A Libertarian's Take on the First Ever Ancestral Health Symposium

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by Karen De Coster: When
the Sugar Police Go MarchingIn



I just returned from California, where I attended the first Ancestral
Health Symposium
 in Los Angeles on the UCLA campus, which
Dr. Loren Cordain, an early advocate of the Paleolithic diet, has
described as “the Woodstock of evolutionary medicine.”

Indeed it was — plenty of minimalist shoes, bare feet, pony tails,
shaved heads, colorful clothing, muscle shirts, ripped bodies, anti-state
talk, food choice advocacy, fat-fortified beef jerky, and wonderful
waist sizes. However, instead of smoking pot and dancing naked,
most of us were busy polishing off all of the wonderful, grass-fed
food being passed out, for free, by
US Wellness Meats
. Considering the campus cafeteria and its
mostly slop food — aside from the salads, which were overpriced
and required a long wait in line — I discovered that I had a choice
of either nibbling at the US Wellness beef jerky, pemmican, and
grass-fed cheese all day, or settling for a couple of days of involuntary
fasting. Actually, I did a little bit of both, and indulged in satisfactory
provisions at local restaurants each evening.

Readers not so familiar with this movement will ask: what exactly
is ancestral health? The Ancestral Health website describes it this
way: "The Ancestral Health Symposium fosters collaboration
among scientists, healthcare professionals and laypersons who study
and communicate about health from an evolutionary perspective to
develop solutions to our modern health challenges." The conference
speakers and attendees included MDs, scientists, PhDs-to-be, medical
school students, health and medical writers, authors, fitness specialists,
nonconformist nutritionists, filmmakers, psychologists, bariatric
specialists, bloggers, health hobbyists, lifestyle writers, and
intelligent laypeople who understand that they don't need a special
degree from the education establishment to learn about, and live,
the ancestral health lifestyle.

The ancestral health audience is often synonymous with the paleo
culture (Paleolithic-type
); the primal lifestylers as championed by Mark
; the real foodists (natural, whole foods; not industrial-chemical
concoctions); and the eco-agricultural lifestylers (such as those
who associate with the magnificent Weston A. Price Foundation).
I would describe the ancestral health movement as a force for educating
people in order to equip them with the intellectual tools that are
necessary to deny the conventional wisdom of the special interests
and the government-medical corporatocracy so they can become accountable
for their own health and life. This movement strives to educate
people through science — and so many people do so much hard work
for free, and that is because it is a purely grass-roots movement
dedicated to spreading knowledge and helping others through voluntary
and cooperative efforts. I know, that sounds mighty darn libertarian,
doesn't it?

Certainly, libertarians and anarchists are drawn to this lifestyle
because of our innate ability to see through the façade of
conventional wisdom that is built by political interests and buttressed
by an assortment of money trails. We do not deny conventional wisdom
for the sake of being anti-mainstream, as some people opine; rather,
we naturally tend toward the procurement of skepticism, critical
thinking, and other skills that the rank and file just do not seem
to possess. For instance, the average person reads a headline such
as, "Fat makes you fat," and they will believe that it
must be true because it was based on some "official" study
that is misrepresented in the story. Conversely, we libertarians
tend to say, hey, wait a minute — how was the study interpreted
by the media, who performed/funded the study, and how scientific
was the study? Mark Sisson, perhaps the most visible person within
the ancestral health community, calls
this taking responsibility for
your "own health and enjoyment
of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking
everything we've assumed to be true about health and wellness."

I recall the days on the old libertarian listservs and email lists
where libertarians eagerly debated Dr. Atkins and his high-fat,
low-carb ideas and supported his fight against the medical-nutritional
oligarchy. The interest in Atkins led libertarians to study and
comprehend the faulty research of Ancel Keys and the government-endorsed
lipid hypothesis, as well as the role of the government in setting
dietary guidelines that would benefit Big Agra, Big Pharma, and
the industrial food machine. My personal interest in Atkins, that
commenced in the 1990s, led me to write a lot of non-byline, website
content for Atkins Nutritionals as a freelance writer. This happened
when an editor for Atkins was looking for a writer to work Thanksgiving
weekend and clean up some poorly written copy that was lacking some
bolstering facts. She found me through a Google search, liked my
acerbic writing approach, and contacted me about taking on the work.
We hooked up, and about two years of paid work was the outcome.
The glories of the information revolution.

