Breakfast in Cambridge, MA

November 1, 2012 • 6:15 am

A day in bed and a good night’s sleep have worked wonders, and I’m ready to travel again.  I’m also fortified by a breakfast foisted on me by one of my genial hosts, Andrew Berry.  Now at Harvard as an instructor and advisor, Berry did his undergraduate degree at Oxford, where he ate Weetabix three times a day for three years, except on Thursdays when he’d have a curry.

When I visit Andrew and Naomi, I always eat Weetabix, and had them for breakfast today.  For those not familiar with this cereal, it’s very good. It consists of something that looks like sawdust compressed into oval shapes:

Properly dressed, it also has sugar, banana, and a lashing of milk.

Andrew faults me for two problems here: he insists that Weetabix be eaten in even numbers (and so I get yelled at for eating three), and also insists that one use milk sparsely, while I like my Weetabix a bit soggy. It’s the combination of crunch and squish (of the soggy bits) that appeals to me.

Part of a balanced breakfast (Andrew has asked me to note that Weetabix keeps one “regular”):

Three were sufficient. I’m ready for Mexico now:

Try ’em!

Thanks to my hosts in Cambridge: Andrew & Naomi, and Tim & Betsy.


UPDATE:  You might not think it possible, but I get screwy comments about everything—including Weetabix. The one below came from “Laura”, who, needless to say, won’t be posting here again. Every error and misspelling is hers, not mine.

Dear Prof and various Wheatabix enthusiast apologies for curbing your unbridled enthusiasm but I am truly surprised to see such food worship on this site of all sites. As people who appreciate the process of evolution it should be known to you that we as humans are maladapted to consume wheat and in fact grains of any type. Like most seeds wheat is protected by a series of toxins designed to decrease the fitness of those who eat it. After all the wheat berry as we call it is the wheat plant next generation. Phytates interfere with mineral absorption in the gut. Gluten and gliadins pass through our gut usually unchanged by teh digestion process because they seem to wreck our gut flora and cause gut leakiness. In the blood stream they upset our immune system promoting inflammation. Our digestibe system also struggled to handle the large amount of starch so that our insulin levels rise and stay up for a long time after a meal containing wheat.

Wheat was domesticate some 13-10k years ago. Certainly not enough time for us adapt to this relatively recent staple? Yes the number of copies of our amylase genes appear to have increased but this is all.

Basicall eat wheat at your peril as it is impicated in every disease of civilisation under the sun, from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, atherosclerosis, autoimmune diseases including MS, cancer,dementia, osteoporosis and the steady decline in fertility in both sexes as noted in recent years. Have a read of Prof Cordain the Paleo diet for more info…..

Apparently Andrew should be dead by now.

80 thoughts on “Breakfast in Cambridge, MA

  1. I was a grad student at Oxford where I had Weetabix for breakfast nearly every day. However, I poured a very small amount of boiling water on the biscuit – just enough to leave it a bit damp – delicious! Bananas are also essential, but insisting on eating an even number is just weird.

  2. I spent a year living in Canada without Weetabix. Almost killed me. I think Costco had something similiar called Wheatbisk but it just wasn’t the same.

    I’m not wild about the milk separate idea either. In fact, that’s a very unusual way of eating Weetabix. And the eating in even numbers is just plain pedantic. That translates into eating in 4s as 2 is hardly enough to sustain you for a few hours and 6 would require eating out of a pot.

    But anyway, good shout with publicising Weetabix across the pond. Try Shredded Wheat as well.

    1. These days I always prefer mixtures of non-sugar added cereals. Amazingly it is still hard to find ones that do not have some added refined sugar, even in small amounts. I therefore go for meusli type things, and add something like banana or raspberries/blueberries in season.

      1. So does mine, and he’s nine years older!

        He doesn’t eat them in any particular number, so sometimes there’s an odd one at the end of the packet. I always eat them in pairs to avoid that.

  3. I used to have three when a child, covered with sugar (before we realized quite how bad that was) & drenched in almost a pint of milk. Followed by fried egg on bread & butter – cooked both sides. Funny how we get to be creatures of habit. I guess there is evolutionary value in habits as well as novelties.

