2012 Ancestral Health Symposium at Harvard Law School

2012 Ancestral Health Symposium at Harvard Law School

2012 Ancestral Health Symposium at Harvard Law School


Guest Post by Ann Topalian from St. George, Utah.

I met Ann five years ago when we both participated in a yoga teacher training program. Over the years we’ve stayed in touch via email and FaceBook and she was one of my first blog subscribers in 2007. Ann has been incredibly supportive of me and frequently emails to let me know how much she enjoys this blog and encourages me to ‘keep writing!’ When she posted updates on her FaceBook page last week about the Ancestral Health Symposium I wanted more than anything to be there. A.) So many of my nutrition and Paleo colleagues were attending- Ann being one of them and B.) The speakers, information were phenomenal. Unfortunately this conference didn’t fit into my schedule this year. So I asked Ann if she would write a guest post for Healthy Discoveries and share her experience with us all. Below is her summary of this amazing conference. Please hit her up in the comments below with any questions or thoughts, she would be happy to chat with you!



Attending the 2nd annual Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS 2012) was, for me, a validation of the path I have been on for the last 3 years. My journey began with reading Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes M.S., this book changed the way I perceived nutrition. I remember emailing Jolene and asking her if she had read the aforementioned book and if it was worth my time. She stated that she has been hearing great things about it and to let her know what I thought. I had no idea that this informative book compiling the last 80 years of nutritional data would be the beginning of my new relationship with food. I will never have to worry about feeling sluggish from food anymore or have to worry if there is a bathroom close due to wheat tearing my digestive system apart…I feel free!


Mr. Taubes was one of the many amazing presenters at the Symposium who wrote books that have changed my life. His session exposed that it is not an abundance of calories that is increasing the obesity epidemic at an alarming rate, rather the quality of calories that we ingest. The carbohydrate content of our diet is signaling an insulin response to store fat, it is not the fat we eat…let me restate that…it is NOT the FAT!



I could listen to organic farmer Joel Salatin, author of Folks This Ain’t Normal, talk for days. He is such a dynamic speaker and asks his audience to connect back to the “umbilical” of their food source. Americans tend to feel disconnected from their food and have no respect for the process it takes to nourish our bodies. I am inspired to begin a salsa garden in my own backyard. I am going to have to rely heavily on my husband’s green thumb as we live in the desert of Southern Utah. I am planting onions this fall, the first step in my creating my ‘edible landscape’.


The Paleo Diet is just as varied as the myriad of presenters at AHS2012. Going to this symposium I felt almost like an imposter, having a Diet Coke addiction come and go in my life. Dr. Robert Lustig likened the soda addiction to Heroine, Diet Coke being Methadone:) What I realized is how many interpretations of the lifestyle there are.

Safe Starches, championed by Dr. Paul Jaminet author of Perfect Health Diet, elicited the biggest debate at the Symposium; these starches consist of white rice, potatoes and taro (no processed foods). I am thinking that if you are an endurance athlete that the “safe starches” make sense. I just know that for me personally, I feel cloudy and tired after eating them, and I will personally continue on without them.

There was also a whole lot of drinking going on and not just the NorCal Margarita that Robb Wolf endorses. There were also those who drink non-pasteurized milk and also eat dairy. If you are not lactose intolerant than this food group may be okay for you. What they all have in common is that you should eat a diet consisting of whole foods, no processed foods (sugars, grains, chemically altered food). I also attended a discussion about grass fed meat being more of a spiritual issue than a nutritional one. I personally feel that supporting cows in their “cowness”, as Joel would say, is better than the commercial mechanical slaughter factory. The spiritual evidence is overwhelming, the nutritional not so much.


The right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little, not too much, is the safest way to health.

                                                                               ~ Hippocrates 400BC


Cardiologist, James O’Keefe also made a big impact on the conference for those who still indulge in chronic cardio endurance exercise. He believed that it is actually safer to sit at home on your couch than run multiple marathons over your lifetime. Do one if you want to tick it off your bucket list and then resume a healthier regiment of cardio for longevity, no more than 5 days a week 30-45 min at a time. “Extreme endurance exercise has been associated with accelerated aging in the heart and coronary arteries”.

The tidbit of information that I will take with me into the following generation is that the maternal grandmother has the greatest influence on the well-being and health of her grandchild, enhancing child nutrition and lowering the risk of mortality. My oldest just having been married this summer, I am inspired to take on my role as grandma when the time comes, and do it with the intention of bringing wisdom to my kin regarding best practices for health and longevity thanks to David Herring, Law and Behavioral Researcher.

The Ancestral Health Symposium brought together like minded individuals with a passion for scientific discovery on how to best meet our evolutionary needs to continue living longer than the generation before. With this generation expected to have a shorter lifespan than the generation before due to diet and a sedentary lifestyle, it is imperative that we explore proven lifestyles toward lengthening our lives.


Thank you so much, Ann! I’m always inspired by the beauty, youth and kindness that you radiate inside and out.

This is the second time Ann has made a guest appearance on the Healthy Discoveries blog. I interviewed her in 2009 about the NIA Technique, click here to read that interview.

Ann Topalian

Is currently the Director of Fitness at the Entrada Sports and Fitness Center in St. George, Utah and has been a certified fitness professional for over 14 years. Certifications include: ACSM CPT, ACE certified Fitness Instructor, AEA, Nia Blue Belt, 200+ Hour Certified Yoga Instructor, Power Pilates and Physical Mind Institute Mat Certified, Power Pilates certified Apparatus instructor, and Johnny G certified Spinning instructor. Ann is an Evolutionary Fitness enthusiast and a Paleo Diet advocate. Ann especially enjoys all forms of exercise done in bare feet, whether it is yoga, dance, or Kettlebells; and loves hiking all over Southern Utah.