Archive by Author

Paleo Marketing 101: How people make money using shameless megadoses of self-promotion

15 Aug

Hi! Kamal¬†here, with some commentary about the business of paleo. There are only two kinds of people in this world: those that make a living off of paleo, and those that don’t. An increasing number of people in the latter camp want to get into the former camp. In the past year, several paleo books have cracked the top 10 nutrition best-sellers on Amazon. It’s a good time to get in the game.

Do you want to cash-in on the “paleo” concept? If so, I’ve got just one question for you: how good are you at schmoozing?

Don’t hate the player, hate the game

The paleo industry isn’t quite like big pharma, tobacco, or oil. It’s an industry where the “leaders” often got there because they discovered substantial health benefits from this way of eating and living. Enthusiasm for nutrition can lead to desire to help others, and the natural desire to make a living off of it. Heck, I briefly considered this path to help pay the rent during my nutrition PhD program, until I realized how bad I suck at networking. Although the market for “paleo” isn’t greasy and disconcerting like the aforementioned industries, you should follow these steps if you want to succeed.

Step 1: Make friends in high places

See this list here? Make at least two friends from people in the top ten of the list. The list is old and subject to change. For example, Paul Jaminet was busy writing a book, so he dropped much lower. And you don’t want to make friends with him anyway, because he is too nice and genuine and soft-spoken, which combined makes him a terrible self-promoter. Thatpaleoguy, aka Jamie Scott, is way down there. He’s very smart and is a funny dude, but he will not help you get customers or book sales. And he doesn’t live in the US, which makes it MUCH harder to use him for networking purposes.

Step 2: “Use” social media

Why is that in quotes? Well…there’s “using social media” and “USING social media”. The one in caps seems like this to me: post things on twitter and facebook every day. Repost things from your archives. If you don’t have something new or creative to tweet, retweet a bunch of shit. A little disclaimer: if I were trying to make a living by being a nutrition coach or author, I’d probably do the same thing ūüôā

Step 3: Don’t get too sciencey or controversial

First off, don’t write posts like this one. Also, don’t get too into complex issues. You know that online battle between Stephan Guyenet and Peter from Hyperlipid? Or Guyenet v. Taubes? Or Lustig v. Everyone? Total waste of time. You gotta spend that time marketing yourself. This only half-joking though, because your target market is just trying to get healthy and maybe lose some weight. They don’t care so much about Neuropeptide Y or Glucagon-Like Peptides. On the flip side, this means you’re likely not bringing anything new to the table. Maybe a mishmash of recipes and paleo guides. So I guess you pick your target: helping the average Joe or informing the curious already-paleos.

Step 4: Don’t ever, ever say you don’t know

You can’t put stuff like this into your book “I haven’t done a systematic review of the effect of omega-6 on autoimmune disease, but I suspect that for some people this may be an issue.” Or “Perhaps, for some people, this may aid weight loss. But for most, weight loss is complex and prone to failure, and even paleo dieting may fail.” You have to sound like you know what you’re doing. Don’t show weakness–you’ll get killed in the Octagon. Personally, I’m a fan of books that cite every single thing, and not just with a reference list at the end. The mass media doesn’t like that kind of thing, so it won’t help book sales.

Step 5: This is not a step, but a gratuitous list of non-marketing smart nutrition bloggers

If you’ve been “paleo” for a while, your thirst for knowledge might take you out of the mass-market territory and into the subtle and technical territory. My first online exposure to paleo, in 2007, was to Big Daddy Sisson and Chris Masterjohn. While Sisson can market for sure, he is smart as hell and has churned out an amazing amount of helpful information. And is anyone really smarter than Masterjohn?

Well, these three guys are right up there: Paul Jaminet, Prof. Dr. Andro, and Lucas Tafur. ¬†In case I somehow get called out for not listing any women, let me say that Melissa McEwen’s site is loaded with practical info, science, and social observation. ¬†And obviously Denise Minger with her insightful study tear-downs.

Even though Jaminet has a book, and Denise will have a book, I’ll just say it flat out: the most interesting blogs are from people who market themselves very little or not at all. That’s just the nature of the beast, since they address different audiences and can blog about whatever the hell they want to blog about. For more information about this post, please check out my linkedin profile. (kidding! how dumb is linkedin?)