  4. “It’s the combination of crunch and squish (of the soggy bits) that appeals to me.”

    You found something crunchy in Weetabix?? You must have added some nuts or seeds. I think of it as Instant Sog. Bleh. Give me Grape-Nuts any time!

    1. They taste just like Grape-Nuts flakes as it is – although compressed into form; don’t know where the porridge references come in though – it’s just soggy cereal…

  5. My two-year-old toddler approves this message. And he eats them in odd numbers (1) and likes them very, very soggy (initially floating, then drowning in milk, that is), too.

    As for me, I think I am rather looking forward to your upcoming posts on Mexican food instead.

  6. Weeee! Weetabix!
    My favourite breakfast cereal since my English days.
    But, Jerry, the shape of Weetabix is not oval: they’re ingots, ingots of cereal gold.

    Delicious with lime-blossom honey, a thin layer of Marmite, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce, followed by mug of Assam tea to wash it down. After such a relish, one feels ready to confront anything, like taking Sandy head-on if needed.

    1. “…a thin layer of Marmite,…”

      Thanx, I was looking for such advice. I’ve never had Weetabix, but when the opportunity comes I think I’ll reach for a jar of Bovril or the like.

  7. I saw two amazing things on the night of 21st August 1969. First, I saw Neil Armstrong step out onto the Moon’s surface in the wee small hours. Second, my Uncle Brian, who was up with me, about to go out on his milk round, ate THREE WEETABIX. I had never seen such a thing before, or since. And now Jerry is up there with Uncle Brian and Neil Armstrong…

  8. Now this is something I feel qualified to respond to (and on this WEBSITE that’s a bit of a rarity)

    Crunchiness is a fine art with these fellas. If you want a bit of crunch but not so much that you think you’ve taken a mouth full of flaky rubble, then pour a small amount THROUGH the weetabix so that they sit in a very shallow milk bath (be sure to use a wide shallow bowl for eveness of soaking). Then make sure you start eating them within 1 minute otherwise the cunning weetabix will absorb all the milk and be rendered thoroughly unappetising (some sort of defense mechanism I guess).

    Toppings? Sugar. Anything else (including bananas JC) is a heresy of grotesque proportions. I shall brook no dissent. By remaining aloof and silent….

    1. Spot on and these are at their very best in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep and you need sustenance without guilt. Watch out for crumbs on the sideboard though, if gorging these in secret.

    1. Ha! Just try finding real dairy products in urban America today.

      Whole Paycheck — at least the local one — sells Strauss milk and cream, which is really quite good. It’s pasteurized, of course, but that’s it — no homogenization, no carrageenans, no other shit. They sell it in glass bottles that you can get a significant refund (a dollar or so) for when you return them to the store; the bottles get sent back to the dairy to be cleaned, sterilized, and re-used.

      There’s a huge milk processing plant about a mile and a half due north of me. They’ve got a small convenience store attached to it where they sell fresh cheese curds, butter, and some other stuff…but no real milk or cream, only the heavily-processed stuff. The cheese curds are good. The butter is about as good an uncultured butter as you’re going to find. Their cheddar and jack cheeses are nothing interesting — okay, certainly, but you won’t write home about them.

      Ah, well….


      1. Yes.

        But WI, MN, IA, the Dakotas, WA, OR, ID, CA, (and other places in the US I’m sure I don’t know) are turning out world-class cheeses nowadays, I’m happy to say.

        I’m a cheese hound and I’ve chomped my way through France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and I particularly like sheep, goat, and buffalo cheeses. The stinkier, the better, pretty much, even gamalost and the mushy kind of pultost.

        Yum yum, eat ’em up!

        Like the beer and wine scene in the US, the cheese scene (at any rate) is getting better.

        1. Agreed — the days when American cheese meant layers of alternating yellow and clear plastic are, thankfully, over. There’s some damned good cheeses to be had here.

