Ralph’s Nutrition Guides


1 – Food: pleasure or poison?
2 – Fat is Good
3 – Not all Carbs are Bad
4 – How to avoid Sugar poisoning
5 – Brains work better on Ketones than on Glucose
6 – Vitamin C or glucose sickness
7 – How to generate new Brain cells
8 – Cancer Cells and Glucose
9 – How to build the Skeletal Muscles you choose – Part 1


Article #9

How to build the Skeletal Muscles you choose – Part 1

by Ralph Pain

You will have heard of slow and fast-twitch muscle fibres, also known as types I and II. Slow twitch are for running slowly, and fast twitch for running fast??? Almost.

The naming convention for these fibres is based on early research, and hasn’t kept up with the latest insights. By the way, this is typical in biological sciences. They name things early on, and then get into a mess as they find out more.

Biology is not organised as well as physics. In physics there are three layers of education for: scientists, engineers, and practitioners such as fitters and mechanics.

But in biology the middle layer is missing: there are just scientists, and practitioners such as medical practitioners and nurses. The middle layer of engineers is important because they are trained to exploit science to invent things and make changes. But the other thing the middle layer does is sort out the nomenclature from the myriad of scientific discoveries. So, in biology, without the middle layer, the nomenclature around muscle fibres is an embarrassing mess! I think you’ll agree it’s much better to forget all about types 1, 2a, 2b, 2c, 2ac, 2ab, 2x, and 2d!

Let’s simplify this down to four distinct types of fibre. But first, where are these fibres?

The most obvious example of a skeletal muscle is the large one people sit on when they aren’t running, and is hugely useful for running especially when performed with good form, the gluteus maximus. Now, which types of muscle fibre make up this muscle?

Well, the answer is, it depends on genes, and also on what sort of training that muscle has undergone. If the muscle is huge, the person will be a sprinter or a weight trainer, and if it is slender, the person will train for endurance. Of course, the muscle will contain all four sorts, but mostly it will be the ones that suit its conditioning.

In my view, the clearest way to think about fibre types is to first divide them into two categories, based on whether or not they use oxygen (termed aerobic or anaerobic), and then to subdivide these depending on the substrate they use (such as fats, glucose, or phosphocreatine).

If they use oxygen (aerobic) they will contain Mitochondria, which gives the fibres a red or pink colour, depending on the concentration of mitochondria. The anaerobic fibres look white because they have no Mitochondria. So it’s safe to call these two Red and White categories.

Then we can subdivide the Red fibres into two, depending on the substrate they use fats (Fat) or glucose (Gl); and we can subdivide the White fibres into two, depending on whether they use glucose (Gl) or phosphocreatine (Phos).

Of course, glucose can come from stored glycogen or it can be free in the blood stream. So, for the purpose of this note, let’s abbreviate these four categories as Red-Fat, Red-Gl, White-Gl, and White-Phos.

The sprinter and the weight lifter require a high rate of energy output and this can only be achieved using anaerobic metabolism of glucose (White-Gl) or phosphocreatine (White-Phos).

Anaerobic means the sprinter or weight lifter probably won’t be breathing when in action, because no oxygen is required. These processes are very inefficient, so very great amounts of substrate are used.

At maximum rate, the phosphocreatine gets used up in less than 10 seconds! So the sprinter has to slightly slow down for the final couple of seconds and use more White-Gl fibres. An 800 metre dash will use mostly White-Gl fibres, and their fuel runs out in just about 3 minutes.

Also, lots of Lactate is built up because white fibres can’t use it for energy, hence the burning feeling in your legs when you push your bicycle pedals hard up hill. Lactate from White fibres is sent off to the liver to be processed into glucose, or it is used up in Red fibres if these are being used at the time.

Why all the heavy breathing after high exertion?

It’s because turning the lactate back into glucose needs lots of oxygen. What is the trigger that drives white fibres to be activated and also prevents the red fibres from operating?

It is lack of sufficient oxygen. As I mentioned last week, anaerobic metabolism of glucose in White-Gl fibres is a form of fermentation, in this case producing lactate rather than alcohol.

How does a person condition white muscle fibres? That’s easy: maximum effort of that muscle a few times a week will produce more White fibres, more glycogen or phosphocreatine stores, and greater lactate tolerance.

The classic weight training regime is 9 repetitions of lifting a weight that is heavy enough to cause failure, and repeat this 3 times after intervening recovery rests; and do that a couple of times per week.


Article #8

Cancer Cells and Glucose

by Ralph Pain

Have I mentioned in previous weeks that sugar can cause problems? Ah yes. Well, here is another problem that may shock you further.

We all, always, have some cancer cells in our bodies, but a healthy person has an immune system for identifying and killing them. Yes, glucose damages our immune systems, and that is bad enough, but even worse, glucose feeds cancer cells!