Fire Adaptation: Activate Your Ancient Pathway for Optimal Health!

7 Apr

“Like a moth to the flame, burned by the fire. My love is strong…can’t you see my desire?” ¬†–Janet Jackson, “All 4 U”, April 21st, 2001

Why is fire so important?

Hi, I’m Kamal, from paindatabase.com. For as long as I can remember (meaning this morning…it was a rough night last night), I’ve been obsessed with fire. Last week, I was excited to see that researchers have found evidence of humans using fire one million years ago. So don’t TELL me we’re not adapted to fire. Nuh-uh. I will burn you.

So that’s the con of fire: it can burn you. The pros? Let’s do a “Being John Malkovitch” and enter the mind of an early caveman using fire. We’ll call this specimen “Brendan Fraser” for ease of discussion, or Fraser for short. There likely weren’t quite as many websites around back then, so Fraser would be really into obtaining food and having sex, but not always in that order. A popular viewpoint among researchers is that Fraser would have been able to eat more delicious, grilled meat and tubers than he would raw foods, leading to all kinds of changes with brain size and other physiological characteristics. At night, Brendan would be sitting around a campfire under the stars with his lovely, natural, hairy-legged better half. What next? Sex. I hypothesize that there would be even MORE sex than before fire. Spoon when it’s cold, copulate when it’s warm. That’s my motto.

Okay, let’s get serious. What are the physiological benefits of heat?¬†

Let’s talk heat shock proteins. First, let me admit that all I know about heat shock proteins is what I could gather from half an hour of research. Next, let me tell you that they are quite interesting: when cells are exposed to elevated heat or certain other stressors, heat shock proteins do all kinds of cool shit. Like regulate tumor response, prevent cell death from excess stress, and influence aging through hormesis. Is this important for humans in warm vs cold climates? Ehhh…as you can imagine, our internal temperatures are quite well regulated, although environment/diet/hormones etc do play a role in core temperature. And you can influence heat shock proteins through other things such as exercise and fasting. But all this is pretty interesting nonetheless.

Infrared saunas to the rescue?

A regular sauna heats your body by circulating warm air. An infrared sauna transfers heat more or less directly to your body using special lamps or bulbs. It’s like the sun, but in a smaller, closer package that doesn’t provide you with vitamin D. Did you know that there is actually a decent amount of evidence supporting the use of these heaters for chronic fatigue, chronic pain, high blood pressure, and some other stuff? It’s actually quite a good adjunct treatment for dialysis patients, to boot. The mechanisms are up for debate. Sweating out toxins? Maybe. Increasing core body temperature? I dunno. But yet again, something to think about.

Core body temperature, lifespan, and everything else

So now that I’ve convinced you of nothing, but maybe given you something to chew on, let me wrap this up with a couple more thoughts about heat and humans. Will living in a warm climate, let’s say Hawaii, make you live longer or kill you a few years earlier? If hypothetical effects of ambient temperature on lifespan are a driving force in your life, well, that sucks for you! Hawaii is awesome, and I’m 82% certain that living in a balmy climate would extend my life through not having to deal with cold weather (but to each his own, as always).

Creating mutant mice that have much lower core temperatures leads to a 20% longer life. Great! But I try not to base my life on studies of mutant lab mice. I found a bunch of weird studies supporting the opposite argument, like this one hypothesizing that babies gestating in warm years suffer health consequences when living in cold climates. But really, study-battles can only get you so far. It doesn’t take a formal study to show that people generally like warm temperatures. Brendan Fraser certainly tried to avoid the cold, by huddling near the fire, using blankets, and having hot hot sex. And you can live to 121 years of age living in the sweltering Amazon, eating bananas, grilled meat, and tubers.

So while the historical roots of the human genome are fascinating, I personally strive for happiness over hacking influenced by potentially¬†erroneous¬†hypothesizing. Sure, the Earth’s temperature has fluctuated wildly¬†up and down in the past few million years. But just because it was sweltering hot when mammals began to diversify, doesn’t mean I’m going to wear an infrared sauna suit three hours a week. And while I’d use cold baths if I get neurotic about burning a few more calories, or as an adjunct experiment for difficult-to-treat conditions, I’m not going to do four hour ice baths to get in touch with my single-celled ancestor from two billion years ago. Keeping things hormetically fresh by changing up the temperature…fine. But I get a pass on this one, because of my Indian ancestry. My predecessors haven’t seen snow in (???) thousand years. So to emulate my ancestors from Gujarat, India, all I have to do is keep the thermostat between 75 and 101 degrees. (!) Now it’s time for me to resume dreaming about living on the beach. Until next time…stay thirsty, my friends.