          But good luck finding milk and cream that hasn’t been processed beyond all recognition. As I wrote, Strauss is the only one I’m aware of…even boutique brands like Organic Valley (whose butter is almost as good as that from France) do nasty stuff to their milk and cream.


  9. My wife and I enjoy weetabix every other day. In between we have a poached or boiled egg on toast. Even numbers of the toasty comestible are best with quite a bit of milk but there is a ver small window between ideal and mush.

    BTW weetabix is definitely available in Canada (at least in Ontario) at Metro stores.

  10. I came here to see this, but it wasn’t here. Now it is.

    Spike: “We’re out of weetabix.”
    Giles: “We are out of weetabix because you ate it all. Again.
    Spike: “Get some more.”
    Giles: “I thought vampires were supposed to eat blood.”
    Spike: “Yeah, well, sometimes I like to crumble up the weetabix in the blood. Gives it a little texture.”
    Giles: “Since the picture you just painted means that I will never touch food of any kind again, you’ll just have to pick it up
    Spike: “Sissy.”

  11. Ah Weetabix! I first had it 41 years ago after returning from a conference; the next morning my landlady said “you look tired, c’mon over and have breakfast.” It was Weetabix. I’ve eaten the stuff regularly ever since.

    It used to be imported from England, but they started making it in Canada and the flavor changed – just a little but enough for confirmed addicts to notice. English Weetabix has (or had) a more pronounced malt flavor than the stuff made here in Canada.

    It’s the only cold cereal I eat, what with its very coarse texture (roughage!) and low level of sugar. (I have a dim recollection that the English version wasn’t sweetened with sugar at all.)

    Look for it in the 12-biscuit trial boxes. Much cheaper than in the regular 24-biscuit boxes. When the trial boxes come on sale, as they do from time to time, I usually buy a case.

  12. I just had to say that I was born and raised only 1 mile from the Weetabix factory in a town called Burton Latimer (England) I remember that if the wind was in the right direction you could smell the Weetabix “cooking” I still eat Weetabix every day for breakfast.I would like to mention Weetabix is what the Queen of England eats for breakfast and it has the royal coat of arms on the box.

    1. I’m a Wellingburian myself. Wind in the north? Weetabix. Wind in the east? Chettles. Wind in the south? Scott Bader. But every day for nearly a decade, one of three relatives coming back from working in the plant and having a shower at the house to get the smell off them. The house always stank of cooking Weetabix.
      The food is perfectly fine, but the smell just puts me off. It’s not as discouraging as the Skye cow I wrote about a few minutes ago, but it’s sufficiently discouraging to make me an egg-on-toast man.

    2. Burton Latimer? Didn’t he play Hamlet at the Old Vic in the 50’s? His Lear was something to treasure :-).

  13. Loved the update. Your “screwy comment” is a popular claim among the alties (alternative medicine proponents), who like to shore up their nutrition prejudices with pseudoscientific references to What Nature Intends. Anyone who hangs around in a skeptic group is likely to recognize it readily.

    I’m a bit disappointed you didn’t attack her evolutionary argument, though I recognize that the evolution of wheat and the human digestive system is probably outside your area of expertise. I suspect the folks at Science-Based Medicine blog have dealt with it.

    I don’t care much for cereal, but Weetabix looks like something I wouldn’t mind eating, if there’s no pancakes.

  14. In Defence of Weetabix Pairs

    Nice to see that Jerry has unearthed some fellow Weetabix loyalists out there. And I should assure Laura, the Paleo Diet enthusiast, that I am both alive and, as an evolutionary biologist, disinclined to commit the naturalistic fallacy (ie make the assumption that whatever is “natural” is good and right).

    I feel compelled, however, to address the weighty and controversial Pair Issue.

