A plague o’both your houses…

Plague: A plague is a very infectious disease that spreads quickly and kills large numbers of people.

In the depths of lockdown in the UK, I’ve been reading about how people that came before us dealt with plagues, to see if we have learnt anything since pandemics became popular around 10,000 years ago.

I say 10,000 years because that’s about the time we started collecting together in groups larger than hunter gather bands, started to produce surpluses of food and so invented trade, international – intercontinental even – travel and started to transport bacteria and viruses around the world and infect large numbers of other people. Never forget, if we don’t move, then bacteria and viruses can’t move either, which is why I have spent the last 10 weeks in the garden.

I started with Laura Spinney’s book Pale Rider.

Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World (Paperback)

It charts the progress of the 1918 flu pandemic, spectacularly mis-named as Spanish Flu. The Spanish called it the “Naples Soldier” and almost every other country in the world apart from the Britain, the USA (where it almost certainly originated) and France, named it after a neighbouring country they viewed with distrust. It’s a great book and well worth a read as she describes the huge societal inequalities that were laid bare, if they needed to be, by the progress of the disease. Whilst the industrialised world was able to engage in total warfare and mechanised death, both on the ground and in the air, its scientists and doctors still only had partial understanding of the germ theory of disease and medicine was on the whole unregulated. Homeopaths and osteopaths were equally as able to treat flu as more “scientific” doctors. Bacteria had been observed and understood as an agent of disease but viruses were a mystery – they were unobservable and therefore unknowable at that time. Some vaccines were available – for example, Edward Jenner created a vaccine for smallpox in 1796, with no understanding of germ theory let alone viruses, simply through observation. However there were no vaccines against any kind of flu in 1918 and no defence against the novel H1N1 flu variant called Spanish Flu (and other things). This was a new disease, no one had had it before and so no one was immune (sound familiar?) neither was there any hope of finding a vaccine as no one had the first idea how to go about it. In the eyes of many this plague was an act of God. The disease ripped across the planet in three waves, sped on its way either by transporting men out to fight in the First World War or demobilising them as it ended. By the time the third wave of the pandemic burned itself out, it had killed somewhere between 50-100 million people.

However, I turned the final page of the book feeling a little relieved. Even though, at the start of the current plague, in the UK we appeared not to have learned the lessons of personal protective equipment and that took a long time to re-learn in 2020, in the UK at least. In 1918 face masks seemed to be accepted as essential protective equipment.

California coronavirus lessons from the 1918 Spanish flu - Los ...

Looking at the pictures above you may be thinking “Ha! The fools aren’t standing two meters apart!”. But why would they? They had no idea that the disease was caused by a particle that struggled to jump more than a meter.

So hey! We have learned something! Now we understand viruses cause disease and we have brilliant scientists all over the globe that have sequenced the genome of the little blighter and are desperately looking for the vaccine that will render it harmless. In 2020 we can stare into the very essence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and pick it apart bit by bit. In 2018 they didn’t even know what a gene was. I put the book down and felt brave enough to go back further in time…

All the way back to 1665.

A Journal of the Plague Year

Well maybe not all the way to 1665 but to 1722 when the book was published. Arguments have been had as to whether the book is non-fiction or fiction but now it is regarded as a novel. The book is a first person recounting of the Great Plague in London and is attributed to a person called “H.F.” a saddler in Whitechapel district of London. Daniel Defoe had an uncle – Henry Foe – who was a saddler in Whitechapel so it may be based on his uncle’s journals. Who knows? However, Defoe is very careful to allocate events to specific streets and places and the book has a sense of a contemporaneous recording, but we just don’t know. What it clearly does give you is a sense of how they would deal with a plague at the time the book was written and I personally doubt things would have been different 60 years earlier. I opened the cover…

We start with rumours of the disease abroad. Rumours are that it is very bad in Amsterdam and, although the government did discuss it, people seemed unconcerned as it was a long way away and things were fine at home. That sounds familiar, I thought…

19 Jan 2020: Coronavirus: China reports 17 new cases of Sars-like mystery virus


Yet within a flash, the plague breaks out in London in Drury Lane, where two Frenchmen die of the Plague after opening a bale of silk from Holland. It then all goes quiet for a few months although Defoe says that he suspects that cases during this quiet period were being hushed up…

13 May 2020: Ian Murray accuses Nicola Sturgeon of ‘cover-up’ over Edinburgh Nike conference outbreak


But then people start dying in large numbers and, helpfully, the numbers are recorded and published in parish “bills” which Defoe reproduces throughout the book as the Plague progresses… just like we do today! But there are problems with the numbers…

…for now for about nine weeks together there died near a thousand a day, one day with another, even by the account of the weekly bills, which yet, I have reason to be assured, never gave a full account, by many thousands; the confusion being such….