Otto Warburg originally trained as a chemist and came up with this idea as long ago as 1931, and it has taken all these decades to become accepted. Isn’t that a familiar theme in medicine?

Cancer cells, and also other pathogens such as the American, European, and Australian forms of borellia (Aka Lyme disease … but we’re not allowed to call it Lyme in Australia, yet), and Malaria, all depend on glucose for energy.

This can be understood more clearly if we look at the feedstocks for the three main energy processes that operate in our bodies: a) fats plus oxygen, b) glucose plus oxygen, and c) glucose without oxygen.

The first two processes need oxygen, and this is achieved through mitochondria. The third process does not use oxygen and is achieved without Mitochondria.
Conversion of sugar without oxygen (termed anaerobic) is called fermentation. Another fermentation process we may be more familiar with produces alcohol, but this one produces lactate, which is one proton short of lactic acid.

Because fats can only be used for energy when combined with oxygen, and because cancer cells can’t use oxygen due to their impaired Mitochondria, cancer cells lack the ability to use fats for energy. They therefore depend on glucose. What’s more, cancer cells love insulin, which is released in response to glucose consumption! This is a cruel double blow for glucose consumers.

How do cancer cells form in the first place? It’s all about Mitochondria. Ordinary cells that have their Mitochondria damaged can then undergo genetic mutations that enable them to grow without their Mitochondria.

And why are cancer cells malignant? Perversely, it’s to do with its already-damaged Mitochondria. Normal cells have inbuilt mechanisms for ending their lives, called apoptosis.

Apoptosis works by killing off Mitochondria. So, if cancer cells have worked out a way of doing without their defective Mitochondria, killing their Mitochondria doesn’t kill them! So they can just carry on growing.

Well, now, if cancer cells have such an unnatural love of glucose, surely there must be diagnostic techniques that use areas of glucose concentration to locate cancer?? What a good idea! And you would be exactly right. The love of cancer cells for sugar is well known in diagnostics, and there are imaging techniques being developed that show concentration of glucose at the sites of malignant tumours.

Importantly, some even-better news. The more advanced cancer cells become, the more dependent they are on glucose, and the more vulnerable they are to glucose starvation.

So, let me be contrary. If you want to nurture your cancer cells, and also some other pathogens, the best way is to consume glucose!

If you are interested in reading further, I think an article by Klement and Kämmerer in 2011 gives a good summary.

The Mercola website is always a good source: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/05/30/how-high-fat-diet-helps-starve-cancer.aspx


Article #7

How to generate new Brain cells

by Ralph Pain

This week I’m going to take a short break from bashing sugar. But don’t worry, there is more to come on that subject another week.

This week it’s brains. Brains are important part of our bodies for all of us, not just for those preparing for the Mensa entry IQ test.

We need to look at brains, as we would any organ, from the perspectives of nutrition (and fasting), exercise (and rest), and stress (and calmness). Each of these perspectives has lots of interesting subsets.

This week I want to talk about just one subset of exercise. Exercise includes puzzles (like crosswords), learning (like a new language or to play an instrument), using the imagination (perhaps look up Emile Coué), training one’s intuition, techniques for being successful, and much more. But for now, let’s just look at one aspect of exercise that is not widely known: the effect of good old-fashioned physical exercise.

Brains contain neurones (grey matter), and connections between neurones (white matter). As a typical brain gains experience and knowledge, the amount of white matter increases. The more exploring, thinking, and connecting that a brain does, the more white matter is constructed. White matter is highly related to intelligence. Unfortunately, as some live our ordinary lives, we habitually drink alcohol, eat sugar, and get stressed, which kills off lots of neurones. After several decades of such habits, there are a lot fewer neurones than there were when we took our first breath.

But here is a discovery that changes everything. When we do physical exercise, we generate new neurones! It’s called neurogenesis, as you might expect. As long as we don’t overdo the exercise, and we eat the right amount and balance of the right nutrients to support the exercise, when we are out for our morning run, ride, walk, or swim, we are filling our brains with more potential.

Of course the new neurones don’t give a capability for intelligence until they are suitably connected, but they are there, ready to go, as soon as they are needed!

Tip for this week: put some exercise into your weekly plan. How much exercise is a topic for another week, but here are some rules that you may wish to adopt. Make sure you get pleasure from every step, pedal cycle, or swim stroke; exercise at least every third day; and certainly don’t exercise so hard that you are still stiff after two days of rest.

Remember that it takes longer to condition ligaments and tendons than muscles and lungs, so take it gently. And, watch out for the inevitable addiction to endorphins! By the way, if I followed this advice I would spend a lot less time recovering from injury.


Also see a Cosmos article from 12 March 2012 called ‘A fresher mind’.


Article #6

Vitamin C or glucose sickness

by Ralph Pain

Here is another way glucose poses problems that you may not have heard of before.