    1. Ultimately this comes down to two versus three. Eating a single Weetabix is inefficient and, for most of us, insufficient. It’s all about the timing. The reason for *not* eating three is that, by the time you get to the third, it’s turned in to a milky sludge. Stick to two, eat fast (Weetabix consumption and conversation are incompatible), and that final bite of the second still has a hint of that critical Weetabix crunch.
    2. The reason Jerry gets yelled at when he takes three (BTW, you can see from his picture that three don’t even fit properly in a bowl) is that odd number incursions in to my packet of 24 Weetabix create Huge Headaches when I reach the end of a packet. Only one Weetabix lies in my bowl, and the packet is empty. Is there another packet in the house…!! Maybe not. #crushingproblemsofthe21stcenturybourgeoisie.
    3. It’s worth noting that the Weetabix company thinks in pairs. The nutrition information paraded on the packet is for a pair.

    Finally, enough rabid pedantry… Don’t miss this, my favourite Weetabix TV advertisement:

    1. The reason for *not* eating three is that, by the time you get to the third, it’s turned in to a milky sludge.

      The tactic is to put *one* Weetabix in your bowl, pour on a moderate amount of ice-cold milk, then eat; then add a second Weetabix to the bowl, add more milk, eat; then proceed to the third, thus maximising the crunchiness.

  15. and the steady decline in fertility in both sexes as noted in recent years.

    Mitten’s Romnesia and his kind should eat a box of Weetabix.

  16. Well gosh, I stopped eating wheat on August 24, 2012. Three days later, the acid reflux I’ve suffered with for years vanished. The aching back I’ve had for 40 years stopped aching after a month. I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis by several MDs. I’ve lost 7 pounds and 1.5 inches from my waist since Aug 24.

    The MDs prescribed Prilosec for the acid reflux. Funny how they didn’t suggest I drop wheat, just to see if that was the cause.

    The MDs first prescribed NSAIDS, then hydrocodone, then morphine for my back pain. Too bad for me they never suggested I stop eating wheat.

    So, good luck with your Wheatabix. I was quite fond of fresh pasta and sourdough bread. But I’m done with wheat, the acid reflux, the severe back pain, the big waist and the excess pounds.

    Free at last!

    1. Just because you’re allergic to wheat doesn’t mean that everybody else is, or that it’s somehow inherently evil or poisonous.

      Of course, those with food allergies shouldn’t eat foods they’re allergic to. Duh!

      But most people don’t go into anaphylactic shock when they eat a peanut, just as most people’s intestines don’t go into revolt when they eat a slice of bread.

      And, for most people, wheat is a wonderful food.


      1. Right. I’m 5 foot 10 inches tall. And just because I’m 5 foot 10 inches tall, that doesn’t mean that everyone else is 5 feet 10 inches tall. I got that. Thanks.

        What’s interesting to me, however, is how many doctors I’ve told about my pain going away after stopping wheat, who either have nothing at all to say, or who say, “Oh! You’re gluten intolerant!” And I then say, “Why didn’t you consider that 6 years ago when you prescribed morphine for my pain?, Why didn’t you suggest I give up wheat for a few weeks to see if I was gluten intolerant, rather than putting me on opiates?”

        No answer. Why am I surprised?

        1. Doctors are human, and fallible, and loath to admit their mistrakes. Why on Earth should you be surprised that they’re ashamed to acknowledge that the solution to the mystery was a rather simple one that, though rare, is somewhat obvious in hindsight?

          Much more productive than beating them up about their failures would be offering to work with them to better understand your case so they may more readily recognize somebody else with a similar problem.


        2. Because most cases of acid reflux are not due to gluten intolerance and your doctors adhere to evidence-based medicine?

        3. There’s no test for gluten intolerance, except giving up wheat. In fact, there are no good tests for a wide variety of gut disorders with similar symptoms, other than poking a camera up there and/or biopsy; and if your symptoms don’t warrant that, they’d rather not take the tiny but real risk of a perforated bowel.

          Also, I’m sorry, I don’t think food intolerance can cause back pain. Good luck with it though, back pain is terrible, whatever the cause.

          1. A lot (but certainly not all) of back pain is “only” a muscle spasm similar to a “charlie horse.”

            If that’s the case, then muscle relaxants coupled with painkillers can help you perform the stretching exercises needed to get the muscles un-kinked.