Journal of the Plague Year. D Defoe

As you can see, he sees a discrepancy between the numbers of deaths reported and the number of deaths actually occurring – by the thousands. 300 years later in the UK, we seem to be be better at recording the total number of deaths, but there are still discrepancies between those recorded as dying of COVID-19, and the total number of people dying – by the thousands. Its the number between the red and blue lines…

UK now has highest number of coronavirus deaths in Europe as toll ...

And so the comparisons go on: the refusal of shops to accept cash payments; the quack remedies that do much more harm than good – including smoking… I recall us doing that one too; the differential effect on various occupations – butchers being particularly mentioned – we have exactly the same this time round; how pregnant women are grievously affected by the Plague in a part of the book that is pretty devastating; and the huge financial intervention made by the Lord Mayor to prevent civil unrest – Defoe says hundreds of £thousands. Today we have hundreds of £billions.

The similarity is astonishing with one difference. He says that throughout the Plague, London was never short of food or any other supplies and prices increased only slightly. He doesn’t mention toilet roll in particular.

However what really made me stop and think is how they dealt with risk of the onward transmission of the infection. They did it by the only means at their disposal. People who had symptoms were shut up at home with their family (today we are calling it household) and told they couldn’t go out and someone else had to do their shopping for them, until they either got better or died.

Not to put too fine a point on it… 300 years later, in the face of a novel disease that no one has immunity to, we have appeared to have made very little progress indeed in how we to deal with a plague, because we are doing exactly the same thing.

We even whine the same whine as they did 300 years ago…

This shutting up of houses was at first counted a very cruel and unchristian method, and the poor people so confined made bitter lamentations. Complaints of the severity of it were also daily brought to my Lord Mayor, of houses causelessly (and some maliciously) shut up.


… after all that was or could be done in these cases, the shutting up of houses, so as to confine those that were well with those that were sick, had very great inconveniences in it, and some that were very tragical, and which merited to have been considered if there had been room for it. But it was authorised by a law, it had the public good in view as the end chiefly aimed at, and all the private injuries that were done by the putting it in execution must be put to the account of the public benefit.

At the end of the day though, our hero seems to despair that, by the time people display symptoms and are shut up in their houses, it is too late. He says it’s not those people you need to worry about, it’s the people who are infected but are not showing symptoms. They are the real killers! He muses that what you need is some system to track all of the people that the symptomatic people have met, before they became symptomatic, and shut all of them up too!! But that’s probably impossible. Sound familiar at all?

However, when all the options are considered…

it is my opinion, and I must leave it as a prescription, viz., that the best physic against the plague is to run away from it.

I tend to agree.

And finally, before I close, Mr Defoe ends on a brighter note! The terrible economic slump that was caused by the Great Plague was followed by the V-shaped recoveries to end all V-shaped recoveries! The economy bounced back and accelerated into period of sustained growth as unseen before. Economic growth that was occasioned, of course, by rebuilding of London after the Great Fire… that was waiting in the wings.

If you would like to read the Journal of the Plague Year, you don’t even have to buy it. Those fine people at the Gutenburg Project have made it available online for free.


Stay well, stay safe, stay at home, work out.

PS I have just opened my next book which is, of course, The Plague by Albert Camus and the book opens with a quote from… why Mr Daniel Defoe!! Sometimes life is very pleasing. 😊

A January Fat-burner

As a personal trainer I am often asked, “Pete, what’s the best exercise to get me off to a good start in the New Year?” Now, that’s a tricky question because it all depends on what you are trying to achieve. However, if I was Mr Mean Ol’ Personal Trainer, I might reply, “Why not try doing the same exercise you were doing in December, but in January, do it properly.”

But I am not that person (not out loud anyway ) and so I like to offer people something that is fun, challenging and just downright useful. That’s one of the reasons I don’t have many clients…

“Make some fat.” I say.

