February 5, 2009

Why people in the past were different -- more fat in the diet?

So I'm giving this whole low-carb / high-fat thing a try, not because I'll ever have to worry about excessive fat, but just to see what all the fuss is about. I've gotta say, I've never been more full of energy. I thought I got lots of energy from a high-carb diet, but I must have been comparing this to a mostly high-protein diet that I'd tried before -- high fat is the key.

Anyway, shoveling carbs in your face all day causes you to produce lots of insulin, which is involved in the hormonal regulation of fat accumulation. (By these stolen phrases, you can tell I've been reading Gary Taubes -- watch a lecture he gave here.) By screwing around so much with your endocrine system, you have to wonder what other effects it has on your mind and behavior.

Could this be behind the perception that guys these days are wimpier than their counterparts from the '60s or '70s or before? (The obesity epidemic and shift away from fat and toward carbs begins around the late '70s or early '80s.) With more fatty acids flooding my bloodstream to provide energy, I've noticed that I've become even more confrontational than before, and more callous and undaunted when something goes wrong. A particular girl doesn't want to dance with you? Who cares -- the most important girl is the next girl.

I'm sure this is why women are so screwed up today too. The women's lib movement obviously played a big role, but that was also about the time when the American diet changed so radically. We know how much women's behavior swings on a monthly basis due to hormonal changes. Maybe a grossly imbalanced diet is why we got psycho neurotic womenists, as opposed to the seemingly cooler ones of the Roaring Twenties, another time when women liberated themselves and pretended to be men, but when protein and fat consumption was much higher.

These ideas could be tested by measuring the personality trait Neuroticism, or some physiological correlate of it, when people follow a high-fat / low-carb diet vs. a high-carb / low-fat diet.

And then there are the obvious physical differences -- not just that there are lots more fatsos these days, but the polarizing effect that may have, i.e., more people hyper-aerobicizing their bodies. That was another consequence of the anti-fat movement -- lose weight by exercising a lot. Part of this may be a fashion change, of course. But part of it probably reflects larger changes among the population.

I've ranted here and elsewhere about how the early '70s were the last time the female sex symbols looked any good, and their different diet may play a role. The mid and late '70s are OK (google pictures of roller discos -- yeah baby), and even the girls in the Duran Duran videos of "The Eighties" (i.e., 1982 - 1984) look pretty good. But since then -- blech. And non-tubbo guys today look more like shaved apes than naturally fit.

Also a reason why most of our rock musicians are so whiny or dopey these days? Eat some fat and lighten up guys! Rockstars in the '70s may have been wearing skin-tight pants, but they had bigger balls. (Hard not to notice.)

Anyway, try it out. Lots of red meat, eggs, olive oil, hazelnut butter, almonds -- and milk, cheese, and butter if you're lactose-tolerant.


  1. Placebo effect and wishful thinking.

  2. I agree with your premise that healthy fats and reduced carbs aid in weight loss. Americans eat far too many particularly refined carbs and a great many of us are pre-diabetic or fully diabetic because of it. Metabolic syndrome, a result to a large extent of High Fructose Corn Syrup adds to the obesity epidemic. So does utter lack of physical exercise by most citizens.

    Factors outside of diet too have a great impact on your level of physical health such as your degree of social dominance:

  3. Placebo effect and wishful thinking.

    Wrong. The basic physiology of these things are understood, but just not widely known. Read Gary Taubes, or find a video lecture he gave at Berkeley.

  4. I read your post and wanted to add my own experience. I have been eating this way since reading Gary Taube's book. I am a 37 year old female and have NEVER in my entire life felt remotely this good mentally and physically. My mood swings have really evened out and I have energy like I never imagined.
    Plus I now weigh what I did in my early 20's which I never thought could happen.
    I agree that the key is good fat and lots of it. I eat meat, eggs, cheese, green veggies, berries and nuts. Plus tons of butter, sour cream instead of yogurt, heavy cream.

  5. Higher carb consumption is part of the reason behind today's higher levels of obesity. Another issue is that people are consuming more calories, period.

    You may be onto something about the connection between more carbs and more wimpiness.


