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My series on the low-carb, high fat diet — the ketogenic diet — continues.

At the weekend, I found more research and more benefits of the ketogenic diet, among them better testosterone and good cholesterol (HDL) levels.

Over the past few decades, many Westerners have eaten more carbohydrates and less fat. This type of regime might benefit high-performance athletes, however, it could cause health problems in the average person. Two obvious ones are weight gain and higher cholesterol levels.

Today’s post highlights three articles as well as a previous post of mine, useful to read in full. Excerpts follow.

The first article is Authority Nutrition‘s ‘7 Ways The Low-Fat Diet Destroys Your Health’, which says (emphases in the original):

1/ The Low-Fat Diet Encourages Consumption of Dangerous Foods:

Bottom Line: Many high sugar junk foods with a low-fat label have flooded the market. The low-fat diet also advocates consumption of foods now known to cause harm.

2/ The Low-Fat Diet Can Raise Your Triglycerides:

Bottom Line: The low-fat diet is very high in carbohydrates. Excess carbohydrates are turned into fats in the liver, which raise blood levels of triglycerides, an important cardiovascular risk factor.

4/ The Low-Fat Diet Can Lower HDL (‘The Good’) Cholesterol:

Bottom Line: HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol and is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Studies show that the low-fat diet reduces blood levels of HDL.

5/ The Low-Fat Diet Lowers Testosterone Levels:

Having low testosterone levels can lead to decreased muscle mass, increased body fat, osteoporosis, depression, decreased libido, among others.

Bottom Line: Testosterone is a very important hormone in both men and women. Low-fat diets can significantly reduce testosterone levels.

Since the late 1970s and 1980s, Americans have witnessed an explosion not only in heart disease and cancer but also diabetes type 2 and bowel disorders. These have now spread to other Western nations, because we have all adopted the same diet.

How was it that the human race was able to survive without constant preventive treatment at the local clinic? There was a time not so long ago — it was certainly still in place in the 1960s — when you went to the doctor only when you were sick.

Second, recapping the post I wrote in 2012 about Dr David Diamond’s success on a ketogenic diet, this is how he explained how we got from there to here in 60 years (emphases mine below):

What did Dr Diamond find as the cause for Western obesity and propensity to heart disease? This is where bad science comes in. In the 1950s, half of all deaths in the United States were attributed to  heart disease. This was something new and shocking. President Eisenhower would die of a fatal heart attack some years later.

A well-known physician, Dr Ancel Keys, studied 23 countries’ diets and published his results in 1953. Although no one knew it at the time, he only focussed on the results of six [Wikipedia says seven] of those 23 countries!

Keys managed to appear on all three television networks and hammer home the link between animal fat and heart attacks.

In reality, Diamond stated that when Keys’s critics, also doctors, plotted results of all 23 countries’ mortality rates and heart disease, they showed a scatter effect. There was — and is — no correlation between animal fat and heart attacks.

Nonetheless, Keys went on to greater national prominence, and his false teaching became the health gospel. Other prominent doctors refuted what he said but were ignored.

The actual link, Diamond says, to heart disease is refined sugar and carbohydrates. (Diamond said that a small amount of sugar and carbohydrates is fine; an excess is not.) After the Second World War, more food high in carbohydrates and refined sugar became available and featured more frequently in American homesAlso on the increase, he said, was the consumption of margarine instead of butter. Margarine, low in saturated fat, first appeared during the Depression and was considered a health food …

Diamond’s successful dietary proportions are, by contrast, 70% fat, 20% protein and 10% carbs.

Note that he eats very little fruit and not that much in the way of vegetables.

There’s an hour-long video at the link. You’ll see how thin he is. He gives his audience the history and tells his own story.

Have we ever wondered why we are fat, why we have problems conceiving children, why we have irritable bowel syndrome, why we suffer more from cancer, why we’re depressed?

How can this be when 75% to 80% of Western populations no longer smoke? That said, how was it that both sexes smoked between the 1930s and 1960s and continued to go forth and multiply? One could say that smoking was responsible for the Baby Boom, the years with the highest percentages of smokers, both men and women.

How is it that we’re visiting the doctor more often yet we still have debilitating physical and mental ailments? Why are teens fatter than ever? Why do we have an upsurge in food allergies?

Why did this not happen previously in history?

It could be that we followed Ancel Keys’s diet instead of our grandparents’. Certainly, we are obliged to now as it has become the de facto normative diet. Yes, it is true that more of us are commuting by car instead of by bicycle or on foot. It is also true that we have many more modern conveniences which means that we expend less energy cleaning house or doing home repairs.

However, many of us who have tried desparately to lose weight on a high-carb, low-fat diet with little success wonder if it’s us or the food we eat. Apparently, 20% – 30% do not have a problem processing a high-carb, low-fat diet. That means that 70% to 80% of us do.

We’re told by medical professionals — many of them fat — that we lack willpower.

In the third recommended article of mine, Rocco Stanzione, the author of Low Carb for Health, says in ‘Are You Addicted to Carbs?’:

The prevailing theory is simple: you don’t have enough willpower.  Me, I get skeptical when I hear about willpower.  It suggests that your body is telling you what it needs, and you need willpower to shut it up or ignore it.  With the important exception of addiction, I think this is a bad idea.

My favorite psychologist likes to say “trust the organism.”  You are an amazing organism, and your body is very good at knowing what it needs and letting you know.  Hunger is no exception, and its messages should be heeded.  It’s there for a reason.  And, importantly, eating when you’re hungry isn’t what’s making you fat.  It’s what you’re eating.  And this is where addiction comes in.

You eat a high-carb meal, possibly full of sugar.  This spikes your insulin levels, which signals your body to use all the glucose that’s now in your blood.  If you’ve eaten this way for a long time, odds are your insulin signaling is somewhat impaired.  So eventually your blood sugar levels return to normal, but your blood is still full of insulin.

Now, insulin tells your cells to consume glucose exclusively.  It shuts down fat metabolism in order to regulate your blood sugar levels, but since your blood glucose has already been consumed, you have a problem.  You’ve become hypoglycemic.  This is only a problem in the presence of insulin, which is only in your blood because you ate the carbohydrates in the first place, or possibly because you put it there with a needle.  You probably have fat (which can normally be used for fuel) circulating in your blood as well, but thanks to the insulin it’s doing you no good, so your cells have no usable fuel at all, and your body starts freaking out.