“No, I already did that in December, now I want to lose it!”

“Yes, I get that. Try butter!”

“No, you’re really not getting this. I tried butter in December and look at the state of me!”

“I don’t mean eating butter – although I doubt that butter consumption is where your issue lies – make some butter. Shake it off!!”

To explain… if you are anything like me, you probably bought a lot of cream over Christmas and used about 5% of it. Yes I know you will have poured the rancid mess away by now but think of this as forward guidance for next year – you’re welcome.

So what do you do with all that unused Christmas cream that could also double up as a workout? You make it into butter, of course. But how does sitting at butter churn, sedately moving a paddle or watching a Kenwood mixer go round and round double as a workout? I hear you ask. The answer is you don’t use them; you use this high tech. piece of gadgetry…


A plastic food saver with a safe, tight fitting lid. It needs to be big enough to accommodate your cream and with room left over to allow the cream to move as you shake it. Mine has a capacity of about 1.5 litres and I had about a litre of cream – a mix of single and double because that was what was in the fridge.

After allowing the cream to come to room temperature, pour it into the container (add nothing else), clip down the lid and shake! And shake. And shake and then shake it some more. If possible get a gullible friend to help you, tag team style. After a while you will begin to feel tired but keep shaking until you are exhausted and can shake no more. At this point, you will want to look at your cream to see how much of it has turned to butter. So unclip the lid, look inside and you will notice that… nothing has changed, so get back on it and shake! After a further period of shaking, you may start hallucinating that Taylor Swift has entered your kitchen, to inspire you on in your shaking workout. In my experience this hallucination happens at the same time as the cream changes from liquid to a solid whipped cream, although I am unsure why this should be the case.

Shake it off

If you are desperately unlucky you may get Shakin’ Stevens instead of Taylor…


…but the effect seems to be the same… oddly. Maybe that explains the 99,000 subscribers to his youtube channel??

Now don’t let me put you off!! Keep shaking!

Eventually, after maybe 45 minutes, when you have nothing left to give, your heart rate is at threshold and your arms are about to drop off, something magical will happen. All of a sudden, the contents of the food saver will go from a thick whipped cream consistency to a splashy liquid. You’ll hear it first then feel it as it changes from whipped cream to a solid lump splashing around in a watery liquid. You made it, the workout is over! Congratulations!

As Taylor fades away, undo the lid and inside you will find this…


Butter, or at least the beginnings of it. The small popcorn like spheres are the butter and the liquid is buttermilk. You need to remove the butter from the buttermilk and then wash the buttermilk off the butter. If you leave buttermilk on the butter it will go rancid and spoil the butter.


Before I get ridiculed, I know that buttermilk is useful and I could make buckwheat pancakes with it or use it to start a lactic fermentation in my sauerkraut… but today is butter making, my kimchi is already fermenting, I’m not eating any dairy or grains and my freezer is full, so it has gone down the sink. I’m sorry.

Next, with cold, clean hands, you need to pick up the butter and wash it under running water, squeezing the buttermilk out from between the little spheres and amalgamating the butter globules into a pat.


Keep your hands cold and keep washing the butter until the water runs clear. Then you need to get the water out of the butter. Either you can squeeze it by hand or you can use some butter pats (which take a bit of getting used to). Either way, hands and pats need to be cold.

After several minutes patting you will have got the water out and your butter is ready. I have a little butter mould to give it a pretty shape but it’s just an affectation you can just shape it with cold hands. If you want to you can add a little salt – soft sea salt crystals are the best as they give a gentle crunch to the butter – rock salt will probably break your teeth so don’t use that. Carve an “S” for salt in the butter so you remember which is which.

How much butter you get is going to depend on the fat content of your cream, which will vary with the type of cream, the cow it came from and the time of year. From my litre of mixed single and double cream I got just under 300g of butter. I made 125g each of salted and unsalted butter with a bit left over to make some herb butter later.

I wrap mine in greaseproof paper and keep it in the freezer until needed then use it all at once, as I don’t trust myself to wash all the buttermilk out.

So there you have it. Home made butter from leftover cream that would have otherwise been wasted, plus you get buttermilk to start off your sauerkraut or kimchi fermentation or to make buttermilk pancakes with AND an upper body workout to boot!

What more could you ask for in dry January?