I'll get back to the culture and content of the symposium. In fact,
I'll start with a few cynical observations that I must let rip.
What stands out, for me, is that there were some painfully predictable
patterns in this 2-day PaleoLand — well, at least they were predicted
by me – especially the bare feet and the Vibrams shoes and
the cross-fit guys in muscle gear and weightlifting shoes. It sort
of reminded me of my Harley-Davidson homies who all dress alike,
in black vests, patches, and black everything, in order to be "different"
from all the others. Kind of makes my eyes roll. Undoubtedly, some
of the me-too fashion was a bit daft, but then again, who am I to
diss these right-thinking, health-conscious, kindred spirits who
were there because they are more astute than 98% of their fellow
human beings? After all, we were all there because we are unorthodox
in one form or another. Weird, crazy, and frenzied come to mind.
To be sure, "no shoes, no shirt" would not have been a
problem at this conference. In fact, most of this crowd, unlike
the general masses, would not have scared anyone away in a no-shirt
mode. Lots of beautiful people, as you would expect. Remarkably,
there were whole rooms of people with shoulders wider than their
waists. So, the occasional uniformity gets a pass here — with a

One thing that was missing from many of the speakers and informal
conversations, that I noticed, was spirited discussion of the root
of the problem for our obese, sick, unhealthy society: omnipotent
government and its creation and perpetuation of the medical-pharmaceutical-nutritional-corporate
state complex that makes people sick and keeps them sick for the
sake of market share and continuing profits. I think this is because
the paleo movement, overall, tends to operate in a very narrow silo.
Many of the paleos, for whatever reason, deny or just don't pay
attention to the fact that, yes, there is a force, an invincible
monster — the state – that uses its monopolistic power to influence
science and force its health and nutritional policy upon the masses
in order to benefit the rent-seeking special interests that make
up the core of the medical-nutritional establishment. These state-empowered
interests benefit from cancer, chronic disease, and obesity, yet
oftentimes the folks in PaleoLand naïvely act as if it is a
mystery as to how the Conventional Wisdomists have become so formidable.
Only an entity with a monopoly on coercion — the state — can possibly
create so much misinformation and fraudulent advice, backed by enforced
policy, on such a massive scale. Yet, thanks to the Internet and
social media, the ancestral health enthusiasts are starting to bring
the state's monopoly on information to its knees.

Now remember that many of the folks who spoke at the symposium
are hardcore libertarians, anarchists, or either that, it's very
obvious to me that they tend toward libertarianism: Dr. Michael
Eades, blogger Richard Nikoley, author Gary Taubes, Fathead
filmmaker Tom Naughton, Don Matesz, Mark Sisson, John Durant, Denise
Minger, and many others.

Interestingly, I was approached by many libertarians who introduced
themselves to me, telling me that they had been reading my work,
either on my website or on LewRockwell.com.
Several folks told me that it was my writings on paleo-primal lifestyling,
food freedom, and the medical establishment that got them absorbed
in the topic and led them to their newly-acquired healthy living
choices. So no, not everything in the libertarian world can be couched
in terms of "speaking to the choir," as people tend to

Unlike most of the symposium attendees, I sit in this odd space
where I span different movements, or spheres: (1) libertarianism
and Austrian Economics (or anarcho-capitalism) (2) eco-agricultural
interests and anti-state food freedom, as well as the (3) primal-paleo
or ancestral health movement. All three are areas of interest to
me, and all are indispensable in the battle to establish self-ownership
and keep the state out of our bodies and out of our kitchens. As
much as the paloes are inherently libertarian-ish, it is my hope
that more of the ancestral health proponents will learn from libertarianism
as it applies to understanding the state as a monopolistic entity
so they can better grasp how the state uses its power and propaganda
to feloniously indoctrinate the masses and hammer home its totalitarian

Comedian and filmmaker Tom Naughton gave the most stellar presentation
of the symposium. Being the perpetual comedian, he likes to make
fun of himself, but in reality, it's hard to beat that guy's combination
of intelligence, passion, humor, and creativity. Even his voice
and narration is marvelous. Here
is a version of Tom's presentation
, "Science for Smart
People," on YouTube, which was presented on Jimmy Moore's Low-Carb
Cruise earlier this year. I thought that Naughton's presentation
clearly pointed to the medical establishment and the kept media
as being indebted toward special interests, and thereby intentionally
spinning science to benefit the domain of conventional wisdom.

Scientific giants who were present included Dr. Robert Lustig,
MD, a prominent scientist known for his work on fructose and sugar,
and Dr. Richard Feinman, PhD, from the Nutrition
and Metabolism Society
. Although Dr. Feinman and I had a tit-for-tat
on Jimmy Moore's Facebook page (about
my article on Dr. Lustig
) prior to the event, I had an opportunity
to talk to him about Lustig and some of his disagreements with Lustig's
positions. I found Dr. Feinman to be very brilliant, engaging, and
sweet. He and Lustig, who appear to be friendly colleagues with
much in common, attracted a lot of attention when the two stepped
outside to discuss their contradictory ideas. Enquiring minds wanted
to know what they were saying to one another.