            The problem is that a muscle spasm in your lower back doesn’t (at first) feel like the kinds of muscle spasms you get elsewhere in your body…and then your natural instinct is to “guard” the site of the injury, which leads to further muscle tension…and, to top it all off, the kind of stretching you need to do to end a muscle spasm can be quite painful.

            Of course, you’ll want to check with your doctor before taking any course of treatment, but I’d suggest running this past him or her as a theory to see if it sounds like it could be what’s going on. If so, treatment is decidedly uncomfortable but very rapid and very effective. A doctor with a sports medicine background may be particularly helpful.

            Prevention is pretty straightforward, too, and inexpensive: good posture and simple exercises to strengthen the back and keep it limber.



  17. LOL. Oh Jerry, you are a funny guy! [I love the pic of you scarfing down your Weetabix[tm].] Keep posting all the food stuff you want–it’s all good!

  18. BTW if you like to try different kinds of cereal, may I suggest Coach’s Oats®. I’ve tried McCann’s Irish steel-cut oats, which are excellent (the cook-in-5-minutes are just as good as the 30-minute ones), but the Coach’s are equally tasty and can be found cheaper at a certain member’s-only chain not affiliated with the Walton family [if you get my drift]. Coach’s are not exactly steel-cut, but neither are they rolled. I would call them “torn-apart”. Coach’s calls them “Cracked n’ Toasted®”.

    1. Even steel-cut oats cook quickly — in a pressure cooker. It’s what I had for breakfast, myself, this morning.

      The cooker should have come with some sort of a tray to put on the bottom; if not, a wire rack will work. Cover the tray with water. Put your desired mix of oats and water (or milk / cream / whatever) in a bowl, and set the bowl on the tray. Close the cooker; put on the highest heat until it reaches pressure; reduce heat to the minimum that will hold pressure and cook for five minutes; remove from heat and let the pressure drop on its own.

      The whole process takes 10 – 15 minutes, and the oats come out perfect.

      You can also mix in fruit, cocoa powder, maple syrup, whatever, before you put the bowl in the cooker and, again, the oats come out perfect.


        1. Seriously, I don’t know what I did before the pressure cooker.

          It’s awesome for grains, with the caveat that you have to use the method I outlined.

          The local Fresh & Easy sells family packs of chicken thighs and ready-to-cook mirepoix. Dump one package of each in the pressure cooker with some salt, pepper, and dill, and you’ve got chicken soup. Total preparation time: two minutes.

          (Granted, I usually spend another five minutes after it’s done cooking to skin and bone the meat and strain the mirepoix and broth. Not only do I have a bowl of soup for dinner that night, I’ve got plenty of chicken for sandwiches or casseroles or salads or whatever, plus broth, plus the mirepoix. You wouldn’t believe how many meals I can get out of that, all different.)

          Truly, the pressure cooker is a miracle appliance.


  19. Well, I am amazed that there are so many fans of soggy Weetabix! Amazed! The comparison with sawdust doesn’t stop at appearance, either. But then, somebody must be buying it. There are shelves of it in my Tesco. I pass them on the way to the Grape-Nuts and muesli.

  20. “Apparently Andrew should be dead by now.”

    Laura’s analysis explains all of the zombie attacks that we’ve been having recently. It isn’t some fancy bizarre virus or a curse, it is the wheat!

  21. Had heaps of them in Oz. Good stuff.

    On the weird comment: They’ve been reading a really dire book (I’ll wager) called Wheat Belly. Oh man, where to begin.

    Supposedly, wheat is the worst enemy of humanity. Wheat is COMPELTELY different from all wheat pre-“Green Revolution”.

    I seriously wonder if the author took the time to investigate how many (billions) of people rely on wheat for the basis of their calories and are thriving along quite nicely. And much better than they did when they were starving prior to grain cultivation.

  22. For some reason the product sold in New Zealand is called Weetbix (no a) and is manufactured by the Sanitarium Health Food Company, which is part of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, so it’s co-generic with Kelloggs Corn Flakes.

    When I was a child there was a hearty song on the radio,

    “Weetbix and hot/cold milk,
    Popular with ev’ryone,
    There’s no brighter breakfast
    to start a winter/summer day,
    No preparation,
    out of packet on to plate:
    Weetbix and hot/cold milk
    to start a winter/summer day!”