If you would like a fuller, clearer and much more professional explanation of how to make butter at home, check out Bread and Butter by Richard Snapes, Grant Harrington, Eve Hemingway.  You may never buy butter again (if you have a Kenwood mixer)!  😉

bread and butter


Start with the Annexes

I’ve not been here for a while… but enough has happened to warrant a new post, so here I go!

A long time ago (decades not weeks) I was involved in a minor court case where I was required to produce a document for submission to the court. Like the good civil servant I am (during daylight hours), I drafted a detailed document with many annexes of supporting information. Prior to the submission of my document to the court, I attended a conference with a QC where he would review it to ensure I hadn’t said anything stupid. His office was in Inner Temple, in a building that was founded by the Knights Templar during the 12th century and is now the place where barristers hang out.


It was a winter’s day in his sitting room-like office – comfy sofas facing an open coal fire, tea in china cups and Viennese whirls on a tea plate – where I proudly presented my work.

I was surprised when, instead of starting at the first page and reading my carefully drafted text from the beginning, he went straight to the back and started looking through the annexes. He looked at my puzzled expression over the rim of his teacup and explained, “I always start with the annexes. That’s where people put the interesting stuff, that they don’t want you to read.”

This was brought back to my mind when I read the latest paper on childhood obesity from those masters of obfuscation, Public Health England. The report is called Time to Solve Childhood Obesity. An Independent Report by the Chief Medical Officer, 2019 Professor Dame Sally Davies.


It’s ok, in a fairly mediocre sort of way, and it wouldn’t have made the headlines had it not contained one of the stupidest recommendations that has ever been made – that the government should ban eating on urban public transport.

Here is how one (irony defying) newspaper front page covered it:

Now, I’m no fan of people that stink out the train with their Cornish pasty or drop their Marks and Spencer sushi on the seats, but I wouldn’t want to be the person whose job it was to take away the Big Mac from the drunken banker on the 21:54 Guildford train from Waterloo!

Anyway, the report is curious from one aspect. It is almost ALL ANNEXES. The report is ten pages followed by about 80 pages of annexes, some of which are really quite rich in data and visuals. If we think back to what the QC said, its where they put the interesting stuff that they don’t want you to read, I wondered what they could have possibly hidden in there. And then I found it!

“The important biological determinants for obesity are: genetics; programming of biology that happens before birth and early in life that affects how the body responds to food; in all probability, the microbiome…

Emerging evidence suggests the microbiome, the many millions of microbes living inside a human’s gut, play an important role in health and disease. Babies are colonised as they are born from their mother’s birth canal. Recent work has shown an association between antibiotic usage and increased weight gain in childhood.”

Hold the phone!! An association between antibiotic usage and increased weight gain in childhood??? How come that didn’t make the headlines??? Cos it was buried in 80 pages of annexes maybe?

The link between antibiotic use, or over-use really, and obesity is covered in detail by Tim Spector in his recent book The Diet Myth in which he cites research by Martin Blaser.


It was Martin Blaser who produced the famous maps comparing antibiotic prescription rates and obesity in the USA. As he says, the correlation is strikingly non-random.


Given that PHE has now recognised the association too (albeit only in Annexe D), I wondered if they had produced a similar comparison and guess what? They haven’t. Quelle surprise…*

Undeterred, I wondered if I could produce my own maps given the PHE does collect data on prescription rates for antibiotics (they are trying to reduce over-use) and rates of obesity. I found maps for both, already done by others, and here they are. See if you think there is a strikingly non-random correlation in England too:

download mapantibiotics

Map on the left is overweight-ness from the Daily Telegraph … the darker red the fatter. Map on the right  is antibiotic prescription rates – the darker blue the higher the number of prescriptions. It was produced by Laura Shallcross, and Dame Sally C Davies (British Journal of General Practice 2014;64:604-605).

Whoa!! Shut the door!!! Dame Sally Davies??? The same Dame Sally Davies that wrote the obesity report?

So, she wrote the obesity report that buries the connection between antibiotics and weight gain in Annexe D of Annexes A-G and then what, she forgot that she had done the map that might demonstrate the possible connection and so it didn’t get into the report?

Or, maybe, it was just too interesting even for an annexe.


*Definition – A French phrase that means “what a surprise.” Often said sarcastically.