Also presenting at the symposium was low-carb veteran Dr. Michael
Eades, MD, who, along with his wife Mary, also an MD, has
written a slew of books
on the health, nutrition, exercise,
and low-carb living. Dr. Eades, like most of the ancestral health
community, also blogs and tweets, and being about mid-sixties or
so, he looked like a movie star. Clearly, low-carb has been kind
to him. I was fortunate enough to spend some time talking to him,
and I found out that he has his roots and family in Detroit, my

I also met
Mark Sisson of Marksdailyapple.com
for the first time, after many correspondences. Mark is an author,
blogger, and all-around evangelist for good living, and his topic
was “Play: A Lost Art,” which is an area where he has established
an unquestionable expertise. It was the only talk where smacking
beach balls around the audience was not only allowed, it was required
that everyone touch a ball at least once. I
reviewed Mark’s book, Primal Blueprint
, a pioneering
work on ancestral health, last year on LewRockwell.com. The buff
and blond Mark is so debonair, and he was very approachable for
so many of the attendees who hoped to get a glimpse of the guy who
helped them reshape their lives through a new health paradigm. Mark’s
business manager, who I also spoke with, told me the web stats for
and it left me with a “Wow.” Fortunately, the unconventional media
continues to steer attention away from received opinion and toward
critical evaluation of science and the established media mechanism.

My "biggest surprise" award for the symposium goes to
Nora Gedgaudas, author of Primal
Mind, Primal Body: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a
Longer Life
. I admit I had not paid enough attention to
her in the past. I had not read the first edition of her book, and
I am glad I never got around to it because she recently joined with
Healing Arts Press to release a new edition this year. I've been
looking through the book — and I'll read it in total — and it is
splendid and solid, including the striking cover. It's a no-B.S.
book on evolutionary science that speaks to really basic concepts
in a straightforward manner. Everything that should be in the book
is in the book. I've always advocated and recommended
Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint as the quintessential read
for ancestral health newbies, but Nora's book is so readable and
polished that it may go right up there with Mark's epic work. I
also got to meet and talk with Paul Jaminet and his wife Shou-Ching,
authors of Perfect
Health Diet: Four Steps to Renewed Health, Youthful Vitality, and
Long Life
, which is another innovative work that is perfect
for new students of ancestral health. Both of these books come highly
recommended from all folks around the paleosphere.

The "biggest badass" award, for the entire symposium,
goes to Dr. Jack Kruse, a neurosurgeon,
who was not even a speaker at the event. I lay my bet right now
that he will be a speaker next year, and he will pack the room to
the gills. If you talk about smart as a whip, articulate, and passionate,
you are talking about this very libertarian-ish Doc. Dr. Jack even
gave me a slight spanking – very slight – for calling out Dr. Lustig
on his
call for state intervention
to conduct a war on sugar, because
he believes that we need Dr. Lustig's knowledge and audience, and
that we can educate him and "bring him on over to our side"
on the issue of intervention. That sounds like a worthy project.

I met Dr. Jack when, during the last presentation of the last day,
some of the speakers on a panel, “Integrating Ancestral Health Into
Our Healthcare Systems,” proposed that we work from within the system to
change the system. The speakers proposed that we could work with
the Kaiser Permanente or VA models of health care to create this
glorious, new model for health care based on an ancestral health
model. My blood pressure was skyrocketing in the back of the room,
almost causing my head to burst open. Before I could pipe up on
the topic and speak my mind, Dr. Jack did so, and he spoke for all
of us health anarchists and libertarians when he said the naked
truth in one short sentence (to paraphrase): “The system
wants to keep you sick because everyone makes money from you being
sick.” Shockingly, many people in the room furled their
eyebrows at that comment and seemed confused. I deliberately watched
the reactions in the audience knowing that people would think Jack's
statement to be a bit outrageous. This was another indicator, for
me, that the paleo and/or ancestral health movement is, in part,
operating in a silo.

A circle of folks gathered at the back of the room as the presentation
ended and an impassioned Dr. Jack stole the floor and ran with it.
It started when I introduced myself to him and we started discussing
u2018the system.' Folks listened and just started gathering around this
fetching bloke. He argued and lectured and taught — with a mix of
intellect and well-placed f-bombs – for this group of onlookers
who gathered in a Socratic circle, of sorts. It was a great display
of passion and knowledge from a guy who has worked within the medical
establishment-healthcare system, and who now works outside of that
monster. He blogged
about that informal session here
, and he writes:

The last talk I went to……was Brent Pottenger's et al. And while
I never expected it to raise my BP and ire…….WOW did it. It may
have been the quickest talk but most important. The point of the
talk was how can we bridge the gap of evolutionary biology and
our current healthcare system. Brent and Joe Sobolewski think
Kaiser's or the VA's model may hold the answer. This surgeon could
not disagree more vehemently. I think all those who heard me speak
post meeting know where I stand. Seth Roberts, Karen DeCoster
and Jolly all saw it…….and Jolly photographed the jugulars bulging
from my neck. I definitely think Brent's idea to make a Paleo
ACO or insurance pool is a great idea…….but how we implement it
is another story for another day. Those young bucks who have just
begun to play in the healthcare cesspool system we have have much
to learn. I bet Brent changes the most as he enter's medical school
in 5 days. When he comes out of an orthopedic residency I already
know what he can not fathom yet……..Kaiser is the last place on
earth he would ever practice orthopedics when he knows what this
surgeon knows today. Paleo needs a system that is completely free
of the hospital complex in my view. This maybe a place I take
my blog now……not sure my health could handle it though.

