I had a great time at the Ancestral Health Symposium this weekend. Despite being an incredibly busy conference, I was thankfully able to meet a lot of the people involved with the evolutionary health and fitness community. If we didn’t get a chance to meet up, I apologize and hope that maybe we can at some point again in the future.

For your benefit, I’m reposting a summary of the Twitter posts I sent out during the symposium. In them, I think I’ve captured some of the salient points derived from the talks that I attended (I tried to attend as many as possible). Feel free to discuss the topics below, I’d like to hear what you think.

Dr. Loren Cordain

  • Surprisingly, U.S. per capita consumption of sugar has decreased slightly in the recent years, still super high.
  • Meta-analyses show that vegans and vegetarians on average don’t do any better health-wise than the average meat eater.

Dr. S. Boyd Eaton

  • The average American gets 13% of their nutrient intake from fruits and vegetables. It was more like 50% for hunter-gatherers.
  • During the paleolithic, male and female equality was greater than anytime since.

Melissa McEwen

  • Fermented foods could potentially be a replacement or supplement for colonic fermentation, improving food quality.
  • Human bacterial microbiome evolving very rapidly even as human change less dramatic – affects digestion/immunity.

Dr. Matt Metzgar

  • 2001 total estimated negative externalities from U.S. agriculture can be estimated to $3.8 billion – think pollution, soil erosion, etc.

Denise Minger

  • Many popular vegan doctor health programs (like Ornish) work not for lack of meat, but for removing junk sugar processed food crap.

Dr. Kevin Boyd and Dr. Michael Mew

  • Diet isn’t the only culprit in poor jaw and teeth development, mandibular muscle usage shapes the growing face.
  • Use it or lose it, the massive modern reduction in masticatory effort is maladaptive for jaw development.
  • From a broad perspective, only about 1/3 of the U.S. population has normal occlusion (jaw/teeth structure).
  • Bottles do not promote proper palate formation in babies like breast feeding does.
  • Human faces are shrinking. They don’t grow to the same size as before 10,000 years ago due to easily chewed processed food diets.
  • HFCS and sucrose are not the same, there is a difference in the chemical bond structures.
  • The tongue and inner palate apply pressure to cranial facial complex at an early age causing the rest of the skull to grow.
  • Cavities (tooth decay) are on the rise in children in the US for the first time in decades.

Tucker Max

  • What’s missing from our ancestral health studies? “violence”.
  • The noble savage theory of hunter-gatherer utopia is “bullshit”.
  • Fighting (MMA) allows you to test yourself on an anvil of truth which you can’t find anywhere else in society.

Dr. Seth Roberts

  • Added butter to diet and saw measurable increases in the ability to perform random timed arithmetic problems.
  • Performed self experiments for balance and memory while on supplemental flaxseed oil and found clear improvements with use.
  • Great advice: brief daily mental tests can help us decide what to eat. Try some home experiments.

Chris Masterjohn

  • Degeneration of lipoprotein molecules due to inflammation and oxidation is a more compelling explanation for cardiovascular disease than the standard lipid hypothesis or the cholesterol-heart hypothesis.
  • Fruit and vegetable polyphenols probably promote antioxidant behavior by being slightly toxic and stimulating glutathione production.

Dr. Michael Eades

  • How do we know what early humans ate? The stable nitrogen-15 isotopes in fossils put them along side other carnivores.
  • Discussed this article by Gary Taubes on restricted carbs and weight loss, emphasizing that low fat diets are really low carb diets – http://www.garytaubes.com/2010/12/calories-fat-or-carbohydrates/

Jamie Scott

  • Many countries see stress as a major workplace health problem but most companies invest in cheaper solutions like flu vaccines rather than more useful stress management programs.

Dr. Emily Deans

  • Recipe for a resilient brain: eat a diet low in food toxins, which promotes a happy gut, and keeps immune system strong to fight or avoid infection.

