Cold Case Files With Brian St. Pierre

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Both Brian St. Pierre and I have been on an emailing tear this past week, going back and forth on a litany of nutritional topics, and I figured that since I really didn’t have anything flashy or important I wanted to discuss this fine Monday morning I’d give everyone a peek into a few of our e-conversations.

NOTE:  Oh, what’s that?  You don’t know who Brian St. Pierre is?

Well, long time readers of this blog will know exactly who he is. But for those who are a bit newer around these parts, Brian was actually Cressey Performance’s very first full-time intern, part-time employee, full-time employee, and subsequent first employee to leave.  Jerk!

Okay, in his defense he did get married to his lovely wife, Anna, and they ended up having a kid and buying a house up in Maine.  So he gets a mulligan for that one.

Since leaving, he’s gone on to make quite the name for himself getting his Masters in Human Nutrition and Dietetics as well as becoming a coach for Precision Nutrition.

Basically, he’s become one of the “go to” guys for no nonsense nutritional information, and it’s been awesome to see him grow as a professional.

And what’s more, he likes to quote Star Wars, so there’s that.

A few weekends ago we were both in attendance for a mutual friend’s wedding and we ended up sitting at a table discussing a few hot topics in the nutritional realm, which as it happened, spilled over into several back and forth emails last week.

Some of the discussions included:

1. Why type II diabetes can’t (or shouldn’t) be blamed solely on sugar intake. Instead, much of the data suggests that, as Brian notes, “you essentially get it from having too much bodyfat (specifically visceral fat) and/or inflammation (which sugar can contribute to, but is FAR from the definitive cause).”

2. Why is it that cholesterol always seemingly gets the bad rap in the mainstream media?  Sure, roughly 47-50% (0r somewhere in that range, I don’t have the actual number in fromt of me) of people who suffer from a heart attack have high cholesterol levels, and there may be something to look a little deeper into there.

Okay, but what about the other 50% who have a heart attack and have LOW cholesterol levels?  What then?  Huh

3. Why the New York Times bestselling book, Wheat Belly, according to Brian, is a poo-pooey book.

“Much like Taube’s insulin theory,” he noted, “William Davis’ starting premise is simply flawed.  There is certainly some credence to grains and wheat in particular being potentially problematic for some people, but his overall argument is poor.”

Here is a great scientific debunking of his book:

Click ME (<—-and have your world rocked.)

I love talking with Brian about these sort of topics because, unlike a lot of nutritionist out there on the interwebz, he has an uncanny ability to weed through the BS and not fall prey to any preconceived hype.

Needless to say, I really appreciate his candor and the fact that he has an open mind when it comes to many of the “hot topics” in the nutritional world.

Another prime example is a comment I received from a former distance coaching client of mine concerning eggs and oxidized cholesterol levels. Knowing I’m a huge egg fan, and that my preferred way to eat them is in omelet form (onion, bacon, broccoli, salsa, and bullets), he wanted to share a comment which Dr. Batshitcrazy Dr. Mercola wrote on his website about eggs, how you eat them, and oxidized cholesterol levels.

Dr. Mercola:  “Eggs are one of the richest sources of dietary cholesterol, so the way you cook them will influence the level of oxidized cholesterol in your blood. Oxidized cholesterol contributes to hardening of your arteries, which increases your risk of heart disease.

High heat will promote this oxidation. Since there is iron in the egg white, when it combines with the egg yolk that will also oxidize the cholesterol. Scrambled eggs or omelets are one of the least healthy ways to prepare eggs.

Surprisingly, the best way to prepare eggs is to not cook them at all and simply eat the whole egg — yolk and whites — raw. This is an advanced technique, so no need to rush on this one unless you feel especially motivated.

I realize the texture of raw eggs may not be very appealing. If you have strong objections to the texture of eggs, that can be easily modified by whipping them into a meringue or blending them in a protein smoothie. You won’t even notice they’re there!”

Don’t get me wrong, my client had my best interests in mind – and wholeheartedly appreciated his concern.  Still, something in the good Doc’s logic seemed amiss and my bullshit meter was essentially rearing back to round-house kick me in the face.

I decided to ask Brian his opinion.

Brian St. Pierre: “Your bullshit meter should go off.

There is currently no evidence that consumption of oxidized cholesterol leads to oxidized cholesterol in the blood.  Plus how much actually oxidizes is a function of time x air exposure.  A freshly made omelet or some scrambled eggs is little to worry about.

Having high blood levels of oxidized cholesterol is certainly unhealthy and an independent risk factor, however they are not one in the same.

Eating raw eggs is most certainly not the most effective method!  Raw eggs contain avidin, which binds to biotin, preventing its absorption.  Raw egg protein is not as well absorbed as cooked egg protein – the denaturing from the cooking actually improves its absorption.  Plus you are taking an unnecessary salmonella risk!”

I’ve always said that I don’t like to live my life in absolutes (only Siths live in absolutes!), and that keeping an open mind is always the  best approach.

I think it’s important to bring these controversial topics to the forefront every now and then if for nothing else to demonstrate to people that just because someone in the mainstream media says “carbs are evil,” or “eggs cause cancer,” or “unicorns poop diamonds,” that we DO NOT have to take their word as dogma.

What say you?  Do you have anything to offer in the conversation?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

ADDENDUM:  Brian wanted to make a small clarification for any nitpickers that may be out there concerning the whole cholesterol and oxidation argument:

“There actually is some evidence that consuming oxidized cholesterol can lead to increased levels of oxidized cholesterol in the blood, but overall the research is underwhelming.  They heated the cholesterol for inordinate amounts of time where you are likely getting compounds that you won’t find in scrambled eggs cooked on medium heat.  There is even some evidence for specific methods of causing oxidized dietary cholesterol being less atherogenic in the blood.  All in all, it is much like the fructose data – in supraphysiological amounts it can be problematic, in regards to a normal food consumption pattern, it is not much to worry about.
How much actually oxidizes would be even more appropriately termed as heat x air exposure x time.”

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I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.