    Sanitarium also manufacture a yeast extract called Marmite, a savoury black goo that I can’t tell (heresy!) from Vegemite.

    Their factory was in Belfast, north of Christchurch, badly hit by the 2011 earthquake, and earlier this year there was a beat-up story that it would have to stop making Marmite. The media called it “Marmageddon”.

    1. A marmite, by the way, is a French lidded stockpot or casserole dish, pronounced marmeet, so Marmite™ comes first, and Vegemite™ is the imitation. The jar has a picture of a marmite on it.

      Marmite™ needs to be spread thinly, and used to have the slogan “Too much spoils the flavour” which would never get past the PR department today.

  23. I like Wheetbix (we don’t have the ‘a’ in Australia either and ours are square ended too) with lots of hot milk, it goes completely mushy like wheat porridge. Unfortunately, like real porridge I like far too much sugar with it, so I rarely eat either of them these days.

  24. It’s all about hot milk and brown sugar. I haven’t had Wheetabix in ages though, think I might have to get some soon! I used to enjoy a bowl whilst watching Live and Kicking and also the Racoons! Ah, the good old days..

  25. ‘It consists of something that looks like sawdust compressed into oval shapes’

    You may want to try submitting that description to the Weetabix PR department. I’m sure they’d be incredibly appreciative. No doubt they’d love to use it in a future promotional campaign. 🙂

  26. Weetbix are big in New Zealand (“kiwi kids are weetbix kids”). All Blacks usually start the day with around 10 of them for breakfast! When I was a kid I used to pile sugar on top of them and then drown them in warm milk ’til completely soggy. Here is the New Zealand weetbix page…

    Also, a decline in fertility due to wheat consumption could be just what the human race needs!

  27. Laura’s comment may be out of place and inappropriate considering the spirit of JAC’s post, but she’s right. We humans aren’t well adapted to eat grains and we are even less adapted to eat refined carbohydrates such as sugar. 

    This is why diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc… Are all called diseases of civilization. Hunter gatherer groups, or those subsisting on diets of purely natural foods (eg. Any combo of nuts, meat, fruits, and/or vegetables), just DON’T get these diseases. At all. Even the all meat eating Inuit had no obesity or heart disease until they started consuming western diets. I will give you the studies if you wish.

    And “Andrew should be dead by now.” That is like claiming cigarettes aren’t unhealthy just because person x has been smoking for years and is still alive. It’s silly and naive. Grains/refined carbohydrates, like cigarettes, don’t kill you on the spot, but instead significantly raise your risk of a menagerie of diseases throughout life. This is why so many Americans are fat and diabetic, yet the relatively sedentary Hadza tribes of Tanzania aren’t to any extent.

    Time to apply skepticism to things other than religion.

    1. Hunter-gatherers exercise close to all day, every day. The clue is in the name – “hunting” and “gathering” are rather important to the lifestyle. Yes, this includes the Hadza. Inuits have marked genetic changes to allow them to cope with a largely meat based diet (and also, the exercise thing).

      Confounding variable much? Skepticism indeed…

      1. It’s a pity you’ve never even considered testing your argument against possible evidence, because all you’re saying has been refuted widely.

        which genetic markers do the Inuit  have exactly? Why do western shipwrecked explorers and anthropologists like ViLhjalmur Stefansson, who live with the Inuit for years or decades and adopt their meat rich diet, experience dramatic improvements in health? Why is it impossible to fatten people on an all meat diet? Show me one clinical trial that has because I can show you plenty that show it’s impossible.

        As for “hunter gatherers excercise all day everyday” this is a naive generalization. Some hunter gatherers, such as the Dobe, have been observed to work much less than westerners even after extra hunting/gathering activities such as food preparation are accounted for. And if exercise matters, why aren’t Americans working manual labor jobs leaner and healthier than office dwelling Americans? On top of that, tribes that are definitely more active have been shown to burn the same amount of calories as westerners, likely due to lower metabolic calorie burn:

        A family friend I know works in a moving service, moving heavy furniture all day. Your theory needs to explain why he’s 300 pounds, yet not one hunter gatherer gathering berries or chasing antelope for 5 hours per day is.