Jamie Oliver 2010 TED talk…

This is old now but I just came across it.

I have started the video where Jamie starts to explain how much sugar American children are ingesting solely from milk based drinks served in school.

As he describes it… it’s simply abuse.

The rest of the talk is definitely work 20 minutes of your life.





3800 bits of proof that a primal diet is effective for weight management.

Modern, western adults accrete weight.  It’s simply a fact of life. The environment that we live in sticks fat to us… particularly around our middle. Eventually, that abdominal fat kills us – which is not a great outcome.

To avoid the unwelcome results of excess abdominal fat, it would seem to be a sensible idea to manage your weight within some parameters around your “ideal” weight. Maybe a couple of kilograms up and a couple down. I expect that people that make a living out of their body’s look might have tighter controls but I am talking about everyday people like you and me. So I control my weight – or rather I don’t. I let my body control my weight by providing it appropriate nutritional signals that say things like everything is all right in the world, you don’t need to store the food coming as fat, feel free to burn whatever you like. Oh and BTW we like muscle because we lift heavy things and we love available energy because we run and play and think about stuff too. So what does my body do with this information and food (food is information too)? It does this…

weight 2019

That’s about seven year’s worth of data comprising about 3800 data points showing my body managing its weight, by itself, between about +/- 2kg, simply on the basis of what I put in my mouth and the life I lead. No calories were ever counted or piece of saturated fat avoided in the making of this seven year data series. This is simply proof that a primal diet allows the body to control human adult weight by itself. 3800 objective, tamper free, repeatable bits of proof.

But why did I start recording only in 2012 when i lost my weight in 2004? Because that’s when I bought the wifi scales – d’oh! Seriously, wifi scales… if you don’t have them you need them!

So there you have it. The wiseacres of weight loss tell you that the difficult bit about weight loss is maintaining the loss over time. I say nuts to that… nuts, butter, cheese, cream and avocados with lots of mayonnaise.


World Expresses Astonishment as Medical Establishment Agrees With Itself! Primal Community in Tatters – If Only we had Realised Earlier…

They’re back… the carbohydrate loving members of the medical establishment, and this time they mean business. What kind of business they mean; you can decide for yourself.

Prof. Jim Mann (Professor in Human Nutrition and Medicine at the University of Otago) his team at the University of Otago Dunedin come armed with a meta analysis of

observational studies and clinical trials conducted over nearly 40 years [that] show a 15 to 30 per cent decrease in deaths and incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer, when comparing the highest dietary fibre consumers with the lowest.

In other words, they have (re)examined a lot of the studies that have been conducted over the last 40 years – now that would appear to me to exclude Ancel Keys’s 1955 Seven Countries Study but I’d take a punt it’s in there – and found, surprise, surprise that they agreed with the results.

Now here’s the thing… given that the kind of person likely to listen to medical advice is probably going to listen to all the medical advice (I listen to none of it, as far as food is concerned) and that over the last 40 years the medical establishment has flooded the planet with advice of all types – some good, some nonsense – why do they think it is eating carbs and fibre that has made such a magical difference to people’s health? Why do they not think that the same people that have increased their fibre intake, at the same time would not also be giving up smoking, taking more exercise, lowering their stress levels, reducing their exposure to pollutants, having blood tests and acting on the results, moving to the country and taking up pottery, making their own butter (new one for me, that) or maybe even stopping eating bacon (never!!).

The truth is they don’t know, they can’t know and it looks to me like they are just trying to create a bit of (cheap) publicity, for reasons I can’t imagine… The study was commissioned by the World Health Organisation and frankly, I would have thought that the WHO could have been a bit more imaginative than to ask for a rehash of 40 (or more) years of the same old, same old. But what the hey, it’s not their money.

Meanwhile let’s have a look at the obesity statistics for children from some selected countries over the last 40 years, as the medical community again congratulates itself for getting its advice exactly spot on.

Graph showing increase in overweight children in the world

Finally a word about the organisation that carried out the study – the Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre at the University of Otago, Dunedin in New Zealand, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but this is an interesting throwback…

Dr Robyn Toomath – a diabetes specialist and obesity campaigner – says after 14 years she has achieved nothing.

If you can’t be bothered to read the post, here’s a relevant chart from it, showing New Zealand’s obesity rates:

Hmmm… not much success there Prof. Mann. Maybe your countrymen and women aren’t listening to your advice? Or maybe they are…?

