Monday, January 30, 2012

Paleo Diet Article in Sound Consumer

I recently wrote an article for my local natural foods grocery store, PCC, about the "Paleolithic" diet.  You can read it online here.  I explain the basic rationale for Paleo diets, some of the scientific support behind it, and how it can be helpful for people with certain health problems.  I focused in particular on the research of Dr. Staffan Lindeberg at the University of Lund, who has studied non-industrial populations using modern medical techniques and also conducted clinical diet trials using the Paleo diet.
Read more »

Arts Council funding, Clore Fellowships (Reprise), People's Health Trust and Poetry Please! (ohh, and the manifesto)

So, here's the last sample of people's comments on the m a n i f e s t o  for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them, and that you know how to adjust your volume! Today see’s the thoughts of the President of the Society for Arts and Healthcare (SAH), Dr Gary Christenson, to whom, along with all those who've contributed, I’m incredibly grateful. Now it’s time to collate all the work together and publish part 2, which will be available far and wide.
People's Health Trust: Healthy Communities Small Grants Programme
This small grants programme makes awards of between £5,000 and £10,000 to local projects which help people live longer, healthier lives and address health inequalities. The Tust are particularly keen to support grassroots activities through their small grants programme, which is currently open in nine local society lottery areas. Funding will be available from other local society lotteries in the coming weeks and months, and local charities and community groups are urged to check the People's Health Trust's website for details. For more information, please visit

Arts Council England launches new fund
The Arts Council has launched a new £37 million fund to ensure more people living in places where levels of involvement are currently low, experience and are inspired by the arts. Over three years the fund will invest in around 15 programmes of activity that use radical new approaches to developing excellent, inspiring and sustainable arts experiences for communities not currently engaging with the arts.

The Arts Council has used the Active People survey to identify 71 areas of the country which fall into the lowest 20 per cent of arts engagement. Typically, grants of between £500,000 and £3 million will be invested in a number of these areas with the aim of increasing participation.

This programme is open to applications from any consortia that meet the eligibility criteria. All applications must be proposing work in one or more of the areas with the lowest 20 per cent of arts engagement as identified by the Arts Council.
There will be two funding rounds for applicants, with the first opening today. Interested consortia need to register their intention to apply with their regional office by 23 March 2012 with the closing date for the first round of applications 13 April 2012.

Excellence, both artistic and in engaging communities, will be at the heart of successful applications, with the Arts Council investing in programmes that encourage long term collaborations between local communities and arts organisations, museums, libraries and local authorities.

As well as increasing artistic participation in these areas, this investment will help the Arts Council learn about the impact of different approaches to increasing engagement. The knowledge gained from the programme will be made available to arts organisations, museums and libraries, local authorities and the wider cultural sector. Click on the logo below to get started!

Clore Fellowships
A reminder of the excellent opportunity of the Clore Fellowships...the clock’s against you, so don’t hesitate. Click on the money!

On the odd bit of poetry...
Why the pieces of poetry? In short, poetry wasn’t something that was part of my life as I was growing up, and over time (and out of the blue) it’s crept up on me, occasionally hitting me in the pit of the stomach, more often than not, explaining something I just haven’t quite understood. I think people reach out to it (or it to them) and find it more eloquent than they’d ever expect themselves to be, particularly at moments of heightened emotion; in times of love and death.

And if any of you want to share something, particularly if you’re from another country, with writers that I’ve never heard of, please feel free to email.
So here’s another Larkin; dark and from his later years. C.P.


I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what's really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
- The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused - nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can't escape,
Yet can't accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Insulin and Obesity: Another Nail in the Coffin

There are several versions of the insulin hypothesis of obesity, but the versions that are most visible to the public generally state that elevated circulating insulin (whether acute or chronic) increases body fatness.  Some versions invoke insulin's effects on fat tissue, others its effects in the brain.  This idea has been used to explain why low-carbohydrate and low-glycemic-index diets can lead to weight loss (although frankly, glycemic index per se doesn't seem to have much if any impact on body weight in controlled trials). 

I have explained in various posts why this idea does not appear to be correct (1, 2, 3), and why, after extensive research, the insulin hypothesis of obesity lost steam by the late 1980s.  However, I recently came across two experiments that tested the hypothesis as directly as it can be tested-- by chronically increasing circulating insulin in animals and measuring food intake and body weight and/or body fatness.  If the hypothesis is correct, these animals should gain fat, and perhaps eat more as well. 

