Dear Mark: Wheat and Asthma, Minimalist Winter Shoes, High-Fat Rat Cognition Study, and Sun Exposure Timing

by Mark Sisson Mark's Daily Apple

Recently by Mark Sisson: I Will Never Go Back to the Broken Conventional Wisdom of MyPast

Today’s edition of “Dear Mark” runs the gamut. The topics will be somewhat familiar, since I tackle wheat, minimalist shoes, high-fat diets in the news, and vitamin D, but with interesting spins on each. First, I discuss the link between wheat and asthma. Next, I do a somewhat exhaustive search of the available winter minimalist shoe options, a topic that I’ve never had cause to explore for myself. Since I do this for you guys, though, I tried to help out. After that, it’s my quick but (in my mind) pretty conclusive take on the latest article to pin cognitive decline on a high-fat diet for a reader who’s dealing with a similar condition herself (or himself; the gender of the name “Jo” is somewhat ambiguous). And finally, I discuss whether or not there’s a best time of day to obtain vitamin D from the sun.

Let’s get going:


I love the website and your books. I have been eating paleo for the past 4 months and notice a huge difference in my athletic performance and general out look on life. I have suffered from asthma my entire life. After eating a sandwich made with french bread (refined wheat) or a plate of pasta (which is rarely now), I find my breathing slightly labored even while sitting. Is there any research supporting the removal of gluten and wheat help asthmatics?

I would love to know you thoughts…


I think so, yes. Something called baker’s asthma, which has been identified since at least the 1700s and is exactly as it sounds, is linked to the ingestion (this time via the clouds of airborne flour to which bakers are constantly exposed) of gliadins, the protein subfractions that make up gluten.

There’s also a related condition called wheat-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis where wheat-related proteins make it through the intestinal wall into the blood and cause an immune response that manifests as an asthma attack. It’s “exercise-induced” because exercise seems to speed up the rate at which the wheat gliadins make it into the blood, but even those at rest had evidence of an immune response to the gliadins.

There’s also evidence of plain-old wheat-induced asthma – no exercise necessary.

I’d say you’re on to something, Drew. You can keep experimenting if you like, but I’d suggest just staying away from the stuff myself! Good luck!

Hey Mark. I’m very addicted to my Vibrams, and with this nor’easter coming through I had to go back to my winter boots, and while they do keep me dry and warm, I’m hating it!

Tried looking through the site but didn’t find anything as far as some type of minimalist shoe for winter? Any recommendations?

Wish Vibrams made a winter type shoe. I see they used to make one that kind of looks like it would be helpful, but they don’t sell it anymore.



I share your addiction. For folks who actually have real seasons with a real winter, the minimalist winter shoe is something of a white whale – an enigma hovering just out of reach, a product that you know should exist but that you can never actually pin down. I’ve never really looked into it for my own feet, since they rarely see cold weather, but let’s see what’s out there, yeah?

First, a quick glance at the minimalist wintery offerings from the well-known companies out there:


Men – Nothing meant for winter that I could see.

Women – Barefoot Life Frost Glove: waterproof, insulated, Vibram sole.

Vivo Barefoot

Men – The Off Road Hi and Off Road Mid look to be decently protective options.

Women – They’ve got an entire winter boot collection for women, albeit a fairly small one.


Unisex – Adult Phoenix Boot: sheepskin lining, 5 mm Vibram sole, lighter and more flexible sole as of 2012, roomy toebox (very important, in my experience, for true barefoot feel), naturally water-resistant.

Now, how about the shoe options that might not be officially minimalist but are close enough?

Russel Moccasin now makes a full lineup of minimalist moccasins, some of which are winter proof. They’ve been around for decades, so they should be pretty high quality.

Otz Shoes has a Troop Boot. It’s not billed or promoted as minimalist, but as this review from Birthday Shoes suggests, it can certainly be modified to become an effective, minimalist winter boot. They’ve got ‘em in women’s, too.

There’s an actual minimalist army boot out, as well – the Belleville Minimalist Training Boot. Read the review.

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