Finally, in another of his informative articles, ‘Weight Loss, Part 2 of One Zillion’, Stanzione goes on to explain:

So, if you’re not eating carbohydrates, there’s almost no glucose in the blood, therefore there’s almost no insulin, therefore your cells burn fat, and any excess fat is simply excreted since (without insulin) it can’t be stored.

I’ve explained now why it’s impossible gain weight without eating carbohydrates, but how does such a diet help you lose weight?  I’ve mentioned that insulin forces cells to use glucose as their exclusive fuel, overriding any other factors.  Similarly, it forces fat cells to store fat, regardless of any other contradictory signals they might be getting.  For example, the hormone epinephrine (also called adrenaline) tells your fat tissue to mobilize its fat stores, because you’re probably about to need a lot of energy.  Insulin tends to override this.  In fact, there is a large number of hormones that stimulate the release of fat stores (without insulin), and you can learn a lot about that here

So by eating a ketogenic diet, you have guaranteed that you at least can’t put on weight.  Any exercise you do is now far more effective, because fat is released more quickly and can’t be re-stored if you fail to use it up.  And whether you know it or not, you’re already doing enough exercise to lose weight by changing nothing but your diet.  I’m a programmer of all things, and on top of that I work from home, often from my bed, and I still lost 30 lbs. in the first six weeks of the diet, doing no more exercise than going about my daily, mostly sedentary, routine.

And here’s the kicker.  Calories don’t matter.  You eat as much as you want, and as long as you don’t eat carbohydrates, your body literally throws away whatever it doesn’t burn for fuel.  And your fat tissue leaps at the slightest excuse to unload stored fat, because there’s no insulin telling it not to.

Many people on ketogenic diets have stopped counting calories. Instead, they use a percentage of fat, protein and carbs. If the daily calories of a ketogenic diet were as much as a high-carb one, most adherents probably couldn’t consume that much fat. They would have been sated early on. Ergo, ketogenic dieters are likely to consume fewer rather than more calories. However, as Stanzione says, even if they don’t, they won’t gain weight.

Remember when your grandmother told you that carbs were ’empty calories’? And you probably thought she was so ‘last century’? Grandma was — and is — right. Carbs are the surest way to put on weight unless you’re a performance athlete.

The ketogenic diet is not something one goes on and comes off of. It is a way of eating for life. You might wonder how Stanzione, of Italian descent, handles it. After all, shouldn’t he be craving pasta? He explains:

If I can live without pasta, so can you.  OK, that’s a simplistic answer, and I’m mostly kidding.  The real answer is that you are addicted to carbohydrates, and the good news is that it’s a surprisingly easy habit to kick.  The first few days are rough, but you’ll find that your cravings just go away after a short time.

I’ll close with some bonus citations of medical literature for further research:

Some people will need to check with a doctor before embarking on a ketogenic diet, principally those with kidney disease. A mismanaged ketogenic diet can increase the risk of gout — and heart arrhythmia. I’ll have more on this tomorrow.

In any event, if you are in any doubt, check with your physician first but please read about this type of nutritional regime first so that you sound informed. Most doctors will not be impressed with a patient requesting a move to a high-fat, low-carb diet. It goes against all the received wisdom from the past few decades. And, let’s not forget, Big Pharma have made a lot of money off our illness from our current Western diet.

I have found it helpful over the past few months. I’ve lost eight pounds, my biggest loss in many years. I’ve rarely felt hungry in between meals. If I do, then I have a handful of nuts or a fatty snack.

I haven’t gone as deeply into it as Stanzione and Diamond have, however, even reducing my carb intake by half (e.g. 50g to 25g) — and focussing on increasing animal fat — also lessened my craving for chocolate, cookies and cake. I’ll probably go a bit further now, because the less carb I’m eating, the less I actually want.

Past articles in this series — all available on my Recipes / Health / History page under ‘Low-fat, high-carb diets increase depression’ — are as follows. My original intention was to give ideas for home relief from depression. However, this is a holistic way of eating:

Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

Depression and anxiety: the perils of a low-fat, high-carb diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression

Depression and cancer: more evidence against a low-fat diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])

High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)

Low-carb diet a migraine remedy



My past posts have concerned the benefits of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet:

Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

Depression and anxiety: the perils of a low-fat, high-carb diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression

Depression and cancer: more evidence against a low-fat diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])

High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)

This diet — called a ketogenic diet — might also serve as a remedy for migraines.

In 2010, computer programmer Rocco Stanzione wrote an excellent blog about this kind of eating routine. I have cited his site, Low Carb for Health, in the last two posts in the above list.

One of his posts explained the possible reasons why a ketogenic diet combats migraines. He admits that information is hard to find. If drugs can replace diet, it is not surprising that such data are thin on the ground — or cyberspace!

What follows are a few paragraphs from Stanzione’s ‘Migraines: Are They Preventable?’ Emphases mine below.

migraines seem to correspond with an unusually alkaline blood pH and to respond favorably to lowering it (making it more acidic)On a very-low-carb diet, the blood is very acidic because the ketone bodies themselves are acidic.  This may account for the success of the diet in treating urinary tract infections.

Another place doctors are looking for the cause of migraines is GABA, an important neurotransmitterKetosis has significant effects on GABA metabolism, which is specifically targeted by lots of migraine and epilepsy medications with great success

Prescription drugs for these ailments mimic ketosis, something we can induce ourselves with a ketogenic diet.

Stanzione adds:

Another very important neurotransmitter is glutamate.  It’s also a chemical precursor to GABA, so there’s a lot of interplay between the two in the brain.  Impairments in the metabolism of either chemical, and in the conversion of glutamate to GABA, have been implicated in a number of neurological problems, including epilepsy and migrainesThe ketogenic diet increases the rate of conversion of glutamate to GABA, which would tend to protect against these problems according to our current understanding of them.  The article I’m going to use to back up these claims is positively dense with great information, and if you can handle scientific literature written for scientists you might want to check it out: The Neuropharmacology of the Ketogenic Diet.