Read more »

Monday, January 23, 2012

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part VII

In previous posts, I outlined the factors I'm aware of that can contribute to insulin resistance.  In this post, first I'll list the factors, then I'll provide my opinion of effective strategies for preventing and potentially reversing insulin resistance.

The factors

These are the factors I'm aware of that can contribute to insulin resistance, listed in approximate order of importance.  I could be quite wrong about the order-- this is just my best guess. Many of these factors are intertwined with one another. 
Read more »

新年快乐, Lord Howarth on m a n i f e s t o, Manuwangku, Clore Leadership and a National Summit on Participatory Arts

新年快乐       恭喜发财       新年如意

In this week’s m a n i f e s t o responses, we have some poignant political commentary from amongst others Lord Howarth and Mike White. Next week will see the last of these short films of reflective responses, and include comments form the President of the Society for the Arts in Healthcare. After this I will begin to draw together the salient themes for our second manifesto installment, which will be published in hard copy as an advocacy ‘tool’. Thank you for your inspiration. C.P

Music by Kronos Quartet, playing Bella by Barlight by John Lurie
As debate continues to rage (albeit quietly) about the risks of nuclear power, in light of Fukushima and Chernobyl, and in my own part of the world discussions to extend the Lake District National Park’s role as a global nuclear rubbish tip look even more likely, let’s look to a community whose voice has been routinely suppressed over the last 200 years. Yet another reminder, that if we are thinking about this arts/health agenda, we need to be more expansive. 
Jagath Dheerasekara
Muckaty is situated on Warlmanpa country, 120 km north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory of Australia. Traditional Owners call the area “Manuwangku”. Nomination of their traditional land as a domestic nuclear waste dump site in 2007, coupled with proposals for Australia to “lease” uranium and take back radioactive waste from overseas nuclear power operations, have generated justifiable fear and concern amongst the Aboriginal communities in and around Muckaty (Manuwangku).
The exhibition, “Manuwangku, Under the nuclear cloud” is focused on this community under threat. Photographs by Jagath Dheerasekara, Curated by Sandy Edwards are online @ and (if you happen to be one of our Australian followers) on show at Pine Street Creative Arts Centre, 64 Pine Street, Chippendale, Sydney until 28th January

Clore Leadership Programme
Applications for 2012/13 Fellowships are now open and close 24 February 2012.
Since 2004, the Clore Leadership Programme has awarded over 200 Fellowships to outstanding individuals from across the cultural sector.  Fellows come from diverse backgrounds, they may be working freelance or within organisations, both large and small,  in areas ranging from archives to theatre production, and including visual and performing arts, film and digital media, heritage, creative industries, museums, libraries and cultural policy.

In Our Times call out
Calling artists & others incensed by poverty & inequality. We need you to help us use art to expose the truth and galvanise action. Find out how to get involved in In Our Times. We’d love to hear your thoughts.  How do you think art can best speak to people?  How can it best incite action? 

Because We’re Worth It: National Summit on Participatory Arts
22nd March 2012 (10am – 4pm: registration begins at 9.30am)
Cost: £15 per person (to cover minimum costs)
Venue: The Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London, SW1Y 5AH
Because we’re worth it! is an important national Summit exploring and celebrating the value of participatory arts. Participatory arts have the power to change people’s lives for the better; provide connections, experiences and rich stories. The UK’s participatory arts scene is constantly changing, innovating, developing, celebrating, exploring and recording fantastic and ground breaking work.
To book: For more information: 01254 674 777 or email

Kick up the fire, and let the flames break loose
To drive the shadows back;
Prolong the talk on this or that excuse,
Till the night comes to rest
While some high bell is beating two o’clock.
Yet when the guest
Has stepped into the windy street, and gone,
Who can confront
The instantaneous grief of being alone?
Or watch the sad increase
Across the mind of this prolific plant,
Dumb idleness?
Philip Larkin
from The North Ship, 1945

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Three Announcements

Chris Highcock of the blog Conditioning Research just published a book called Hillfit, which is a conditioning book targeted at hikers/backpackers.  He uses his knowledge and experience in hiking and conditioning to argue that strength training is an important part of conditioning for hiking.  I'm also a hiker/backpacker myself here in the rugged and beautiful Pacific Northwest, and I also find that strength training helps with climbing big hills, and walking farther and more easily with a lower risk of injury.

Richard Nikoley of the blog Free the Animal has also published a book called Free the Animal: Beyond the Blog, where he shares his strategies for losing fat and improving health and fitness.  I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but Richard has a reasonable perspective on diet/health and a sharp wit. 