And now here’s a word from our sponsors, well the Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre’s sponsors who, amongst others, are:

Eli Lilly. Whose diabetes related medical products are as follows:
Basaglar® (insulin glargine injection)
Glucagon™ (glucagon for injection [rDNA origin])
Glyxambi® (empagliflozin and linagliptin) tablets**
Humalog® Junior KwikPen® (insulin lispro injection 100 units/mL)
Humalog® Mix50/50™ (50% insulin lispro protamine suspension, 50% insulin lispro injection [rDNA origin])
Humalog® Mix75/25™ (75% insulin lispro protamine suspension, 25% insulin lispro injection [rDNA origin])
Humalog® U100 (insulin lispro injection)
Luxura HD
Humalog® U200 (insulin lispro injection)
Humulin® 70/30 (70% human insulin isophane suspension, 30% human insulin injection [rDNA origin])
Humulin® N (human insulin [rDNA origin] isophane suspension)
Humulin® R (U-100) (regular insulin human injection, USP [rDNA origin])
Humulin® R (U-500) (regular U-500 [concentrated] insulin human injection, USP [rDNA origin])
Jardiance® (empagliflozin) tablets**
Jentadueto® (linagliptin and metformin hydrochloride) tablets**
Jentadueto® XR (linagliptin and metformin hydrochloride extended-release) tablets**
Synjardy® (empagliflozin and metformin hydrochloride) tablets**
Synjardy® XR (empagliflozin and metformin hydrochloride extended-release) tablets**
Tradjenta® (linagliptin) tablets**
Trulicity® (dulaglutide)
Humatrope® (somatropin [rDNA origin] for injection)
Olumiant® (baricitinib)
Taltz® (ixekizumab)

Phew!!! That’s a lot of drugs for people who have (mainly) eaten too many carbs!!!!!


Novo Nordisk. Whose diabetes related medical products are:
GLP-1 analogue
Victoza® (liraglutide)
Basal insulin / GLP-1 analogue
Xultophy®  (insulin degludec/liraglutide)
Modern insulins
Fiasp®  (insulin aspart)
Levemir® (insulin detemir)
NovoMix® 30 (biphasic insulin aspart)
NovoRapid® (insulin aspart)
Tresiba® (insulin degludec)
Human insulins
Actrapid® (insulin human, rDNA)
Insulatard® (insulin human, rDNA)
Injection devices
NovoPen® 5 Blue
NovoPen® 5 Silver
NovoPen® 4 Bue
NovoPen® 4 Silver
NovoPen Echo® Blue
NovoPen Echo® Red
NovoPen® 3 PenMate®
NovoFine® Needles 31G 6mm
NovoFine® Needles 30G 8mm
NovoFine® Autocover® 30G 8mm
NovoTwist® Needles 32G 5mm
NovoFine® Needle Remover
GlucaGen® Hypokit 1mg

Bloody Hell!! I wonder how much money they make from this stuff!!! BTW, I like that all the needles are helpfully followed by a needle remover 😦

In case you had any doubts though, the Edgar Research Centre says that it provides more information on its sponsors in its annual reports and gives a useful link that takes you to this page (my bold):


Annual Reports for Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research

Our Annual Reports highlight our research achievements, funding, development of young researchers, dissemination of knowledge, publications, and our planning.

The report titles reflect the relevant name at the time of publication.

Last published report 2013. Word search “sponsor” – 0 hits.
The more I see, the less I believe.

A Week in Ketosis

Ketosis is not, unfortunately, a little known Greek island. I am far from soaking up the sun on a mini-break on the Mediterranean and actually sitting in England watching the rain for the second consecutive day of the weekend. So if it’s not a Greek island, what is ketosis?

Well, if you are rejecting surgery as an answer to getting rid of the excess fat you are carrying, ketosis is the only way you are going to do it. Ketosis is the state in which the body is using primarily fat for energy i.e. “fat burning”. Ketogenesis is the process by which the body turns fat into energy. Here’s what it looks like:


The two molecules at the top are acetyl-CoEnzyme A and are the result of the breakdown of fat molecules either directly from food intake or, if you are losing weight from your stored body fat. The three molecules at the bottom in pink are what is known as “ketone bodies” and are what the body actually uses as fuel. Wikipedia tells us that:

“The three ketone bodies, each synthesized from acetyl-CoA molecules, are:

β-Hydroxybutyrate is the most abundant of the ketone bodies, followed by acetoacetate and finally acetone. β-Hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate can pass through membranes easily, and are therefore a source of energy for the brain, which cannot directly metabolize fatty acids. The brain receives 60-70% of its required energy from ketone bodies when blood glucose levels are low.”

