Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Eggs and Bacon Diet Data

I bothered the doctor to order an NMR Lipid profile, so I can see directly measured LDL, particle sizes and lots of other cool blood metrics.

This took longer than planned. It turns out when they order a NMR blood test, they don't call you to come in, you're supposed to know that you're supposed to call the blood testing people to arrange an appointment. I thought the doctor has already done that, but no, we both have to call.

Anyway, after continuing to eat bacon (3 strips), eggs (3) and mushrooms sauteed in butter (3) for breakfast, avoiding sugar, wheat and simple starches, the graph now looks like this:

The tg/HDL ratio has gone from 3.64 to 2.48 to 2.07 to 1.17. So on the tg/hdl scale, I've gone from 'dead' to 'very low risk' in a few months of eating the things I've been told not to.

The particle sizes are in the 'normal' range, whatever than means. So there's a way to go before they get to the super fluffy state that the low-carbers claim is so easy to achieve.

LDL Particle Number nmol/L

Small LDL Particle Number nmol/L


TC mg/dL


LDL Particle Size nm


Large HDL Particle Number umol/L


Large VLDL Particle Number nmol/L


Triglycerides mg/dL


HDL Cholesterol mg/dL


LDL Cholesterol mg/dL


HDL Size nm




HDL Particle Number umol/L


LP Insulin Resistance Score out of 100


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wheat Is Murder!

For some time it has been suggested by some nutrition researchers that wheat in the diet may be a significant cause of heart disease, but this has been hotly disputed by the anti-fat biased researchers.

The China study, a huge study run by T. Colin Campbell collected data across many counties in China on diet and health. He published a book claiming the results implicated meat as the cause of many common diseases.

Then along came Denise Minger who scrutinized his claims, looked at the data and by applying proper statistical methods, found that the data actually said nothing of the sort and his claims were based on a string of elementary statistical errors. It's not quick read, but if you know statistics, you'll see substance of the argument:

She then dug into the apparent univariate associate between wheat and disease and took a proper multivariate look at the data. Here:

So it doesn't look good for wheat. I have been avoiding it while on a low carb diet and now there's solid evidence to support avoiding it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Egg and Bacon Diet Updated

I have continued with the Egg and Bacon diet, with a simple modification
- If sitting in a restaurant with a Michelin star, suspend the rules. So far that has included Bouchon in Yountville and Viajante in London.

I started counting at 238 lbs.
My lowest weight was yesterday at 211.
My current weight today is 212. It fluctuates up and down a bit, but more down than up.

In 2010, before I started this and I was an intermittent dieter and exerciser, following the conventional diet regimes that usually fail. I got a blood test.
A month after starting the Egg and Bacon I got a blood test.
Two days ago I got a blood test.

So we can see how it's going:

Or more tabley..

I.E. Before Diet/Near start of diet/Three months into diet
Total cholesterol 178 - 201 - 172
LDL 111 - 138 - 112
HDL 39 - 42 - 42
Triglycerides 142 - 104 - 87
Blood Pressure 137/80 - 132/80 - 130/74
Tgl/HDL 3.64 - 2.48 - 2.07

So before the diet, I had and awful tgl/HDL ratio and now it's good, hopefully I will get to below 2.0 soon.
During the diet, starting immediately with the diet, my triglycerides improved and are now excellent (84).
LDL shot up (bad) at the start of the diet but settled back
HDL went up (good) and stayed there.

The combination of higher HDL and Low triglycerides is evidence of large fluffy LDL particles which is very strong protection against cardiovascular disease (CVD). Whereas before I started the high triglycerides and poor tgl/HDL was evidence of small artherogenic LDL particles and ongoing atherosclerosis.

So this is good evidence that this is making me more healthy, preventing atherosclerosis and if any was present, reversing it.

In order to be more certain, I'm going in for an NMR blood test that should directly measure LDL particle size and number and a lot of other numbers that could reveal my state of health and confirm or refute that the diet is going well.

Reading List

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Costco Chicken Bake Diet

The Costco Chicken Bake is a quite tasty thing with chicken and other things inside a tube of pastry. They serve it hot at the cafe in Costco stores.

While shopping at a Costco in Cardiff, myself, wifey, child and mother stopped at the cafe/canteen/plasticy-eating-area and amongst other foods, shared a Costco chicken bake. Of the four of us, three of us tasted the chicken bake.

That evening, about 8 hours later, the three of us who had tasted the chicken bake felt the first effects of food poisoning.

Two days later, our average weight loss per person was 4 pounds.