Also, my friend Pedro Bastos has asked me to announce a one-day seminar at the University of Lisbon (Portugal) by Dr. Frits Muskiet titled "Vitamins and Minerals: A Scientific, Modern, Evolutionary and Global View".  It will be on Sunday, Feb 5-- you can find more details about the seminar here.  Dr. Muskiet is a researcher at the Groningen University Medical Center in the Netherlands.  He studies the impact of nutrients, particularly fatty acids, on health, from an evolutionary perspective.  Wish I could attend. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part VI

In this post, I'll explore a few miscellaneous factors that can contribute to insulin resistance: smoking, glucocorticoids/stress, cooking temperature, age, genetics and low birth weight.


Smoking tobacco acutely and chronically reduces insulin sensitivity (1, 2, 3), possibly via:
  1. Increased inflammation
  2. Increased circulating free fatty acids (4)
Paradoxically, since smoking also protects against fat gain, in the very long term it may not produce as much insulin resistance as one would otherwise expect.  Diabetes risk is greatly elevated in the three years following smoking cessation (5), and this is likely due to the fat gain that occurs.  This is not a good excuse to keep smoking, because smoking tobacco is one of the most unhealthy things you can possibly do.  But it is a good reason to tighten up your diet and lifestyle after quitting.

Read more »

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Simon Armitage on Manifesto Part 1, Consultation on Well-Being, Arts/Health Training...

More feedback and comments for your delectation, with more to follow over the next two weeks. If the visuals on these films do nothing for you, don't worry as all the comments, critiques and developments will be shared on the blog alongside Part 2, which will be published in hard-copy too! Next week includes Mike White. Big thanks to Kamila Kasperowicz for her help with the design of Part 1 and Simon Armitage for reading and responding.

Deadline approaches (23rd Jan) to make the case for the impact of the arts and culture on wellbeing
Regular readers of this blog will know that on Thursday 7th April, (I blogged it HERE) I took part in a consultation event with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) at Bolton University called; Are the Best Things in Life Free? A Public Discussion and Debate. Alongside fellow panellists Dr John Howarth – (Expert on wellbeing), Gillian Halliwell – (Manager of £17m Big Lottery Wellbeing Projects), Reverend Canon Mike Williams – (Spirituality and Wellbeing) and Rachel Burke – (Bolton Lads and Girls Club), I took the position that creativity, culture and the arts have a significant part to play in the ‘well-being’ agenda. This event gave each of us the opportunity to make a ‘pitch’ for our area of interest and, we hope, influence the ONS.

The event was chaired by Carole Truman, Professor of Health and Community Studies at Bolton University, and an opening address on the ONS consultation process was given by Stephen Hicks, Assistant Deputy Director of the Measuring National Wellbeing programme, Office for National Statistics.

So, its with great frustration that I must report that the consultation makes no explicit reference to the arts, creativity or cultural activity impacting on well-being! This is an outrageous omission and I urge you to read the article in Arts Professional and follow the links below to respond to the consultation.

I suggest that Stephen Hicks revisits the notes of this consultation event, and that we contribute to this debate as a matter of urgency.  
The consultation document is at  
Download a consultation form at
Respond online at 

(...remember, it is not a statistician that defines happiness, but the sentient human being)

Arts/Health Training Intensive 2012
Over May/June 2012, Arts for Health will be delivering training modules that offer artists the opportunity to refine their knowledge and practice within the arts and health sector. All sessions will be led by Clive Parkinson. For further details go to

Want to go on a Speed Date?
We've had lots of networking events at MMU and around the region, and as a one-off this spring, we're going to try something different: Speed Dating! have you something to share...a burning question to ask? Are you looking for opportunities? This will give us the opportunity to find out more about each other and ask how might we work together and grow?

Wednesday 29th February 6 - 8pm
(venue to be confirmed nearer the time)

So, it’s an experiment to give each of us a voice and will be how big, or small you decide. Want to be involved? Well don't be nervous. Think about what it is that you want to share and come along. Like all of our events, it will be informal and absolutely free. Let us know if you want to be involved by emailing  before Friday 10th Feb

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part V

Previously in this series, we've discussed the role of cellular energy excess, inflammation, brain insulin resistance, and micronutrient status in insulin resistance.  In this post, I'll explore the role of macronutrients and sugar in insulin sensitivity.