So, if you want to burn off your body fat, all you have to do is persuade your body to break down the fat into acetyl-CoA then turn it into ketones and use it for fuel. Simple!  Unfortunately Wiki also tells us however that:

“Ketogenesis takes place in the setting of low glucose levels in the blood, after exhaustion of other cellular carbohydrate stores, such as glycogen.

Hmm… so how do you do that then? Wiki to the rescue:

“Depletion of glucose and oxaloacetate can be triggered by fasting, vigorous exercise, high-fat diets or other medical conditions, all of which enhance ketone production.”

Now I don’t ever suggest getting ill is a good idea so let’s rule out the last one “medical conditions” which leaves us fasting, vigorous exercise and high fat diets. Does that remind you of anything? Oh yeah… a “primal” way of living. This is interesting! But if we were actually meant to base our diets around carbohydrates then why did we bother to evolve ketogenesis as it looks pretty complex? Because in reality, for early people, carbohydrates were not common in large amounts and an unreliable food source, we experienced frequent bouts of fasting when hunting was poor and when hunting was good, we undertook large amounts of vigorous exercise to catch stuff. And finally, if we were lucky enough to find carbohydrate to eat we immediately shut down ketosis to preserve our fat stores because fat is the body’s insurance against bad hunting. If we reflect on that for modern people, basically, if you are trying to lose weight you can only do it by using fat for fuel and if at the same time you are eating carbohydrate you are telling your body to stop burning fat. No wonder people feel weird on a low fat/high carb weight loss diet!

OK I hear you say, that all pretty easy to write but can you demonstrate any of it? have a look at my week. The pictures are of what are called Ketostix and they measure the amount of acetoacetate (one of the ketones) in urine. The more purple the end of the stick the more ketones and the stronger your state of ketosis i.e. the more fat you are burning. This isn’t scientific but I tested myself at the same time every day for nine days. My diet was mainly very low carb. Ketostix are not an accurate way to measure ketones in your blood as they are measuring the overspill in your urine, but they do demonstrate that some ketosis is happening.

Monday – low carb diet and lunchtime workout that was pretty strenuous. Heavy fat burning.

Monday keto

Tuesday – the same as Monday and still heavy fat burning.


Wednesday even more so!


Thursday and its the same again. Same routine same result.


On Friday I change my workout to a lower intensity stretching session and my ketosis dials back as I don’t need as much energy from my fat.


Saturday and I take the day off exercise and down it goes again but still in ketosis – still burning fat as my diet is very low in carbs and so there is very little glucose in my body – one of the conditions for ketosis. But watch what happens on Sunday…


BOOM!! NO KETOSIS!! Or almost none anyway – what happened here to stop things so abruptly? Carbs happened. For breakfast I ate half a smallish potato rosti fried in butter. Maybe the equivalent of half a medium sized potato and my fat burning almost completely stopped dead. Check out how much carbohydrate it took… half a medium potato thats all! No fat was getting burned by my body as it was preferentially using the carbohydrate from the potato and preserving its fat stores. I took all my readings at 6pm and so I had lasted the whole day on half a medium potato without having to touch any fat for fuel.


Monday was back to the usual routine and back to very low carbohydrate and working out at lunchtime and back into ketosis and back to fat burning.


Tuesday I worked it a bit harder in the gym and I think I just about went off the scale…


So there we have it. Don’t eat carbs and burn body fat, eat carbohydrate and completely shut down your fat burning and preserve body fat.

So how people expect to eat a low fat/high carbohydrate diet and lose their body fat at the same time is simply a mystery to me. Unless of course what they are actually doing is actually starving themselves by reducing their intake of food to a level that does not support the normal functioning of their body  in an effort to lose weight…. that might explain why they feel ill, suffer depression, find it unsustainable and put all the weight and more back on when they stop starving themselves.

One lump or two?