So if you're looking for some quick weight loss, have a bathroom handy and three days to spare, consider trying a Costco chicken bake at the Cardiff Costco.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Eggs and Bacon Diet

Following the last post, I've been doing a lot of work reading up on recent scientific research on diet, nutrition and health.

I'm writing up a summary of what I've learned, complete with all the reference and research citations. But without a basic grounding in organic chemistry, it's hard to follow the mechanistic arguments, but it's easy to follow the resulting diet advice and the hand-wavy arguments.

I've been taking my own medicine and eating in accordance with the dietary advice and so I have some data.

So here it is:

1) Dietary Saturated fat is good for you. Dietary Polyunsaturated fat is very bad for you. Monounsaturated fat is ok.
What?! The government says otherwise and has done since the 1970s.
Well the government is wrong. Here's why: LDL and HDL cholesterol has been misnamed as bad and good cholesterol. LDL is not bad. LDL has a purpose in the body. However it comes in small and large variants. LDL is not bad, except that small LDL particles oxidize easily and oxidized LDL particles are what can invade the artery walls and start the process of plaque formation that leads to coronary heart disease (CHD).

What makes LDL cholesterol oxidize and kill you? Time and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs). The longer that the LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood before returning to the liver, the more likely it is the oxidize. When they bump into PUFA molecules, the PUFA molecule does a good job at helping to oxidize the LDL.

Saturated fat is much more stable, promotes the generation of larger (non oxidizing) LDL. Whereas PUFAs help cause LDL cholesterol to oxidize.

2) Dietary Cholesterol is good for you
What?! The government has said otherwise since the 1970s.
Again the government is wrong.
Your own body makes cholesterol (there are several types). It makes more cholesterol than you eat. Typically, your body (I.E. every cell in your body) makes 85% of your cholesterol and you eat 15%.

The body wants to keep cholesterol at a level, so if you eat more, it makes less. If you eat less, it makes more.

To gloss over a complex sequence of organic synthesis steps, if you eat more cholesterol, your cells need to make less of it and so they get to build the safe, large LDL molecules in place of the easy-to-oxidize small (type b) LDL molecules. So you don't get CHD. Take a look at the increase in CHD in America since the government told people to stop eating cholesterol.

'but research shows that lowering cholesterol with statins reduces the risk of heart attack' you say. Yes, but they are talking about cholesterol in the blood, which is a completely different thing to dietary cholesterol. Statins, by lowering blood cholesterol overall, they also lower the amount of bad LDL and so in people at risk with bad LDL, it helps. However they would not be at risk if they only had good LDL. I.E. the benefit of statins relies on people have messed up cholesterol ratios.

3) High Glycemic index foods (sugars and starches) are very bad for you.
These foods stimulate a strong insulin response to control the sugar level in the blood stream resulting from the rapid breakdown of the sugars and simple starches into glucose and fructose. This has a lot of knock on effects, the end result of which is type 2 diabetes. But before that, the insulin tells the body to consume energy from sugars instead of from fat released from fat stores. Then after the sugar goes away, the insulin hangs around, leading to a blood sugar drop and leaving the fat cells holding only their energy, so you feel lethargic and hungry. So you eat more. This is a problem that leads to weight gain.
The alternative, low glycemic index foods, break down slowly and so don't lead to an insulin spike, so your fat cells feel happy about releasing fat stores into the blood for use by the body.

4) Vitamin A and D need to be in balance.
What?! My doctor told me to take massive vitamin D supplements.
However recent research has shown that vitamin A inhibits the function of vitamin D and vitamin D inhibits the function of vitamin A, so you want them to be in the right ratio. What's the right ratio? Well without quoting number, fatty fish have exactly the right ratio. So does cod liver oil. So dump the vitamin pills and get eating the salmon steaks and cod liver oil pills.

5) Choline is good for you
The government doesn't disagree with this, but their dietary advice doesn't provide for sufficient choline because its major source are in liver and eggs and they don't want you eating those because they have saturated fat and cholesterol, so their misguided advice on fat and cholesterol is messing up their choline advice.

6) Calories still matter but some are better than others
If you want to use up fat stores, you need to get the fat being released and you need to have an overall energy deficit so that it gets used. Fortunately you don't need to get hungry for this to be the case. If you're eating more or less your metabolic rate in saturated fats, cholesterol and low glycemic index vegetables, then you will not feel hungry, because you will have plenty of fat-energy in the blood to draw upon. There is a roughly 30% conversion loss when processing low glycemic index foods, compared to processing sugar. So you burn up energy faster. Exercise helps redress the balance and has lots of other beneficial side effects.