One of Stanzione’s readers, Jenn, wrote about her positive experience with a ketogenic diet:

I definitely think there is a link between carbs and migraine.

I was having a health crisis where I was experiencing migraines most days of the month (maybe 25?) despite taking amitriptyline as a preventive med. I experimented with diet a little, cutting out various possible triggers until it became apparent wheat was causing most of my migraines. The longer I abstained from wheat, the fewer migraines I experienced until now, where I only get one migraine per month during a specific time in my menstrual cycle. It seems to me that since my carb intake went way down due to cutting out wheat my migraines became nearly non-existent.

I have just started a ketogenic diet five days ago and am already amazed at how great I feel. Depression–gone. Moods–totally stable ADD symptoms–much better. I am anxious to see if I get my monthly migraine or if I can eliminate that altogether with the ketogenic diet.

A number of other women wrote in reporting the same happy results. It’s well worth reading through the comments. As one lady says about trying the diet just out of interest, ‘You have nothing to lose except your migraine’.

If you are concerned, check with your physician first. However, take the time to read with the pros and cons. Not all doctors encourage patients helping themselves. A cogent case might encourage them to help you monitor your diet.

Many books on the market explain the ketogenic diet. The one which psychiatrist Dr Richard A Kunin prescribed his patients explains the food list and regime (see pages 4 and 5 of his PDF). You will need Ketostix to measure the acidity in your urine. These are available online or from your pharmacist.

More on the ketogenic diet tomorrow.


Bible spine dwtx.orgContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 11:29-32

The Sign of Jonah

 29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.


If parts of this passage sound familiar to regular readers of my Forbidden — Essential — Bible Verses series, it is because they have featured previously:

Matthew 16:1-12:

1And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.

4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

‘Adulterous’ as used there implies a betrayal of God, rather than a sexually adulterous relationship. Adulterous in this context appears elsewhere in the Bible. One can love — be faithful to — God or love the world. If one loves the world, one loves Satan and sin. Hence the notion of betrayal of God.

Mark 8:11-13:

11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.

Luke 9:37-43:

41Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”

The last was directed at His Apostles to whom He had given the power to heal. When they later asked Jesus why their healing of the convulsive (probably epileptic) mute boy did not work, Matthew’s version says that Jesus told them their faith was inadequate (Matthew 17:20). Mark’s Gospel records Jesus as saying that certain demons can only be driven out by prayer (Mark 9:29). In both cases, faith in and reliance on God’s sovereignty is required.

In today’s passage, Jesus is addressing the crowd. Earlier in the chapter, Luke tells us that Jesus taught the disciples the Lord’s Prayer, told them that God is more loving than any earthly father, rebuked those who say He heals in Beelzebul’s name, warned about a cleansed soul devoid of faith and exhorted His listeners to obey the word of God.

Today’s passage quotes Jesus rebuking an ‘evil generation’ (verse 29). He was criticising the people and Jewish Sanhedrin not only for accusing Him of working in league with Satan but for requesting yet another ‘sign’ — miracle. By that point in His ministry, Christ had performed many healing miracles and had fed the 5,000.

Although the Gospels do not tell us, the reasons for their request must have been complex. First, perhaps, because they considered themselves observant Jews, they assumed that they were asking as God-fearing believers. Second, as John MacArthur posits, they probably had no idea of what sort of sign they wanted.

Jesus took issue with them and called them evil not because they were criminal or unobservant Jews. He was telling them that, despite all His miracles and teaching, the majority of them —  no matter where He went — did not or could not believe He was the Messiah, the Son of God. Therefore, what more could He do to convince them? If they did not believe by this point, they never would. And we know how His ministry ended — on the Cross.

Some readers might be puzzled by the mention of Jonah, whose story for most of us consists of having lived in a giant fish belly for three days. Yet, Jonah went on to convert the pagan people of Nineveh afterward.

Jonah 1 describes the prophet’s disobedience. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh urging that city’s people to repent. Jonah refused; as pagans, he considered them beneath him.  So, thinking that he could run away from God, he decided to board a ship headed for Tarshish, already part of the lucrative trade route with Asia. Ironically, every man on the ship was a pagan. Somehow, that didn’t seem to bother Jonah.

Once the ship set sail, God sent a violent storm. The sailors tried everything to keep afloat. Jonah was fast asleep when the storm started. As the men knew their lives were in the balance, they began praying to their gods. The ship’s captain woke Jonah up and told him to pray to his god.

As the storm raged, the sailors wanted to find out which of them was responsible for displeasing the gods. Human frailty must have caused the storm and the gods were having their revenge. They cast lots. The finger pointed at Jonah. When they asked what god he worshipped, he told them of the one true God and that he had disobeyed Him. Jonah told them to throw him overboard and God would stop the storm:

14Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.” 15So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.

17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

So he managed to convert the sailors in his disobedience, the storm stopped and Jonah suffered his punishment in the fish’s belly. Jonah 2 documents his prayer of repentance, after which God made the fish spit him out onto dry land.

In Jonah 3, we find out that Jonah obeys God’s command to go to Nineveh and warn them to repent or risk His divine wrath. The people — pagans up to this point — obeyed Jonah. They fasted and put on sackcloth and ashes. When God saw their repentance, He called off His punishment.

Back now to Luke 11:29-30. Jesus was telling His audience that the Ninevites believed without having personally experienced what Jonah went through. Nonetheless, his story convinced them that there is one true God. Yet, here the Son of God was actually among the unbelievers of His generation and they did not believe He is the Messiah. What more could He have done? Therefore, they are an ‘evil generation’.

Another point about Jonah’s story is that he was captive in the fish’s belly for three days. Jesus would stay in the tomb for three days between His Crucifixion and Resurrection. Matthew Henry explains:

As Jonas being cast into the sea, and lying there three days, and then coming up alive and preaching repentance to the Ninevites, was a sign to them, upon which they turned from their evil way, so shall the death and resurrection of Christ, and the preaching of his gospel immediately after to the Gentile world, be the last warning to the Jewish nation. If they be provoked to a holy jealousy by this, well and good but, if this do not work upon them, let them look for nothing but utter ruin: The Son of Man shall be a sign to this generation (Luke 11:30), a sign speaking to them, though a sign spoken against by them.

