Ancestral Health Symposium Part 1
I'm typing this on my rather nice Virgin America flight from LA to NYC, so maybe it won't be the most complete post ever. I'm sad I didn't get to spend much time in California, which is one of my favorite places in the United States, but it was a pleasure getting away from NYC even for a short while (hopefully I can someday make this permanent!). I had tons of fun at AHS, though it was overwhelming at times. It was surreal to be surrounded by so many interesting people and I wish I had been able to make time to talk to more of them! I think the next AHS needs a third day of mingling on a beach with a pig roast or something. I have a feeling this is just the beginning though and that further AHSs will been even more awesome. I saw a ton of presentations, but I couldn't see all of them, so I'm looking forward to them being posted online.
Yes, there were some controversial lectures! Surprisingly, Don Mastesz's was not one of them. If you stress balance you aren't going to make a lot of people angry. His presentation didn't have the know it all veneer that his controversial posts have had. Based on his latest posts, it seems he has learned a lot from the experience of writing them and reading people's responses.
The opening lecture by Boyd Eaton was much more controversial. He's quite the character and I was not sure what to expect. I liked how he stressed that we have to worry about the health of the planet, but found that he was dipping precariously into noble savage territory. Tucker Max did the opposite in his talk about martial arts. I think the anthropologists in the community need to be careful to stress the morally complex world in which our ancestors existed, in which we have evidence for cannibalism alongside evidence for people caring for incapacitated elders.
Cordain's lecture was more of the same. Mat Lalonde's seemed to be a response to some of the rather poorly thought-out ideas Cordain sometimes peddles. Lalonde was bitter at times. It's clear that some of the non-evidence based ideas in the paleo community can be disillusioning. I was personally feeling that after Cordain and Eaton's lectures, but it's also clear that there are lots of top-notch people defending truth in the community as well. Either way, Lalonde's main point was that when "core scientists" (chemists, biologists, physicists) see some of the common "paleo" ideas, they are laughing at the nonsense. We have to be really careful about complex topics like lectins and antinutrients.
One of the best moments for me was meeting Steffan Lindeberg. I think he's one of the top minds in this topic and I was excited that he came to my lecture and enjoyed it. It was surreal talking with some folks about Kitava and having him walk up and join in.
Carb-phobia was alive and kicking, but it seems to have lost its dominance. You may have heard that Gary Taubes made quite the fool of himself in Stephan Guyenet's lecture. Stephan certainly came out on top there. He needs to write a book! I did miss this myself though, because I was attending Emily Dean's and Jamie Scott's interesting lectures.
It was interesting to observe that among the low-carbers, there seemed to be an epidemic of puffy red skin, particularly in older men. I'm sure the pictures, when they are posted, will make obvious who these people are. The ones who had health complexions like the Eades and Nora are those espousing a high-fat diet. It goes very well with some of the anthropological stuff I've been working on showing that almost all cultures that eat meaty diets are doing so because they have access to high-fat game. More of that in another post
I'm also sure you've all heard that Denise Minger is incredibly beautiful AND funny. In fact, the conference was full of beautiful people, including plenty of women, so I admit I was wrong to predict that the sex ratio might mirror that of some of the tech conferences I attend.
A favorite lecture of mine was by Craig Stanford. It was nice to hear an actual physical anthropologist talk about our heritage. His area of research is meat-eating in chimpanzees. He didn't have any health advice, but his presentation was chock full of interesting facts about chimpanzee culture and metabolism, and how those differ from ours.