  6. You're absolutely right. Glad to see that more people are figuring this out.

  7. the connection between diet and temperament is interesting. i've pretty much eliminated boxed foods and HFCS from my diet and i'm eating a lot more salmon, mixed nuts, and choice cuts of beef (minus the buns and breads). i also take an NAC supplement and creatine. i've pared down the miles i run and introduced wind sprints. obviously, weightlifting is in my program. i've gotta say, this shit is working. lots of sugary high glycemic carbs used to make me moody and depressed.

  8. I can't speak to individual reactions to changes in diet, but I tend to doubt that a massive shift occurred in the 1970's that explains shifts in behaviors and looks for men and women.

    Regarding behavior, with women the key is to look at other women in other nations that have not had much change in diet. Iran, Algeria, and Tunisia have TFRs of 1.7, that's well below replacement rate, and around the rate of White women in the US. Hmm ...

    Looks like Roissy's view that urbanization, along with Spengler's view on female literacy and earnings, easy/reliable/cheap contraception, explain female behavior shifts more than diet. Given that Algeria, Tunisia, and Iran have not had the same types of supposed shifts to carbs from fat [I suspect the shift in diet was mostly for the small in numbers SWPL crowd] ..

    And of course female shifts in behavior drive male shifts in behavior.

    As for the current awful crop of Emo kids, that's just fashion.

  9. If you want to get even more serious about this, check out Cross Fit and the Paleo Diet. I was a careful eater and exercised regularly before these. But since I've headed in that direction, I've lost 10 pounds. That's only 5% of my body weight, but I'm much leaner and still dropping weight.

  10. Excellent post. Maybe this will be the basis of a SWPL fad in a few years, but I think the idea that all food is psychoactive is too far-out for a lot of people to accept.

    Wasn't there something on GNXP a few weeks ago about the effects of ketosis on cognition?

    I'm curious about the effects of HFCS, because the fructose in it mostly turns into fat as it's metabolized.

  11. A couple of papers on diet and mood show that low-fat diets are not good for mental health. "Profile of mood states (POMS) ratings of anger–hostility significantly increased in the intervention group after 1 month on the low-fat diet, while during the same period there was a slight decline in anger–hostility in the control subjects (group F 6.72; df 1,14; P = 0.021)."

    "For the six countries with available data for the primary analysis, there was a highly significant correlation between sugar consumption and the annual rate of depression (Pearson correlation 0.948, P=0.004). "


  12. with all those nuts you're eating, you're also probably getting way more magnesium than you used to, and magneisum deficiency -- which is more common now than it used to be -- is implicated in depression. maybe it causes wussiness, too.

    but i'm surprised roissy (or anyone else) didn't object to this:
    "I've ranted here and elsewhere about how the early '70s were the last time the female sex symbols looked any good, and their different diet may play a role."

    perhaps i eat too many carbs, but i thought our sex symbols were getting better. do you really think those disco babes can hold a candle to, say, monica bellucci?

  13. You should check out http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/ if you haven't already. Guy eats a high-fat diet and reviews a lot of related research to back it up.

    There's a bunch of NHANES data that should also shed some light on the healthiness of fat in the diet (http://sodapop.pop.psu.edu/data-collections/nhanes) but I haven't had a chance to crunch through it all yet; there are a lot of confounding variables. It's trivial to show e.g. that people who eat a lot of butter are healthier on average than those who eat little or none, but obviously it's necessary to figure out what else is involved and run a multiple regression.

  14. Regarding your last sentence - I don't think butter usually bothers the lactose intolerant. Usually has no milk solids in it.

  15. Butter has lactose, which is a sugar, not a protein. Even when I have clarified butter like ghee, which has almost all milk proteins removed, I still get bloated.

    Not like milk, since the concentration is less, but still.

  16. I did the anabolic diet for a few months and I did get more hair on my chest and stomach during that time. I also cut my bodyfat down to the 10-13% level that I've heard is optimal for T production.

    BTW, I don't remember where I first saw you post that jailbait gallery, but thank you from the bottom of my cold black heart. My testicles tingle just thinking about that site.

  17. Always happy to corrupt, er, convert another soul to the teenage salvation army.


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