Jesus cites another example of repentance for them, that of the ‘queen of the South’ — the Queen of Sheba — whom Solomon converted (verse 31). MacArthur tells us that Sheba is present-day Yemen. She made a long journey to Jerusalem to find out for herself. 1 Kings 10 tells us that Solomon taught her about the one true God. The queen of the South said (1 Kings 10:6-9):

6And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, 7but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard. 8Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! 9 Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.”

The Queen of Sheba heard Solomon’s testimony and was converted. Until then, she had no personal experience of God. This is why Jesus says (verse 31) that her example will come to convict the unbelieving Jews to whom He had been ministering. Similarly, He cites the Ninevites condemning them (verse 32). As Henry observes:

here is preaching which far exceeds that of Jonas, is more powerful and awakening, and threatens a much sorer ruin than that of Nineveh, and yet none are startled by it, to turn from their evil way, as the Ninevites did.

MacArthur says the Jews of Jesus’s day were far too self-righteous in their observance of Mosaic Law to believe in Him. This is the danger which legalism posed then — and poses now to certain Christians.

MacArthur explains:

My, my. He had banished disease from Israel. He had banished demons from souls of men. He had conquered death and raised the dead. He had created food for thousands. He had stilled the waters in a storm. He had calmed the storm. He had controlled the fish. He had walked on the water Himself. All of it together wasn’t enough. They had all the evidence they needed and more, much more. It wasn’t about evidence, it was about the fact that in their self-righteous moralism they hated the diagnosis that Jesus rendered of their hearts. They were so self-righteous. They couldn’t deny that He had supernatural power so there was only one place to assign it. If not God, Satan. This is not lack of evidence, this is lack of penitence. And in the end, they hated the very God they said they loved

It is the most dangerous posture to take to hide under a cloak of morality, a cloak of religion and then to reject the diagnosis of your own wretchedness, your own sinfulness, your own unworthiness, your own inability to save yourself, commend yourself to God and therefore reject the work of Jesus Christ. Christendom, as we have been learning in the book of Jude in our study of apostasy, is just full of these kinds of people who are self-righteous, right in Christendom as such, as well as all other religions of the world. And they are damned by their false righteousness.

Some believers today do err by being self-righteous. They keep their distance from anyone who belongs to a different denomination. They consider themselves holy for having refrained from watching television. They consider themselves pure for not partaking of strong drink. They lord their self-righteous — ‘holiness’, as they call it — over members of their own congregations.

In closing, MacArthur warns us against being pharasaical in our so-called ‘Christian life’:

The worst state you can ever be in is a state or self-righteousness, personally imposed morality, legalism and religion in which you clean up your own life, sweep it superficially, put it in order superficially and become a haven for demons who function most effectively and most deadly in religious people. Very dangerous to be moral and religious

The bottom line is the Pharisees didn’t see themselves as sinners. Self-righteous people don’tTherefore they are unredeemable and they condemn Jesus because He met with this category of people that they called sinners in which they had absolutely no part. Jesus said of them, “It’s not those who are well that need a physician, but those who are sick.” And if you don’t know you’re sick you can’t and you won’t come to the physician. That’s why He said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” There’s no point in calling righteous people to repentance. What are they going to repent of? When the rich young ruler said, “What do I do to get eternal life?” what happened? Jesus said, “Well here are the Commandments.” He said, “I’ve kept them all.” There’s a man who is self-righteous, he won’t repent. If he won’t repent, he can’t be saved. 

Next time: Luke 11:33-36


Hibiscus rosa-sinensis - closeup detail of a HibiscusSunday, March 30, 2014, is Mothering Sunday in the UK.

My prayers and best wishes go to all British mothers on this day. I hope that losing one hour’s sleep as the clocks change to British Summer Time will not have too much of an adverse impact on this happy occasion! Enjoy the day and may it be filled with pleasant surprises!

Laetare Sunday has been Mothering Sunday for centuries, beginning with the Church in Britain.

In Lent, this is the Sunday when the celebrant — Catholic, along with some Anglicans and Lutherans — wears a rose coloured vestment. It is the one Sunday in Lent which allows a small celebration as the faithful anticipate the commemoration of Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Day.

The Catholic Church traditionally has given Laetare Roses to those who have shown exceptional faith and charity.

You can read more about all these traditions in the following posts:

Laetare Sunday, Mother’s Day and the Golden Rose

Laetare Sunday is Mothering Sunday

For much of the past week, I have been running a series on the potential perils of high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets.

I have posted them on my Recipes / Health / History page under ‘Low-fat, high-carb diets increase depression’. They are as follows:

Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

Depression and anxiety: the perils of a low-fat, high-carb diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression

Depression and cancer: more evidence against a low-fat diet

As I have mentioned, a good layman-to-layman resource is the Texan’s Rocco Stanzione’s Low Carb for Health.

In 2010, he and his family began a ketogenic diet (explained in some of the aforementioned posts). Essentially, this is a low-carb, high-fat diet designed to keep one comfortably satiated, adequately energetic, in a pleasant disposition and in good health.

Stanzione says that he read (and no doubt reread) Gary Taubes’s bestseller, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet. Stanzione has also researched other clinical studies about this type of diet.

Good health is something we hear about endlessly in Western countries. So-called experts often tell us that we are lazy and opposed to it. But are we? Who in this youth-oriented culture of ours would wish for disease? No one.

Something somewhere doesn’t ring true. So is it time for us to question the paradigm — received wisdom — on which modern health and nutrition is drawn?

It would seem so.

The politically centrist French site, Atlantico, today featured the top 10 causes of death in France compared with 100 years ago. (You will not probably not need to translate the causes. Most of us will find them in our own countries.) What follows are those which could well be brought on by a high-carb, low-fat diet:

1/ Cancer
2/ Heart disease
3/ Stroke
5/ Alzheimer’s
6/ Diabetes Type 2
8/ Suicide

Six out of ten — 60% — of these could be diet-related.

Potentially, we can do something about them without ever (possibly) seeing a doctor. There are no guarantees in this life; a remedy which works for many might not work for all.