Carbohydrate and Fat

There are a number of studies on the effect of carbohydrate:fat ratios on insulin sensitivity, but many of them are confounded by fat loss (e.g., low-carbohydrate and low-fat weight loss studies), which almost invariably improves insulin sensitivity.  What interests me the most is to understand what effect different carbohydrate:fat ratios have on insulin sensitivity in healthy, weight stable people.  This will get at what causes insulin resistance in someone who does not already have it.

Read more »

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Obesity Review Paper by Yours Truly

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism just published a clinical review paper written by myself and my mentor Dr. Mike Schwartz, titled "Regulation of Food Intake, Energy Balance, and Body Fat Mass: Implications for the Pathogenesis and Treatment of Obesity" (1).  JCEM is one of the most cited peer-reviewed journals in the fields of endocrinology, obesity and diabetes, and I'm very pleased that it spans the gap between scientists and physicians.  Our paper takes a fresh and up-to-date look at the mechanisms by which food intake and body fat mass are regulated by the body, and how these mechanisms are altered in obesity.  We explain the obesity epidemic in terms of the mismatch between our genes and our current environment, a theme that is frequently invoked in ancestral health circles.

Read more »

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Alastair Campbell on Happiness, David Edgar on the value of the Arts, Field Music, Culture Shots and more...

A constant stream of comments, thoughts and ideas have been coming in around part one of m a n i f e s t o, some of which are here for your delectation. All will be revealed over the next few weeks. Thank you EVERYONE. Please feel free to email any comments which must be received before 31st January.
BlueSCI and Field Music
Our friends and colleagues at BlueSCI were featured in the Guardian this week and to hear their collaborative work with Field Music and see the work of Arts for Health alumni Caro Inglis, you have until the 17th January to get to The Lauriston Gallery in Sale. 

‘...happiness is all the more intense for knowing what it’s like to be utterly miserable.’ Alastair Campbell
A really interesting take on the ‘happiness’ debate that continues to fill the columns and obsess politicians, out for a quick hit. Alastair Campbell has written a book about his experience of clinical depression and the affect of his best friends death on his own understanding of what aspiration to happiness might be about. The book’s out on 12th Jan, but a good extract from it shows some considered thinking; that its not all about simpering positivism, but the grief, anger and depression that life throws at us, tempered by friendship and love (and some of those five ways+) that might add up to a life well lived and reflected on as we face our death. Click on the photo below for the extract.

Why should we fund the arts?
Publicly funded arts institutions are under more pressure than ever to quantify the social benefits they bring, as would be done for schools and hospitals. But isn't the crucial role of art to challenge the way society is run? An excellent article by playwright David Edgar. Click on the photograph below. 

Dementia and Imagination with Claire Ford
I’m thrilled that the artist Claire Ford will be sharing reflections of her Churchill Fellowship at our first network event of 2012 on Thursday January 26th between 6:00 and 8:00pm (venue to be confirmed at MMU). As usual the event is free to our members, and will be informal. Claire spent 10 weeks in the USA exploring different approaches to dementia and the arts, and will be sharing this experience, her findings and ideas about future developments in the field. Thanks to those who’ve said they want to attend. Anyone who hasn’t yet expressed an interest, please get in touch by the 19th January. Venue will be confirmed by email one week prior to the event.

+Culture Shots 
Museums and Galleries Week
Culture makes a difference. Experience it.
7 days
5 hospitals
70 creative workshops
6-12 February 2012

+Culture Shots is a week-long series of creative events run by museums and galleries in all five Central Manchester University Hospitals this February. From museum collections, music, film and photography to Wild food foraging, painting and the science of football, these unique sessions give you the chance to discover how culture can enhance your own life, your professional practice, and your patients’ health and wellbeing.

...and finally, although I know its a little overdone, the recent edit of the Great Dictator speech has been doing the rounds and is worth a few moments. Thanks, C.P

Monday, January 9, 2012

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part IV

So far, we've explored three interlinked causes of insulin resistance: cellular energy excess, inflammation, and insulin resistance in the brain.  In this post, I'll explore the effects on micronutrient status on insulin sensitivity.

Micronutrient Status

There is a large body of literature on the effects of nutrient intake/status on insulin action, and it's not my field, so I don't intend this to be a comprehensive post.  My intention is simply to demonstrate that it's important, and highlight a few major factors I'm aware of.

Read more »

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part III

As discussed in previous posts, cellular energy excess and inflammation are two important and interlinked causes of insulin resistance.  Continuing our exploration of insulin resistance, let's turn our attention to the brain.