As you will know, reptiles, most birds, and most mammals manufacture their own vitamin C. Humans are one of few mammals that have lost the ability to make this vitamin and, because we must consume it, vitamin C is an essential nutrient.

Some other well-known mammals that have defective genes for making vitamin C are fruit bats, guinea pigs, and the other great apes. This isn’t too serious for humans because we can recycle vitamin C, and lots of foods contain vitamin C, such as: Kale, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, citrus, other fruits, and also sauerkraut.

Now why, you may well ask, is this relevant to glucose? Well, the animals that can make their own vitamin C make it from monosaccharides, such as glucose. This is because glucose and vitamin C are very similar molecules, so the step from glucose to vitamin C is small. But, being so similar, they both use the same receptors to enter cells. This means the More glucose in the blood stream, the Less vitamin C will enter cells.

This is serious for all cells, but in particular for white blood cells (immune cells). White blood cells are supposed to kill pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells, and need 20 times the amount of vitamin C as other cells to do this. Do you want glucose in your white blood cells instead of vitamin C? What’s more, high blood sugar inhibits the generation of new immune cells!

The lesson for this week, nearly the same as last week, is skip the glucose if you want to be healthy.


Article #5

Brains work better on Ketones than on Glucose

by Ralph Pain

Health and nutrition seem to be particularly susceptible to myths. One vigorously-held myth insists that brains can only use glucose for energy, and not fats.

Now, most marathon runners can tell you about the time they ‘hit the wall’. It typically happens at around 20 miles. That wall gets hit when we run out of stored glucose, called glycogen, if we have difficulty switching over to fat reserves.

Now, if glycogen stores only last for a few hours of running, at which point brains stop, how did ancient hunters catch their food? It would be a curious design for the mammalian brain to stop working after just a few hours of running about.

It would be like Cinderella going to the ball in a pumpkin and having to leave by midnight. Imagine, the tribe sends its hunters out for a spot of lunch, but if they’re not successful in just two or three hours, their brains stop!

Thankfully, the fact is that brains readily convert to metabolising ketones, which are derived from fats, when the glucose runs out. As early as 1974, Ruderman et al (Biochemical Journal 138(1):1-10), showed that brains in a rat model were fuelled by ketones when glucose was not available as food.

That was a while ago. Nowadays, people like Ron Rosedale, www. http://drrosedale.com/, and Joseph Mercola, are going much further: “Your brain will work better in general when burning fat rather than glucose, as fat has been shown to be both neurotherapeutic and neuroprotective.”


This makes sense because non-fibre carbohydrates were a small part of our diets during most of human evolution, certainly before agriculture around 9000 BC, so our ancestors’ brains would have needed to metabolise ketones most of the time.

“So, if you are thinking of doing your brain good by sucking on a glucose sweet during that Mensa IQ test, I suggest you think again!”


Article #4

How to avoid Sugar poisoning

by Ralph Pain

Although Sugars such as Glucose and Fructose are slow poisons, humans can tolerate small amounts. This is a good thing, because a lot of foods that contain sugars (or polysaccharides) also contain good ingredients. Think green leafy vegetables for a start. And then there are all the healthy colours in fruits.

However, sweet fruits contain mostly harmful sugar water (Fructose). (By sweet fruits I’m excluding fruits such as Avocado.) The skins and seeds of fruit are generally the parts that contain the great majority of nutrients, including phytochemicals and vitamins, which are wonderful for human health.

Not all seeds, though: apple and cherry seeds, for example, can be hazardous. Choose fruits with a high surface to volume ratio, and eat the skins!

Or better still, choose colourful fruits, and then eat just the skin! Best to avoid skins that are contaminated by pesticides, of course.

Organically-grown fruits are generally a good plan A. For plan B, soap can remove oil-soluble pesticides on the surface of skins.

An important nutrient, popular due to its presence in small amounts in Red wine – as red grape skins are included in the fermentation process – is Resveratrol.

Unfortunately, though, these small amounts are not sufficient to justify the burden of alcohol on the liver! (Like Alice in Wonderland, who always gave herself very good advice, I should not give the impression that I precisely follow my advice on this particular point).

Picture: a blackberry or blueberries (because they have a high surface area to volume ratio). Perhaps also a glass of red wine.


Article #3

Not all Carbs are Bad

By Ralph Pain

Before we demonise all carbohydrates, we need to separate carbohydrates into two groups … fibre and non fibre.

Dietary fibre is very important for feeding the gut biome (more of this in a later week). Non-fibre carbs are starches (polysaccharides) that easily break down into sugars. Sugars are one of only two categories of macro nutrient in our diet that can be used for energy: the other category is fats.

Why is this important? It’s because the low-fat diet, recommended widely over recent decades, is necessarily a high-sugar diet!