As always, if you are apprehensive about trying an alternative health regime, read up on the pros and cons before consulting your physician. Your doctor will no doubt discourage you.

However, if you are armed with facts as well as both sides of the argument before your consultation, he or she might well agree, if only out of curiosity to see what the results are.

Today’s post focusses on cancer by way of a few other surprising ‘modern’ diseases which do not exist in the world’s few remaining primitive societies.

The disparity of the Western versus the developing world’s diets came to physicians’ and anthropologists’ attention as early as the 19th century. By then, Europe and North America began to experience the taste of refined flour and sugar, both of which became less expensive and more accessible to nearly everyone.

Stanzione cites findings by Canadian anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson, documented in the latter’s book Cancer: disease of civilization?.  Steffansson discovers (emphases in bold mine):

Stanislaw Tanchou …. gave the first formula for predicting cancer risk. It was based on grain consumption and was found to accurately calculate cancer rates in major European cities. The more grain consumed, the greater the rate of cancer.”  Tanchou made the claim in 1843, to the Paris Medical Society. He also postulated that cancer would likewise never be found in hunter-gatherer populations. This began a search among the populations of hunter-gatherers known to missionary doctors and explorers. This search continued until WWII when the last wild humans were “civilized” in the Arctic and Australia. No cases of cancer were ever found within these populations, although after they adopted the diet of civilization, it became common.

What, then, are Western diseases unknown to the last of the hunter-gatherers? By the way, small areas populated by such tribes still exist in parts of Africa and the South Pacific. The American chef Anthony Bourdain spent a few days with hunter-gatherers in Namibia only a few years ago in an episode of No Reservations. They really do eat nose to tail — absolutely everything.

But I digress.

Stanzione writes that Western diseases include:

heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and high blood pressure, as well as lesser problems such as acne, early onset puberty, nearsightedness, skin tags, acanthosis nigricans, polycystic ovary syndrome and male pattern baldness.  All of these are potentially caused (as explained in the linked paper) by insulin resistance or hyperinsulinemia, and I suspect that’s just the beginning of the list.  And if this is your first time here, that means they’re caused by high-carbohydrate diets.

Who would have thought that male pattern baldness, PCO, acne and skin tags would have been maladies of Western civilisation? The mind boggles.

Stanzione explains — citing references — how cancer and other common diseases in the West occur with a high-carb diet:

One is called the Warburg Effect after its discoverer.  Warburg described a feature common to all forms of cancer – they carry out all their metabolism anaerobically.  This is important for a number of reasons.  For one, on a low-carbohydrate diet, the only source of fuel available in the bloodstream in any quantity is ketone bodies, which cannot be metabolized without oxygenCancer cells are thus unable to make metabolic use of ketones.  To my knowledge, there’s no research available that confirms or refutes this statement, but it’s a logical conclusion of the discovery of cancer’s exclusively anaerobic metabolism, and should probably be studied closely.

Another related feature of cancer cells is that insulin receptors are overexpressed.  This means that cancer cells are avid glucose consumers, giving them a competitive advantage over surrounding healthy tissue.  On a low-carb diet, of course, there’s hardly any blood glucose to consume, so this critical feature of cancer cells confers no advantage whatsoever, and may well be a distinct disadvantage.  Together with the inability to metabolize other fuels, this means that theoretically cancer cells cannot survive in a human on a low-carb diet.

Possibly the most important feature common to all cancer cells is their ability to avoid apoptosis, or programmed cell death, which in healthy cells is triggered by certain types of damage or DNA transcription errors.  Without this feature, cancer cells would destroy themselves.  There is another process by which cells deal with damage: autophagy.  We don’t know as much as we’d like about this process, but we do know that it allows cells to recycle aging and damaged organelles and that it’s inhibited by insulin.  This insulin-induced failure of cells to “take out the garbage” via autophagy may, according to many studies (and let me emphasize this one), be a primary pathway to cancer development

Opponents of this theory can offer endless rebuttals. However, Stanzione observes:

We lived on whatever we could get wherever we lived, and that was mostly meat anywhere you care to lookEskimos ate huge amounts of seal meat, so their diet was unbelievably fatty.  They ate almost no plant matterAboriginal Australians ate mostly lean kangaroo meat and were similarly healthy (nutritionists love this one).  Early humans are thought to have subsisted almost entirely on large game.  That such a diet was successful enough for the species to survive and even flourish is often explained away by the assumption that their lives were “nasty, brutish and short and so chronic disease was not a factor.  People who make this claim are nutritionists – not anthropologists, who know better.

My ‘High carbohydrate intake and depression’ post cites psychiatrist Dr Richard A Kunin’s study which he performed on epileptics in the mid-1970s. Even in cases where his diet did not alleviate seizures, patients’ families noted the subjects’ dispositions had greatly improved, therefore, they were kept on an agreeable diet of meat, fish, seafood, poultry, fat, vegetables, cream and most cheeses (see pages 4 and 5 of the PDF). They were able to increase their carbohydrate intake to a minimum level after ketosis set in. Incidentally, urine acidity must be measured twice daily in order to ascertain the level of ketosis. Kunin’s paper explains the procedure.

I’ll look more at ketogenic diets next week. They come with a few essential precautions.

N.B.: The following is not intended as medical advice but as food for thought. Consult an understanding physician before embarking on a major diet overhaul.

My past few posts (Friday, Monday, Tuesday) have covered a possible link between our current Western low-fat, high-carb diet with depression, obesity and cancer — all of which are at the top of national health agendas.

There are various diets on the market which promote higher protein, increased fat and reduced (or more efficient) carbohydrate intake: Hays, Atkins, Dukan, Paleo, the GI diet and so on.

One site which I have been reading over the past few days, Rocco Stanzione’s Low Carb for Health, documents the benefits of a high-protein, high-fat and low-carb diet. He has tried them along with his family. His site provides a year’s worth of findings.

Stanzione writes brilliantly. It is a pity he did not continue posting. However, his readers must be grateful that he shared so much information. His site brings back memories of my high school and university biology courses from the 1970s. I wonder if any of this knowledge is still taught. If not, it should be.