The brain influences every tissue in the body, in many instances managing tissue processes to react to changing environmental or internal conditions.  It is intimately involved in insulin signaling in various tissues, for example by:
  • regulating insulin secretion by the pancreas (1)
  • regulating glucose absorption by tissues in response to insulin (2)
  • regulating the suppression of glucose production by the liver in response to insulin (3)
  • regulating the trafficking of fatty acids in and out of fat cells in response to insulin (4, 5)
Because of its important role in insulin signaling, the brain is a candidate mechanism of insulin resistance.

Read more »

Saturday, January 7, 2012

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part II

In the last post, I described how cellular energy excess causes insulin resistance, and how this is triggered by whole-body energy imbalance.  In this post, I'll describe another major cause of insulin resistance: inflammation. 


In 1876, a German physician named W Ebstein reported that high doses of sodium salicylate could totally eliminate the signs and symptoms of diabetes in certain patients (Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift. 13:337. 1876). Following up on this work in 1901, the British physician RT Williamson reported that treating diabetic patients with sodium salicylate caused a striking decrease in the amount of glucose contained in the patients' urine, also indicating an apparent improvement in diabetes (2).  This effect was essentially forgotten until 1957, when it was rediscovered.

Read more »

Friday, January 6, 2012

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part I

Insulin is an ancient hormone that influences many processes in the body.  Its main role is to manage circulating concentrations of nutrients (principally glucose and fatty acids, the body's two main fuels), keeping them within a fairly narrow range*.  It does this by encouraging the transport of nutrients into cells from the circulation, and discouraging the export of nutrients out of storage sites, in response to an increase in circulating nutrients (glucose or fatty acids). It therefore operates a negative feedback loop that constrains circulating nutrient concentrations.  It also has many other functions that are tissue-specific.

Insulin resistance is a state in which cells lose sensitivity to the effects of insulin, eventually leading to a diminished ability to control circulating nutrients (glucose and fatty acids).  It is a major contributor to diabetes risk, and probably a contributor to the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and a number of other disorders. 

Why is it important to manage the concentration of circulating nutrients to keep them within a narrow range?  The answer to that question is the crux of this post. 

Read more »

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New York Times Magazine Article on Obesity

For those of you who haven't seen it, Tara Parker-Pope write a nice article on obesity in the latest issue of NY Times Magazine (1).  She discusses  research showing  that the body "resists" fat loss attempts, making it difficult to lose fat and maintain fat loss once obesity is established.
Read more »

Monday, January 2, 2012

High-Fat Diets, Obesity and Brain Damage

Many of you have probably heard the news this week:

High-fat diet may damage the brain
Eating a high-fat diet may rapidly injure brain cells
High fat diet injures the brain
Brain injury from high-fat foods

Your brain cells are exploding with every bite of butter!  Just kidding.  The study in question is titled "Obesity is Associated with Hypothalamic Injury in Rodents and Humans", by Dr. Josh Thaler and colleagues, with my mentor Dr. Mike Schwartz as senior author (1).  We collaborated with the labs of Drs. Tamas Horvath and Matthias Tschop.  I'm fourth author on the paper, so let me explain what we found and why it's important.  

The Questions

Among the many questions that interest obesity researchers, two stand out:
  1. What causes obesity?
  2. Once obesity is established, why is it so difficult to treat?
Our study expands on the efforts of many other labs to answer the first question, and takes a stab at the second one as well.  Dr. Licio Velloso and collaborators were the first to show in 2005 that inflammation in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus contributes to the development of obesity in rodents (2), and this has been independently confirmed several times since then.  The hypothalamus is an important brain region for the regulation of body fatness, and inflammation keeps it from doing its job correctly.

The Findings

Read more »

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Junk Free January

Last year, Matt Lentzner organized a project called Gluten Free January, in which 546 people from around the world gave up gluten for one month.  The results were striking: a surprisingly large proportion of participants lost weight, experienced improved energy, better digestion and other benefits (1, 2).  This January, Lentzner organized a similar project called Junk Free January.  Participants can choose between four different diet styles:
  1. Gluten free
  2. Seed oil free (soybean, sunflower, corn oil, etc.)
  3. Sugar free
  4. Gluten, seed oil and sugar free
Wheat, seed oils and added sugar are three factors that, in my opinion, are probably linked to the modern "diseases of affluence" such as obesity, diabetes and coronary heart disease.  This is particularly true if the wheat is eaten in the form of white flour products, and the seed oils are industrially refined and used in high-heat cooking applications.

If you've been waiting for an excuse to improve your diet, why not join Junk Free January?