23andme.com…Gene Testing for the Endlessly Curious

12 Mar

Hi, I’m Kamal. Me and my highbrow paleo friends love exploring personal health issues. When we get to talking, it turns into the intellectual equivalent of Muppet Babies–excitement and intrigue abounds, and everyone has a different perspective! A couple years ago, I got a 23andme gene test profile on sale for $99. Part of the reason was general curiosity, part of the reason was to see if I had genes for pain sensitivity. (Shameful plug–I run paindatabase.com, a website covering pain/nutrition/stuff). Turns out a few highbrowers also ordered this test, and more are considering ordering it. We so excited…we we we so excited. Blog post time!

What to expect

It’s super easy. You get a tube by mail, spit out virtually all of your spittle into this tube, then mail said tube away. You get results back in a little over a month. They analyze millions of SNPs to find things related to health. The most important results are “Carrier Status”. This tells you if you are a carrier for some crazy diseases, like Bloom Syndrome, which increases yours and potentially your child’s risk for lots of cancers and other bad stuff. The next most important results are for “Traits”. These tell you things like: do you have the gene for wet ear wax? Is your hair likely to be curly?

What to really expect

Okay, that was a joke. Well, not really, as these are actually reported right on the front page of 23andme. And true, many of these are not useful at all. But some are interesting. Like I have the “bitter taste sensitivity” gene, which makes sense because I don’t like coffee, brussell sprouts, and other bitter things. Hold on, that can’t be how you spell brussell. Looks like Brussell Crowe. Anywho, it’s hypothesized that tasting bitter strongly was an advantage to avoid poisonous plants. Also included in “Traits” is pain sensitivity–I didn’t have the gene, thank goodness, but that means that my rather complex pain issues are not easily explained. In addition, I don’t have the” alcohol flush” gene (makes sense as I’m Indian Asian not Asian Asian).

The next two categories may be important to you, especially if you have a disease or are doing some amateur genetic counseling for your not-yet-conceived children. Like metformin response is totally important if you’re a type 2 diabetic on metformin (although you should be doing paleo as an adjunct treatment at the very least!). I was interested in naltrexone response, since it may relate to pain. In fact, I printed out some pain-related responses to take share with my pain doctor. Guess what? He didn’t give a shit. One of the cooler drug responses is the caffeine metabolizing rate gene–might explain why you are or are not sensitive to a cup o’ joe. The category “disease risk” is a toss-up. The folks at 23andme triangulate your risk of certain diseases based on some gene studies. I asked the genetic epidemiology PhD at work, and he called shenanigans on almost all of this. Too many genes involved in most diseases to make these kind of conclusions. So don’t place too much emphasis on your 23andme risk of heart disease, but maybe pay attention to your Ankylosing Spondylitis risk (the former likely has many more factors than the latter).

The final category is ancestry. Some people will find this useful and others will find it useless. It told me that my ancestors were from India. Yes, I am aware of that. It also may help me locate my third to fourth cousin. They are both last-named “Patel” like me. Kinda cool, but only kinda. For those with more mixed ancestry though, this section might be very neat.

Should you buy this?

If you have some disposable cash, get it when it’s on sale. Don’t get it at the full price ($399 or so?). Also keep in mind that they might make you subscribe to updates to get a special price, which is an extra $5 a month for a year. Also also, keep in mind that updates are kind of cool, in that when new research comes out, they will send you updates about how your genes match up. How bout the usefulness of the results? That’s a mixed bag. Part of my day job in 2010 was helping compile a database of gene tests for the federal government. I can say for sure that the associations are more unpredictable than a single “You have a 13% greater risk of glaucoma!” would lead you to believe. Here is a good strategy: buy someone in your family a 23andme test for their birthday or Christmas…there’s a 50% chance they’ll buy you one back! That way, double the people get information about there genes, you can compare results, and you won’t feel quite as much buyer’s remorse if you aren’t impressed with the information you get. Peace out homies, and remember, don’t believe everything that you hear (unless you hear it on highbrow paleo).