Stanzione recommends a very low-carbohydrate diet. In fact, he recommends a period of ketosis, which relies on burning the available calories we have unaided by the intake of additional carbohydrates. I am no expert, so shall not delve into ketosis, which he explains ably on his site. In short, one redresses any insulin imbalances by going through ketosis, which must be managed carefully by substituting fat for the missing carbohydrates. Not doing so can cause heart arrythmia and dizziness. Some people end up in the emergency ward because they do not have the balance right. This is why fat needs to be added to the diet. A minor side-effect is that as the body burns up fat stores, ketosis is evidenced by breath that smells like pear drops — not unpleasant, just strange. One’s urine also needs to become and remain acid; this requires monitoring twice a day via a home test such as Ketostix.

That said, if ketosis does linger for a few weeks, first with a few days with no carbohydrates whatsoever then a small addition of them back to the diet, Stanzione says that excess weight will melt off. More importantly, he says, one’s mental and physical health will quickly improve. Energy levels will also increase.

Stanzione found two clinical studies which have found that a ketogenic diet improves mental health. This diet was developed at the Mayo Clinic in the 1920s to help epileptics who found anti-seizure drugs useless. The ketogenic diet didn’t always help alleviate seizures, however, it did improve the epileptics’ general mood and feelings of well being.

Before I go into Stanzione’s post, ‘Carbohydrate Intake and Depression’, I’d like to explore the two studies he cited.

The first — ‘Ketosis and the Optimal Carbohydrate Diet: A Basic Factor in Orthomolecular Psychiatry’ by Dr Richard A Kunin — actually describes the ketogenic diet in detail (see p. 4 of the PDF).

I was intrigued to read Kunin’s citing of the New Testament, specifically Mark 9:14-29. Jesus’s disciples were unable to cast out a demon from a boy who had seizures and was also a mute. The boy’s father was the man who said, by way of appeal to Jesus, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ Jesus drove the demon out of the boy. Later, when the disciples asked him why they were unable to effect the healing, He explained (verse 29):

29“This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.”[b]

So, ketosis, in changing the body’s chemistry via food restrictions, started to be experimented with in the 19th century, first as a weight-loss programme by the famous English surgeon William Harvey (ah, biology class!). It was later used in treating urinary tract infections and epilepsy.

Kunin concludes (emphases mine):

It is surprising, after so much clinical experience spanning a period of two thousand years, that this paper is the first [and last] by a psychiatrist describing the applications of the ketogenic diet in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and dysperception. Meanwhile, throughout this most advanced society of ours, in every modern psychiatric facility patients are exposed to an overdose of carbohydrates… It is time that the application of available knowledge in this field should be the rule rather than the exception. Ignorance and fear of controversy are no longer an excuse to withhold this basic and physiologically-oriented treatment from our patients.

Kunin’s results with the ketogenic diet were mostly successful, with some exceptions, as one would expect. He found the obese patients were able to handle ketosis better than leaner ones. Another patient deprived herself totally of carbohydrates for a few days longer than she should have, having disregarded Kunin’s instructions at the outset.

That said, in all cases, triglycerides were reduced (p. 9). As for depression, he noted:

The improvement in well-being and mood more than outweighed the short-term inconvenience, for eight out of 10 patients gained a significant degree of mastery over their symptoms of anxiety, depression, neurasthenia, and dysperception.

Furthermore, the diet can also benefit hyperactive children:

In conclusion, let me call attention to the clinical observation of Dr. Samuel Livingston (p.402, 1972), who reviewed the ketogenic diet in his book on epilepsy: “In addition to its excellent anticonvulsant value, the ketogenic diet also favorably affects the hyperactivity, increased restlessness and irritability which one encounters so often in young children with epilepsy. It does not dull mental functioning, as anticonvulsant drugs so frequently do. Many of our patients were described by their parents before the institution of the ketogenic diet, as: ‘wild as a little Indian’; and after the diet was started, as: ‘calm as a lamb.’ It is of interest to note that several of the parents were reluctant to discontinue the diet, in spite of a poor control of seizures, because their children’s behavior and disposition were so much better while on the ketogenic regimen than when they were being treated with antiepileptic drugs.”

For anyone wondering whether undergoing full ketosis is a good idea, the second study Stanzione cites, one performed on rats, concluded, as did Kunin’s that, even if seizures continued, a ketogenic diet could help alleviate mental health disorders. ‘The Antidepressant Properties of the Ketogenic Diet’ states (p. 2 of the PDF):

The present experiment did not demonstrate whether or not ketosis is necessary to effect a behavioral change. As ketosis was not manipulated, this variable cannot be used to explain a difference in behavior. Although the ketogenic diet group achieved a higher level of ketosis than the control group, this level was quite low. A low level of ketosis was also found in the control group.

There is no evidence to suggest that ketosis is necessary to achieve behavioral change. In addition, human studies investigating the behavioral effects of the ketogenic diet have shown that seizure control and behavioral change are separable. Improved behavior and improved mental alertness have been noted, even though seizure control has not been attained (MacCracken and Scalisi 1999; Pulsifer 2001). The present research suggests that the ketogenic diet deserves further study as a possible treatment for depression.

Stanzione’s conclusion is that:

The near-absence in medical literature of what looks like a pretty obvious conclusion, given the evidence, is disappointing and almost surprising.  There’s no shortage of informal discussion in online forums, blogs and so forth about this phenomenon, but serious treatment is conspicuously scarce in peer-reviewed medical journals.

All the available evidence seems to point to dietary carbohydrates as the major causal factor in endogenous depression [treated with antidepressants] but the specific reasons are elusive.  As you might expect, all this is really complicated.  For example, reducing dietary carbohydrates almost necessarily means increasing intake of something else, usually fat.  It also means reducing serum insulin levels, losing weight, and a pile of other things, any or all of which might be relevant to depression.  So do carbohydrates directly cause depression?  Is it the insulin secreted in response to elevated blood sugar from carby meals?  Is it the lack of dietary fat in high-carbohydrate diets, as suggested here?  The lack of vitamin D?  Is it caused by insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity? 

