human history, most humans lived like hunter-gatherers. Back then we used to eat a lot of meat (this meat, contrary to what we eat now, contained much more protein), fish, fruits, leaves and seeds. We ate more than one hundred species of plant- most rich in vitamins, fiber and other nutrients. Fats and sugar were rare but we developed a craving for them because they contain lots of calories, which was important back then to survive. Thanks to our diet, and because we were always on the move, people were lean but whoever could store fat had an advantage. So we developed a predisposition for carrying fat on our bodies as well as wanting it in our foods. The problem is, back then it was difficult to get too much of these foods, now it´s the complete opposite. So not only do we get ¨addicted¨ to these foods when we eat them, we also have hereditary predisposition for wanting to eat them.

So I guess I´m not saying anything new about what is healthy eating. I think most people know what is healthy and what is un-healthy, the problem is people don´t do it. And now we know some reasons why that is. It´s the same thing with physical activity, most people know they have to move more but they don´t do it. They always use excuses like they don´t have enough time or that something hurts, ironically most of these problems are improved by exercise. Biologically we need exercise, but we don´t have strong instincts to engage in it. Before, physical activity used to occur automatically while trying to catch or find out food, now it´s not like that. Back then no one would just go for a run, that would be wasting precious energy and calories, you needed all the energy and calories you could have. Those extra calories could make the difference between life and death.

This blog just gets worse and worse, not only do we have a hereditary predisposition for wanting to eat foods with lots of calories, but once we eat them we get addicted to them – and to top that off I just said that we don´t have strong instincts to engage in sports!!! No wonder we are loosing against obesity and getting fatter and fatter every day. But there is hope, I have seen it, even done it!! You can fight back …… I won´t tell you what you have to do because I want to keep the secret to myself but I´ll give you a hint: It has to do with eating and moving.

In my next blog, we will continue with the third part of ¨is food addictive¨ by mentioning some interesting facts that most people don´t know. Until next time I leave you with the second part of ¨The men who made us fat¨

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