Dr. Lynda Frassetto

  • Fruit and vegetables reduce the acidity of your food intake because they contain compounds which are broken down into bicarbonate.
  • Salt sensitive people (genetic component) tend to be more insulin resistent on average. More salt, more insulin.

Don Matesz

  • Non-nutritive ingestive behaviors are common in mammals most likely to balance energy input with output – think herbs, spices, tea.

Vivian Shelton

  • In the US obese people spend $1,500 more each year on average for personal health costs.
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20 Responses to Summary of Important Ideas From the 2011 Ancestral Health Symposium

  1. Mark - Indy says:

    Re: Drs Boyd and Mew –> “HFCS and sucrose are not the same, there is a difference in the chemical bond structures.” Perhaps, but I’m more interested in the the body’s reaction to ingestion of these. Biologically, does the body treat ingestion of these differently?

    • David Csonka says:


      That was the implication, that the body treats them differently. Unfortunately I was not able to ask questions of them to qualify the statement.

  2. WhatAboutJason says:

    I followed the #AHS11 hash tag ever so closely all weekend long. It was great to see a wealth of information pouring out of the Paleo community. Seems like you had a good time!

  3. [...] hated missing Matesz and Guyenet!); a partial summary is available on David Csonka’s blog here. I was so happy to meet many of my internet friends (Andrew, Emily, Jamie, Melissa, etc.) plus make [...]

  4. Jason says:

    I picked up on that Cordain sugar stat as well. I would like to know what the U.S. per capita consumption of artificial sweeteners is. That would be an interesting comparison.
    I enjoyed the Mat Lalonde talk. It could be summed up as “there are many things you don’t know, so watch what you say.”

  5. Mark - Indy says:

    Have they determined the location for AHS12? Will it again be in L.A.?

  6. Thanks for this summary, David. Well done. I’m looking forward to AHS ’12!

    Pete B
    <a href="http://www.grassbasedhealth.blogspot.com/"Grass Based Health

  7. Sid says:

    Thanks for this! I’m so envious of everyone who got to go. Though I’m fairly sure I’d loath him in real life, I always get a kick out of Tucker Max’s comments (his Celeb Nerdy interview is one of the best summaries of paleo around).

    • David Csonka says:

      He seemed like a cool guy. I introduced myself and he chatted me up for a bit even though I was a complete stranger. He even helped extricate me from a terrible social blunder when talking to somebody else in his group. OK guy in my book

      • Sid says:

        Nice to hear something positive about him. He’s obviously very smart – I adore anyone who can be articulate while swearing :)

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  10. winni says:

    Thank you very much for the overview!

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  13. Kevin Boyd says:

    per my statement that HFCS and sucrose are molecularly different: Sucrose(table sugar) is a DIsaccharide that exists only in the precise 50-50 chemically-bound form of (equal amounts of) 2 different MONOsaccharides, glucose and fructose; HFCS is not a disaccharide, rather, it is a monosaccharide mixture of free/unbound glucose and fructose molecules. Furthermore, ratios of industrial/commercial HFCS mixtures consist of higher amounts of fructose molecules than glucose molecules. The primary health implication for the molecular dissimilarity between the 2 sweeteners is noteworthy: humans lack the enzymatic hardware necessary for utilizing fructose as a “readily-available” energy substrate….and, as it can only can be metabolized in the liver, and once there, unless there is a huge demand for glycogen replenishment (i.e., starvation, elite athleticism, etc.) it is converted into fat (de novo lipogenesis)…and in the process, also causes phosphate depletion and uric acid buildup; in nature fructose is ALWAYS bound to fiber (i.e., we are not genomically equipped to cope with large amounts of free/unbound fructose…..watch Rob Lustig’s UCSF YouTube video:”Sugar:The Bitter Truth” for further clarification, and please feel free to email me (kbo569@gmail.com) if further questions.


    Kevin Boyd-Paleodontist

    • David Csonka says:

      Thank you for the clarification Dr. Boyd! I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation made by you and Dr. Mew at the Ancestral Health Symposium. As somebody with a poorly aligned set of teeth, it was especially interesting to me.

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