So what does it all mean for diet?

1) Do a bit of research and get a feel for how many calories are in the foods below so you can meter out about the right amount of daily calories. This should give you three good sized meals a day.

2) Eat foods high in protein and with saturated fat.
I like lamb and steak. If you like offal, then great, but I don't.

3) Eat eggs. 3-4 a day is good.
The cholesterol will bring your LDL and HDL ratios into better balance and increase the size of the LDLs, so protecting you from CHD. The yolks have a lot of what you need, including saturated fats, cholesterols, vitamins and choline.

3) Eat low glycemic index vegetables and Fruits
Brocolli and cauliflower taste great with cheese melted on top.
There are lots of web site that will show you the glycemic index of foods.

4) Eat fatty fish and/or take cod liver oil.
The fatty fish has healthy saturated fats and vitamins A and D in good ratios. So does cod liver oil.

5) Drink whole milk and enjoy your cheese.
Nutrients in milk and other foods don't transport themselves. They need to be transported on the backs of fat molecules. So the good stuff in skimmed milk never gets through.

6) Avoid wheat products (bread) rice and other high glycemic index foods.

7) Eat NO polyunsaturated fats.
None. You will get a little bit from fish and meat and you only need a little bit. Too much and you risk more LDL oxidation and hence CVD.

Trans fats are just bad, but you already knew that.

So after a few days of fried egg, bacon and mushrooms for breakfast. Steak for dinner. Side vegetables made palatable with butter and cheese. Snacking on fruit (in my case bananas, grapes, apples and oranges are top of the list). I have managed to not be hungry, to lose weight and to eat yummy food. I also get the satisfaction of knowing that modern research agrees that this will improve my odds of contracting from a handful of 'modern' diseases like cancer, CHD, Alzheimer's and diabetes. This seems like a good thing.

What are the numbers?

That's a little over a pound a day. 3.04% of body weight lost in 7 days, by changing nothing except following the above advice - high protein, cholesterol, good carbs. No bad carbs or PUFAs. Keeping half an eye on the calories, but not going hungry.

I'm signed up for a blood test, so I can find out how my blood numbers have changed.

It's hard to look at a plate of bacon, eggs and mushrooms and not think that they are unhealthy. But it seems worth trying. It's a shame I make good bread though.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pancake Dilemma

Today is pancake day.
That is British pancake day. The day on which you make pancakes and eat them rolled up with lemon juice and sugar sprinkled on the inside. do not confuse them with crepes, which are thin, French and whussy.

My mistake was to sit down and watch 'Fat Head' on Netflix the night before. But first - some context:

I'm a sciency sort of person. I can tell the difference between bald, unsupported assertion and properly conducted scientific research that supports an assertion. Amongst the many things I considered bald, unsupported assertions are the claims of the benefits of low calorie diets, the existence of god, P=NP and the Atkins diet.

I formed my opinion on the Atkins diet several years ago, around the time the Atkins diet grew in popularity in the early 21st century. It was literally unsupported by any published peer reviewed research, and as such, could and should be ignored until some data came out.

What I've learned since then, is that we don't really know how the whole stomach/hunger thing works. This realization came after reading a bunch of research related to wifey's laproscopic banding surgery. It works, but we really don't know why.

So back to the docu-movie. It addressed the fact that in the past couple of decades, a bunch of research has completed and has told us quite a bit about how the sugar/carb/protein/insulin thing works. It more or less supports the Atkins assertions. The film makes a few bald assertions of its own, but there's real research out there and you can go and find it.

I did what any vaguely interested lazy person would do and did a bit of googling at work when I was supposed to be working. I found a reasonably nice summary of the information in the movie, without the funny bits or Netflix here.

So back to the pancakes. Pancakes are made from an apparently (under low carb orthodoxy) toxic mix of refined carbs (flour) with saturated fat (butter, milk & eggs). Pancakes come out better if you mix the batter a few hours before you use the. So making it the night before is ideal.

So I mixed the batter last night, popped it in the fridge and sat down to watch the movie, which informed me of exactly why eating pancakes is a bad idea.

Never mind. It takes more than a scientifically proven carbohydrate hypothesis to keep me away from pancakes for breakfast on pancake day. The batter was poured into a hot pan and the seventh level of carb hell was entered once more. It was delicious. Never mind, I'll go get some steaks and coconut oil tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Making French Macarons

That's right. Macarons, not Macaroons. It's French.