Some of these ideas can apparently be ruled out in at least some cases, but the entire body of available evidence speaks with a single voice: either directly or indirectly, increases in carbohydrate intake increase both the risk and severity of depression with remarkable consistency.  Given that, we would expect – and we do find – that reducing carbohydrate intake has the opposite effect.  Taken to its logical conclusion, these facts suggest that a ketogenic diet would be a fantastically effective treatment for depression.  Very little research has been done to confirm this, but what is available appears to be a strong confirmation of everything else we know.

Conclusion: dietary carbohydrates are the major cause of clinical depression, and a ketogenic diet presents itself as an ideal treatment.

Stanzione, incidentally, is an admirer of Gary Taubes’s Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs and the Controversial Science of Diet.

We might agree or disagree, however, when one watches documentaries about or goes to visit countries in the developing world, strangely, the populations unaffected by famine or natural disaster are remarkably healthy and happy people.

We think it is because ‘they have learned to live without money’ (an ex-colleague of mine actually said that). In reality, perhaps they have been eating properly for millennia.

More on the high-fat, low-carb diet tomorrow.

As I mentioned yesterday and last week, today’s Western diet — low in fat and high in carbs — could be damaging our society.

Not only are we more violent. We are also more depressed.

Furthermore, in an era where smoking is tantamount to murder and many more people are giving up the legal weed, why are so many more people afflicted with cancer?

And why is there no cure for it?

Today’s post, borrowing from SparkPeople’s article, ‘6 Risks of Eating a Low-fat Diet’, provides a bit of insight as to why.

I’ll share only a couple of points from the article but highly recommend that you read it in its entirety. It could help to extend your life — and that of your family members — by going back to the old ways, which are sometimes the best. That’s what my late grandmother-in-law, a born-and-bred Londoner, used to say. The older I get, the more I agree with her!

The SparkPeople article helpfully provides a chart of the daily amount of fat in grams we should be consuming.

The article points out the following health risks (emphases outside of the subheads are mine):

1. Poor Vitamin Absorption
Eating a diet too low in fat can interfere with the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Because these nutrients are fat soluble, your body needs dietary fat to utilize them. These vitamins are stored mostly in the liver and fat tissue and are important in bodily functions such as growth, immunity, cell repair and blood clotting. If you’re not eating enough fat to bring these vitamins into your body, they will be excreted, and you may be at risk for a vitamin deficiency.

2. Depression
A diet that’s too low in fat—especially essential fatty acids, which your body can only get from food—might hurt your mental health. Both omega-3s and omega-6s play roles in mood and behavior. They are the precursor to many hormones and chemicals produced in the brain. One study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders has linked low and abnormal essential fatty acid intake to depressive symptoms. Other research shows that, because fatty acids help to insulate nerve cells in the brain, allowing these nerve cells to better communicate with one another. People who are deficient in omega-3s may suffer from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and ADHD.

3. Increased Cancer Risk
Colon, breast, and prostate cancers have all been correlated with low intakes of essential fatty acids. Research has shown that a high intake of omega-3s slows prostate tumor and cancer cell growth, too. If your diet lacks healthy fats, you could be increasing your risk of cancer.

The other three points are also essential reading and concern other dietary imbalances.

We don’t necessarily need to take pills to feel better. Part of our general lack of health can be attributed to having done away with the nutrition our ancestors had, even if they had less money and fewer modern conveniences.

Fats are important, especially for good mental health.

Following on from last Friday’s post on low-fat diets and depression, I have found subsequent research which has, happily, produced more evidence.

Today’s entry excerpts a February 2011 article on Underground Wellness by Sean Croxton, who describes himself as ‘currently munching on oysters!’ Well done, that man.

His article — ‘Is Your Low-fat Diet Making You Depressed and Anxious?’ — spells out the perils of a regime without adequate animal fat. He cites a favourite health researcher of mine, the late Weston A Price. You can find the Weston A Price Foundation‘s website in my lengthy References blogroll.

Croxton says that, as our genes developed 10,000 years ago, we would benefit from looking at cultures whose way of life is still agricultural or hunter-gatherer. Not only has diet enabled the survival of these cultures. It also gives them robust mental health, far superior to ours. Emphases mine below:

Although we have no written or eyewitness accounts of the mental and emotional state of cavemen and women, we can look at the works of Weston A. Price and Vilhjalmur Stefansson, PhD to draw some conclusions as to the role of diet in mental health. In the case of Stefansson, a Canadian explorer and anthropologist, the Eskimos he studied and lived with were “the happiest people in the world”. Not only were they happy, but they were also extremely healthy, free of cancer, heart disease, and the diseases of civilization.

The Eskimo diet consisted of 80% animal fat. In fact, they warned Stefansson of the dangers of eating lean meat. They said it would make him sick, just as it making us sick.

Croxton says that Weston A Price found in his cultural research that:

the native people he studied and lived with consumed ten times more fat-soluble vitamins and four times more minerals than we consume. These primitive people had no need for jails or mental institutions. Similar to Stefansson, Price consistently found that with adequate fats and nutrients came not only superior health, but also a pleasing, cheerful disposition.

Meanwhile, we Westerners have been turning to self-help books, anger management courses and high-carbohydrate / low-fat diets.

Perhaps, as Croxton suggests, diet is the source of our problem.

I noticed things began changing gradually in the 1980s. By the end of the decade, Americans were generally more irritable and agitated than in the two previous decades. This was the time when the low-fat mantra began appearing everywhere, from doctor’s offices to magazines to the supermarket.

To balance the loss of fat from our diets, large carbohydrate-heavy desserts — especially oversized cookies which could adequately feed a family of four — began appearing in American malls and shopping districts. We all thought they were quite novel at the time. The mantra which accompanied these carb-laden delights was ‘Carbohydrate comforts. Remember having cake when you came home from school?’

Thirty years on and the West is wondering why they have not only an obesity epidemic but also a surge in aberrant behaviour, from school bullying to road rage to increased psychiatric diagnoses.

We wonder how it can all be happening right now and why? Perhaps carbohydrates in that concentration aren’t so good for society after all.

Nor is too little animal fat.

Croxton interviewed an author who studies addiction, Pam Killeen. She told Croxton:

Approximately 60% of our brain is made up of fat. About 25% of the fat is the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, while 14% is the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid (AA).