As one who is employed in the system Dr. Jack talks about, I have
nothing but praise and agreement for the good doctor's excellent
comments and libertarian take on the solution: we can only change
the system by denying the establishment's conventional wisdom, creating
our own paradigm, and working outside of the system, making the
system irrelevant. Whether or not he is an anarchist, Dr. Kruse
is my new anarcho-ancestral hero.

I also want to give special mention to Dr.
Doug McGuff,
whose talk titled "Body by Science,"
was notable for its mention of cross-fit
as a less-than-ideal form of fitness. Doug is an old-fashioned weightlifter
who stresses high-intensity (HIT), low-frequency training and recommends
that one avoid aerobic-centric training. I do both HIT and my own
“cross-fit” type workouts, however, my cross-fit work is of the
solo brand and not the club-based, group-collective type that crossfitters
practice at a very fast pace in a WOD (workout of the day) format.

I don't mean to diss the crossfitters, but timed workouts at specific
times on specific days, with a group of people against whom you
compete (as well as the ticking clock), is not my idea of primal,
self-governed fitness. I don't count times, laps, calories, sets,
reps, weight, days, or clock time, and I'm a far better — and more
fit — person for having given up all of the routines and performance
measurement. I believe I have far better measurements such as how
I feel all day each day, my physical conditioning level as played
out in my activities, my medical feedback — both the objective measurements
and my holistic MD's assessment, and lastly, the naked view in the
mirror. All of those evaluations tell me what I need to know about
my state of health and quality of life.

Overall, the symposium was a smashing success, but there are a
couple of minor improvements I'd like to see for next year. For
one, I'd like to see the symposium held in a larger space so there
could be many more vendors that would set up tables, hand out stuff,
and mingle with potential consumers for their products and/or ideas.
There were very few vendors, and I thought that was disappointing.
Additionally, there needs to be a talk or two on the state and its
role in creating and maintaining the Unhealthy Society, as I wrote

Another notable mention about the ancestral health community is
its masterful use of social media. Libertarians, as much as they
tend to run wild on the web in brilliant fashion, can learn something
from this community when it comes to using social media. The ancestral
health community is so good at using Twitter as a timesaving intelligence
tool that transmits relevant data right to your phone, right now,
when the story, blog, or research link is fresh and relevant. Twitter
is a tool that circumvents the gatekeepers of conventional wisdom
and keeps the facts and truth circulating in spite of what the media
and establishment want you to know. Twitter represents freedom,
in spite of the
attempts of the police state to corral it
, under the facade
of protecting us all from society's multifarious boogeymen. Blogger
Jimmy Moore, of Livin'
La Vida Low-Carb fame
, told me he thought he was acting less
than primal by Twittering away the whole conference from his iPad.
He said it gave him a headache! But people like Jimmy are the peaceful
soldiers of the information revolution, restoring facts and freedom
one Tweet at a time.

It is because of the blogging community, Facebook, and Twitter
that this landmark conference was able to take place, and in a manner
that was beneficial for both the scientific community and interested
laymen. In an age where obesity and chronic disease has become so
commonplace within one generation, folks are desperate to
be freed from these abnormalities and live a thriving life in a
thin and healthy body that embraces the natural human state of wellness.
I can only hope this symposium is the onset of something so monumental
and so accessible that the government and its gatekeepers are powerless
to stop it.

For readers who are interested, here is the Ancestral
Health Symposium website
that includes links to the schedule
with speakers, presentation abstracts, and videos of the presentations
on Vimeo (not all are available yet). Also see Richard
Nikoley's post
collecting AHS rundowns.

15, 2011

Karen De Coster, CPA [send
her mail
] is
an accounting/finance professional in the healthcare industry and
a freelance writer/blogger. She writes about the medical establishment,
Big Pharma, Big Agra, the Corporate State, health totalitarianism,
lifestyle fascism, industrial-medical-pharmaceutical complex, and
essentially, anything that encroaches upon the freedom of her fellow
human beings. She is a proponent of ancestral health and the natural,
eco-ag farming community, and she opposes the Fed’s anti-food choice
totalitarianism. This is her LewRockwell.com
and her Mises.org
. Check out her
. Follow her on Twitter @karendecoster.

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