Minor acts of googling reveals that it is easy to get French Macarons very wrong and there's lots of conflicting advice on how to get it right. On my first attempt, I succeeded in making tasty but very lumpy, misshapen blobs commonly known as macawrongs.

However I'm generally reluctant to take on a new recipe without having the time set aside, because I prefer to experiment and perfect until I can do it at least as good, and preferably better than the pros. So taking on something that is commonly described as being actually *hard* is not the best idea.

Fortunately, I found someone who likes to operate the same way I do, reviewing recipes, plotting graphs to see what the spread of ratios looks like, making multiple test cooking and keeping notes of the results of each variable. The masterful result of her research into cooking macarons is here.

After 20 minutes in the oven at 290F, a cooling off and a spludge of ganasch in between, they look something like this, not perfect, not puffy enough, but free of voids and cooked right:

Close up, one looks something like this:

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I got practically offered a job yesterday. Where are these people when you actually need them?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Shortbread Quest

If you've been following Wifey's blog recently, you will know that there has been something of a shortbread quest going on in the kitchen.

One of them looks like this..

She started it, but I had to do the baking. Last weekend she came home from a long hard shopping trip with a real shortbread tin. The sort with patterns and cut lines molded in it. Sorry, no pictures.. it's in the dishwasher right now.

After several experiments, I iterated towards the following recipe, which is as good as I've got so far. When squished in the shortbread tin and cooked, they look something like this..

Better Shortbread Recipe
David Johnston

Shortbread is supposed to be 'short', meaning tender and crumbly, the opposite of bread which is chewy and robust. To do this you need to minimize the development of gluten, the opposite of what you do to bread.

Things you can do to prevent gluten development are to keep it cold (as with pastry), avoid kneading it (as with pastry) and use soft flour (as with pastry). Another thing to improve lightness and crumbliness is to get air into the mixture by creaming the sugar and butter. Cutting the butter with the flour rather than folding/kneading it in is also good, since the butter is incorporated as little butter particles, rather than being uniform, so when it melts it leaves zones of high and low density, adding to crumbliness.

These things are at odds, because to cream butter, it has to be warm enough to be creamed. So you can't then cut it in because the butter is softened.

So my solution (as with bread) is to take the extra time to make it right. Namely cream the softened butter, sugar, salt and any flavoring vigorously in a mixer to get it well airated, then wrap it in wax paper or parchment (silicone paper) and stick it in the fridge for a few hours or overnight to re-harden.

Then cut the hardened butter/sugar mixture into the flour with a pastry cutter and cook. Keep your tools, flour and bowls cool, so it's good to stick them in the fridge with the butter while it hardens.

The shortbread needs to be cooked low and slow to prevent it browning, while giving it enough time to cook through.

Also a nice thick shortbread will spread out in the oven as the high butter content melts. So instead of baking it on a cookie sheet, bake it in a cake pan, lined with parchment so you can get it back out again. I used a Williams & Sonoma Goldtouch nonstick 9" round cake pan. The gold colour seems to strike the right balance between heat absorption and reflection. My black cake tins are good at burning things. If wifey/hubby brings home a proper shortbread pan, use that.

One sign of success with this recipe is that the baked dough rises up a little and so the top undulates a bit. This is evidence that air was incorporated during the creaming.

My experimentation led me to a good ratio of sugar:butter:flour of 1:2:2.25 by weight.
I found that adding vanilla is a good thing, filling out the flavour a bit.
For consistency, use unsalted butter, so you can control the amount of salt and measure all the bulk goods by weight, not volume.

While the recipe below is a single batch recipe, it's handy just to make up larger batches of sugar/butter mix ahead of time and then weigh out as much as is required to fill whatever vessel you are cooking it in.

--- Day 1.

4 oz powdered/icing sugar
8 oz (two US sticks) of room temperature unsalted butter. (remember to take the butter out a few hours earlier)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 oz cake flour

Cream the sugar & butter in a stand mixer with a scraper blade. Start slow to keep the power under control. Once it is coming together run it for a few seconds at a faster speed then stop.

Add the vanilla and salt then mix at a fast speed for a couple of minutes to airate the mixture.

Use a spatula to scrape all the butter onto the middle of a large sheet of wax paper (parchment will work, but sellotape doesn't stick so well) roll it into a log in the paper, twist the ends to tighten it and tape it shut. Put this in the fridge overnight or for several hours, to cool, along with the flour and bowl you will be using later.