Croxton advises:

The ideal food sources for these critical fats are wild fish, shellfish, grass-fed meat, lamb, goat, and pastured poultry and eggs. Yet, we prefer farmed fish, grain-fed cattle, the skin removed from our chicken, and the yolks out of our eggs. That is, if you eat animal foods at all.

We make grand attempts to keep our cholesterol levels down to save us from heart disease, yet we ignore the fact that “our brains make up 2% of our body’s weight and contains 25% of its cholesterol”. In fact, “myelin, which covers nerve axons to help conduct the electrical impulses that make movement, sensation, thinking, learning, and memory possible, is over 1/5 cholesterol by weight”. Cholesterol also increases neurotransmitter function five-fold and is needed for the proper functioning of serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter) receptors in the brain. Low cholesterol will not save you from heart disease and it will certainly have a negative impact on your mood and brain function.

Then, there are mineral deficiencies of which we are unaware:

An imbalanced zinc-to-copper ratio can cause fatigue, anxiety, hyperactivity and more. The best sources of zinc are red meat, organ meats (yum!), seafood, and oysters (I’m eating some right now).

Croxton tells us that one of the most important food supplements we can take is Vitamin D. It is only available naturally in animal products. The only other way of getting it, other than via a pill (which needs to be balanced with other vitamins in order for us to process it properly), is by basking in direct sunlight. However, our use of sunscreens inhibits that method of absorption.

He concludes that it is time we moved away from our late 20th and early 21st century carb-heavy, fat-free diet and go back to the basics:

We have never in the history of the world consumed a diet this low in saturated fats, fat-soluble vitamins, and minerals. We’re paying the price for it, not only physically but mentally.

We do not have an antidepressant deficiency! Rather, many of us are deficient in the nutrients that build healthy brains and neurotransmitter function.

Having spent several hours reading about this topic, I couldn’t agree more.

What if we could kiss our anti-depressants goodbye? What if we could help ourselves to be less stressed at home and at work?

Perhaps it is possible, with a bit more animal fat and protein. It is time to ditch our dependence on carbohydrates.

More on this topic tomorrow.

Money seekingalpha-Living4DividendsOn Wednesday, March 20, 2014, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer — Treasury Secretary — delivered his first budget of the year. A subsequent one is due in the autumn.

To all those who deride and criticise the upper middle and upper classes, it is worth remembering that these people pay 75% of all income tax. This has been the state of play for a few years now.

For those who live in other Western countries, the situation is unlikely to differ much. Many people who relied on low-paying full time jobs are now searching for similar part-time jobs.

An increase in both immigration and globalisation aggravates what were formerly secure salaries for working and middle class earners.

However, this is no reason to take to task those who earn many times more than we do. In fact, most of us are able to survive thanks to them.

Christ came to save the poor — and the rich.

The Daily Mail link has interesting bar graphs to study.

Bible oldContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry.

Luke 11:27-28

True Blessedness

 27As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”


The King James Version is, not surprisingly, more poetic. This is what Matthew Henry would have read in his day (late 17th and early 18th centuries):

27And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.

 28But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

This woman, among those gathered around Jesus, has just heard Him criticise the Jewish priests for their false exorcisms which draw multiple demons back into the same soul. That is, as He explained (see last week’s post), because the healed person is living a moral life but a faithless one. The house is clean but empty. Therefore, it invites all manner of temptation. Eventually, the person falls back into sin, many times more.

The secular equivalent of this phenomenon is ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’.

Matthew Henry tells us that the woman complimenting Jesus in verse 27 is delighted He has called them out on their moralising and false healings:

so pleased to hear how he had confounded the Pharisees, and conquered them, and put them to shame, and cleared himself from their vile insinuations …

She could appreciate the wisdom and grace of His teaching.

So, she complimented Him by praising His mother. Even today, this is a natural thing to do. If we know an adult who lives a God-fearing life in line with the Gospel, we often think he or she is a good reflection on his parents. The parents are the ones who provided that grounding in godliness.

Henry interprets her words as follows:

‘What an admirable, what an excellent man is this! Surely never was there a greater or better born of a woman: happy the woman that has him for her son. I should have thought myself very happy to have been the mother of one that speaks as never man spoke, that has so much of the grace of heaven in him, and is so great a blessing to this earth.’

He observes that this echoes Mary’s words in the Magnificat (Luke 1:48, KJV):

48For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

Even then, among the faithless and the fickle, a few understood, albeit imperfectly, who He was.

Reading these two verses today, one cannot help but get the impression that Jesus is critical of her in His response (verse 28). Yet, Henry says this is not so:

He does not deny what this woman said, nor refuse her respect to him and his mother but leads her from this to that which was of higher consideration, and which more concerned her …

After all, our Lord was not just for that generation who encountered Him in the flesh, He came to redeem future generations. Just as important, He has been with us from the beginning (John 1). Emphases mine in the text:

The Word Became Flesh

 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

 14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) 16And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

This is what our Lord is saying to this woman who admires Him so much. He advises her not to become too absorbed in His earthly origins but His heavenly ones.

Thomas, the apostle, was also caught up in what he could see and sense. Again, Jesus — considering future generations (and past Old Testament persons, e.g. Abraham, and prophets) — cautions (John 20:29):

29… “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

This is why, in today’s verses from Luke,  Jesus responds to the woman’s compliment by telling her that it is more important for her — as well as everyone else — to concentrate on obeying His commands and teachings. As Henry explains:

This is intended partly as a check to her, for doting so much upon his bodily presence and his human nature, partly as an encouragement to her to hope that she might be as happy as his own mother, whose happiness she was ready to envy, if she would hear the word of God and keep it. Note, Though it is a great privilege to hear the word of God, yet those only are truly blessed, that is, blessed of the Lord, that hear it and keep it, that keep it in memory, and keep to it as their way and rule.

Incidentally, Henry says that Luke’s is the only Gospel where we find this exchange.

He adds that this is unrelated to the time when Mary and His stepbrothers attempted to bring him back to Nazareth (Luke 8:19-21, Mark 3:20-21 and Mark 3:31-35).

Next time: Luke 11:29-32

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