        1. Why is it impossible to fatten people on an all meat diet?

          Probably because they’re not getting any fructose, and not only does fructose largely get metabolized into fat, it triggers hormonal reactions that causes the body to store fat.


        2. All meats are not created equal. I’ve read that seal oil and fish oils are amazing. Even with game like moose and deer on their menu, this is like a health staple for the Inuit.

  28. I can’t believe any of you eat that stuff. For some reason I thought most people with an interest in evolution, specificly human evolution, would realize that any grain products are not human food. The human body has not evolved to eat grains and anything that can’t be hunted or gathered as in a primal/paleo diet. Actually, reading WEIT a few years ago is what pushed me to study evolutionary biology more deeply. During some research I ran into several scientists/authors that were talking about the primal lifestyle. I have been following it for 2 years now and have greatly improved my health in every aspect. You guys should just try giving up that crap for a month and see what happens. I am sure you will be amazed at the healthy results.

    1. Anyone who actually studied evolution would know that organisms exist in the niche available to them, not the niche that would be theoretically optimal for them. Lots of plants grow better in cultivation. Others don’t, because we can’t easily replicate their particular requirements. The fact that we “evolved” eating a particular diet is no indication that we have to keep eating that particular diet.

      1. For that matter, it’s not the whole grains that’re causing the epidemic of the metabolic syndrome; it’s the fructose.

        No, not high fructose corn syrup — or, at least, not exclusively. HFCS is only marginally worse than table sugar and on a par with honey.



  29. Weetabix is standard breakfast fare in most parts of the British commonwealth. Tastes do evolve over time and I now have it with almond milk, sliced almonds, berries and date sugar (the latter is simply ground dates – a sugar replacement with a subdued sweetness but much much more nutritious). In the U.S. weetabix is carried in Trader Joes stores. The tip about too much milk is spot-on.

  30. My fav breakfast. I have 3 (2 – too little, 4 – too much) every morning before heading out. I don’t have fruit with it, but I sweeten it out with a small drizzle of honey before adding milk. Yum yum yum!

    1. Fructose, again.

      Fats, protein, and starches / glucose all rapid trigger satiety. Fructose doesn’t.

      Mentally compare chugging a quart of apple juice or a quart of olive oil.


  31. Here in South Africa it is called Weet-Bix.
    Jerry astutely observes it looks like a block of saw-dust, according to some it also tastes like saw-dust (I’m one of those some, but my young son loves it).

    I concur with Eric that Laura’s comment may be out of place, inappropriate and extremely badly formulated, but she possibly has a point.
    In fact, based on evolutionary biology -or a somewhat skewed interpretation thereof- a prediction was made: that our starch-based diet might not be all that healthy, and might be responsible for the world-wide epidemic of metabolic syndrome (hypertension, obesity, bad lipodogram, vascular sclerosis and insulin resistence/Diabetes mellitus type 2) and several autoimmune diseases. That is a prediction which, if vindicated, is a strong support for evolution being true (which I do not doubt).

    For HLAb27 associated Ankylosing Spondylitis and Acute Anterior Uveitis syndrome (AS+AAU) the mechanism is more or less known: molecular mimicry or cross-rectivity between Klabsiella pneumoniae surface antigens and HLAb27. Klebsiella lives in the colon and ileum, and lives on sugars. Simple sugars are absorbed higher in the GI-tract and hence Klebsiella is dependent on starches, sugars that do reach the colon. Reduce starches, you reduce Klebsiella and hence reduce frequency and severity of attacks.

    This Paleo diet also has some limited studies showing a positive effect on metabolic syndrome. Lindeberg,
    did some small experimental studies with this diet. Shai did a bigger study with a low starch diet in israel
    All point to the same direction.
    The mechanism appears to be mediated via the gut micro-biome as hypothesized by Spreadbury
    and Harris
    These are all peer-reviewed articles available in full on the net without need for subcription or purchase.