--- Next day

Put the cold butter/sugar mix into the flour and cut it in with a pastry cutter. Then use your fingertips, like as with pastry, to rub it together to form breadcrumbs, while avoiding warming it up too much. Unlike pastry, following the breadcrumbs, it will start coming together as a dough. This is the time to scrunch it together to form a dough ball, flatten to a disk, wrap in pastic wrap and put in the fridge for 15 minutes to relax it, so it'll shape more easily.

If it remains to crumbly to form a dough, wet your hand and shake a few drops of water in the bowl, then mix in with a knife. This should get it to come together.

Prepare a 9" straight sided round cake pan, putting parchment in the bottom and greasing the sides with butter or Pam. Or grease the shortbread pan wifey brought home.

Press the dough into the bottom of the pan, get it to reach the sides, then use a flat object, like the bottom of a glass to press the surface reasonably flat.

If you're cooking it top-up, poke the top all over with a fork (mostly for traditional decoration) and pre-cut the segments with a sharp knife, so they can be broken apart after cooking. Sprinkle with sugar and/or turbinado sugar.

If you're cooking in a shortbread mold, the top is down, so you can't really sprinkle things on it.

Cook in a pre-headed 275F oven for 1 hour. Take out and decant onto a cooling rack, cut it into separate parts, move them apart a little bit and return on the rack to the oven for another 30 minutes. This gives them a lot more open surface area, so it gets them to dry out properly.

Take out and allow cool and harden completely.

The result should be crumbly, sweet, melt in the mouth, reasonably dry and short (not chewy).

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Yes there's a recipe.

By popular request, yes the Asian pear pi pie does have a recipe. Here it is..

1) Have wifey come home with a number of asian pears.
2) Leave them lying around for a couple of days, until you work out that no one is going to eat them.
3) Chop up the pears, put them in a pan with just enough water to cover, 1/3 cup sugar and cook until they're soft. Then freeze them in a ziplock bag so they don't go off.
4) Wait a few weeks until you run out of space in the freezer and so decide to use the bag of asian pear slices for something.
5) Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
6) Get out the pears and defrost, but retain all the juice that comes out and put it in a bowl. The freezing will have bust up all the cell walls, which is good.
7) Put the slices in a sieve or colander over the bowl with the juice, sprinkle on some sugar and mix it in with your hands. Leave it to macerate for an hour, giving it a mix with your hands every now and then. Lots more juice will collect in the bowl.
8) Put the juice in a pan and add three heaping tablespoons of sugar. Heat it and boil it until it reduces to 1/3 of the original volume. It will be a nice thick syrup at that point.

9) While the syrup is reducing, make enough sweet pastry for your baking dish. I won't tell you how to make pastry. I use the recipe in the Julia Child book. But I make about 50% more than they suggest, because frankly, trying to roll out 'just enough' pastry to fit a dish is hell.
10) Add 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of white sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, the zest and juice of 1 lemon and a small sprinkling of allspice and nutmeg to the pear slices and mix together.
11) Roll out 1/2 the pastry and put in the baking dish.
12) Fill it with the pear slices.
13) Sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour over the pears evenly.
14) Pour the pear juice reduction/syrup evenly over the pears. It all would have been too soggy if you hadn't reduced the liquid.
15) Egg wash the lip to make it stick to the lid. Roll out and put on the pastry lid, make some steam holes, fashion a Pi shape with bits of pastry cut from the edge of the baking dish.
16) Cover all over with egg wash for nice browing.
17) Generously sprinkle with turbinado sugar for a nice granular look on top.
18) Cook for about an 50 minutes to 1 hour in the 350 degree oven.
19) Take out and allow to cool. If you like, put it in the fridge so it sets up inside.
20) Have someone import Bird's eye custard powder (unless you're in the UK), prepare as on the instructions on the packet and apply liberally to a slice of the pie.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lets celebrate! I now have two followers!

So lets celebrate with a a pi pie joke..

This is the oldest math joke in pie making.

Of course , if you're reading this as a side effect of laparoscopic gastric banding, you'll shudder at the sight of the following because the missing slice would sit at the top of the restriction and induce all sorts of bending-over-the-sink episodes..

But there is a solution. There is real custard, made from whisking eggs and sugar over a low heat to form a sabayon type mixture that is then combined with hot milk to form a smooth custard, thickened by the unrolling proteins in the egg. But a non foodie British person wouldn't recognize that at custard. In Britain, real custard is made from fake custard powder from a tin can supplied by Bird's Eye foods. Frankly it's more of a palava to make than real real custard, but when applied correctly, it will supply the lubrication for the pi pie to pass the constrictive pie hole. Truly something to celebrate...