Note that protein is not on the list of macronutrients, because excess protein breaks down to the sugar, glucose (and harmful nitrogenous by-products).

This means that Robert Atkins (physician and cardiologist) was almost, but not quite, on the right track when he promoted protein in his low-carbohydrate diet.

Low-carb diets have a long tradition. Before Atkins promoted his low-carb diet, there was Banting. William Banting successfully followed a low-carb diet, suggested by his medical adviser, that he outlined in a ‘letter on corpulence’ to the general public in 1862.

This Banting diet was popular in England for many decades. I remember my grandmother (born in 1904) was a keen adherent.

The term ‘fad’ is used disparagingly. A fad is an idea that is short lived and fails because it is fundamentally misguided. Some think of low-carb diets as being a new fad.

However, it is more accurate to see low-carb diets as having a strong tradition that has been temporarily punctured by the ‘low-fat’ fad over recent decades.


Article #2

Fat is Good

By Ralph Pain

The new paradigm (actually back to the pre-1978 paradigm, and hopefully not another fad) is that ‘fat is good’. But this time there is a caveat: ‘unless it has been chemically distorted by overheating or oxidation’.

We’ll talk about why fat is good in future weeks, but for now let’s consider overheating.

Vegetable oils are particularly vulnerable to distortion under heat and should NOT be used for cooking.

Transfats form under heat, and are a recognised poison that are mostly removed from cooking oils nowadays. But many other chemical distortions take place under heat, and picking on transfats is an over-simplification of the problem.

Avoid ‘cooking oils’, because these are vegetable oils that have already been overheated (which is misleadingly called ‘refined’).

Saturated animal fats, such as dripping or lard, are better at remaining undamaged under heat. Also consider butter or coconut oil.

Olive oil is more robust than other vegetable oils under heat, but still not as good as saturated fats.

A rule for all healthy cooking, including oils and fats is: Don’t overheat food!


Article #1

Food: pleasure or poison?

By Ralph Pain

My first information source was Ron Rosedale, a medical practitioner in the USA who keeps himself up to date with the science in his field. I have followed his advice since April 2007.  Other important people to read are Robert Lustig, Gary Taubes, and Joseph Mercola.

We’ve been under the influence of a long-running fad that took hold in the 1980s following some epidemiological research by Ancel Keys published in 1978 (Seven countries study). Dr Keys published information on seven countries that supported a bias against consumption of fat, and ignored information from countries that did not support this bias. The outcome of the seven countries study was ‘fat is bad’. This was almost perfectly the reverse of the view prior to 1978 which was ‘sugar is bad’. Gary Taubes has done a lot of work to expose the influences that created this transition to establishment-sponsored advice for a low-fat diet.

The vendetta against fat that emerged after Dr Keys’ work is thought to have contributed to a range of illnesses: type 2 diabetes, obesity, and diseases relating to degeneration of proteins in nerves, muscles, enzymes, communication channels through cell membranes, and more.

This ‘fat is bad’ fad is fast coming to an uncomfortable end but the many experts schooled in its merits are fighting to the last. In relation to the return to ‘fat is good’, or at the very least, ‘sugar is bad’, we are already beginning to hear some experts claim that “it’s complicated”, even though they were quite happy with simplicity when the message was – ‘fat is bad’.

It’s important to note that Dr Ancel Keys was a real, properly-trained, and eminent scientist. All the most powerful bodies that advise on health and nutrition adopted his advice. So whom can we trust? It turns out that we must each embrace the lonely burden of remaining sceptical, to take responsibility for what we believe, and to this end, to hone our skills in critical analysis and dispassionate observation. This burden is relevant not just for information in the unbridled internet, but for the coordinated pronouncements of established sources.

Beware of population-wide madness, often promoted by the ‘establishment’, such as Y2K. Remember Y2K?? And remember who told us that Brexit and Trump were ludicrous and impossible?? It wasn’t just the popular press; it was also the most eminent publications our civilization has to offer.

Just to rub in a related point: following of ‘evidence-based’ information is not the same as being scientific. The scientific process is in three steps: ‘hypothesis – test – review’. Did you notice that that none of these three steps says, “follow evidence-based information”? This comes in after the hypothesis has been proved or disproved. Science is used to give the best evidence it can at a particular time and then practitioners need to follow the rules, until the scientific process shows this needs to be altered or replaced.

And another thing, statistical correlations (e.g. epidemiological studies) are not science! They are, at best, hypothesis generators. Many a study says X is linked with Y, but there is just a correlation. As every scientist knows, correlation does not prove mean causation. Ambulances are often seen around serious road accidents, but are not their cause. Fatness and thinness happen over time, but time does not cause them!

In the spirit of knowing that we never understand reality, but hoping as mere humans to understand our models of reality, for the next 6 months or so, every Friday, we plan to add a dot point on nutrition that is consistent with the new paradigm.