    If someone is interested and/or if I’m allowed I hope to go into the evolutionary rationale (and its non-negligeable problems) behind the theory.

    1. Since my previous comment appears to have been accepted, I’ll continue.

      The Weet-Bix here (South Africa) have a rectangular, brick shape, but there is a clone, ‘Nutrific’ with more rounded corners, nearly oval in shape.
      When milk or hot water are added, these shapes tend to take less of importance. Maybe some fruit-juice might not only mask the shape, but improve the saw-dust taste?

      The evolutionary rationale behind the Paleo-diet is that we have been eating a varying, but in many ways specific, diet for about 2 million years, and dense acellular starches (grains) were only used as staple food for about 10 000 years, with the advent of agriculture, and for most of our ancestors much less.

      Why 2 million years? H. erectus, originating about 2 m yrs ago had a barrel chest, as opposed to the conical chest of the Australopithecines and the Habilines (and extant other apes). What does that barrel chest indicate? A smaller bowel volume, which indicates a more animal protein diet (or cooked diet? The dates of the use of fire vary from about 100 000 to 2 million years).
      The bowel volume of extant apes are more than 50% colon+caecum, with one exception: humans, where the small intestine is more prominent. Does that mean humans are carnivores? No, but it indicates that animal proteins were probably a greater part of our ancestors diet than for our closest extant relatives: chimps (about 10-15% of their diet).

      Do we know what the paleolithic humans ate? Not really, we go on Hunter-Gatherer societies, but most of them were relicts, pushed to marginal environments (rain forests, semi-deserts, arctic deserts) or islands. Nevertheless, their animal protein intake is close to 30-60% (if we exclude Inuit, with a 90+% animal intake and !Kung with an intake of less than 30% in the season, since living mainly of mongongo nuts then). All these populations had no metabolic syndrome and extremely low incidence of auto-immune diseases. All had low to no grain intake, low to no dairy intake and definitely no modern processed foods.

      Have we not adapted in those 10 000 years? Most certainly we have evolved, in fact since our environment changed so much we should expect an accelerated evolution. It depends on selective pressure (and pre-existing variety, of course). Relative resistance to some diseases, flue, coryza, malaria, bubonic plague or syphilis (the great pox) can be very fast, 1 or 2 generations, but diseases affecting us after the reproductive peak have necessarily a weaker pressure.
      However, these pressures are not zero, there is the ‘grandparent effect’ and the lower, but not zero, fertility of males after reproductive peak (Tulioparkar et al).

      How does a 2 million years of diet compare to 10 000 years? I’d think that the 2 million years would be sufficient to obtain a modicum of adaptation for low selective pressures, while 10 000 years would not.

      The fact that recent Hunter-Gatherer populations converting to s modern diet (eg. Naurans, Samoans, Australian aborigines, Pima indians, South African ‘coloureds’) appear to be excessively hard hit by metabolic syndrome and auto-immune diseases, appears to support this.

      Of course, what the `paleo-dieters are eating is not really what our ancestors ate, all our plants and domestic animals have been genetically modified (artificial selection), mostly to our benefit, by the way. It is but a tentative attempt to approximate. Does it not make sense to look at recently introduced staple foods with a suspicious eye? The few studies mentioned in my previous post appear to indicate so.

      Since I’m a long-time admirer of Jerry (ever since his book “Why Evolution is True”),and since he is a real boffin in evolutionary biology, I really would value his opinion and/or comments.

      1. I’m sorry to reply to myself, but my previous post did not clearly stated what I wanted to say.
        In science we do have paradigms, ‘guiding templates’:
        In cosmology we have the Big Bang; in chemistry the periodic table; in geology the stratigraphy and plate tectonics; in biology we have evolution; in medicine the germ theory of infectious disease, but in nutrition we have nothing, only disparate facts (and some of those facts even wrong, such as the low-fat diet).
        Evolutionary nutrition (the pale-odiet but being an offspring) may just be such a ‘guiding template’. That is the point I wanted to make

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