Monday, December 28, 2009

Intermittent fasting prolongs life in mammals

Although experiments have demonstrated that caloric restriction (CR) can extend lifespan in yeasts, worms, mice, and possibly primates, few people would want to pay the price of caloric restriction to extend life. The Caloric Restriction Society has a page listing the risks of CR, which include

-chronic hunger, cravings, or food obsession
-large loss of body mass, up to 25% below normal
-loss of strength
-low body temperature
-decreased testosterone
-menstrual irregularities
-slower wound healing
-loss of emergency energy reserves

When Ancel Keys did the Minnesota Starvation Study, he restricted young men to 1800 calories daily, 20-40% below average needs -- similar to recommendations for caloric restriction for longevity. His goal was to get the men down to 25% below normal weight -- the CR society also suggests reaching 10-25% below normal weight.

As reported in the Journal of Nutrition, one of the participants in this experiment, Harold Blickenstaff, "recalled the frustration of constantly thinking about food:

I don’t know many other things in my life that I looked forward to being over with any more than this experiment. And it wasn’t so much ... because of the physical discomfort, but because it made food the most important thing in one’s life ... food became the one central and only thing really in one’s life. And life is pretty dull if that’s the only thing. I mean, if you went to a movie, you weren’t particularly interested in the love scenes, but you noticed every time they ate and what they ate. found men depression, and other effects making for many a long life not worth living.

Energy restriction had numerous adverse effects in the Minnesota Study:

"They experienced dizziness, extreme tiredness, muscle soreness, hair loss, reduced coordination, and ringing in their ears. Several were forced to withdraw from their university classes because they simply didn’t have the energy or motivation to attend and concentrate."

The subjects of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment developed all the visible signs of starvation: "sunken faces and bellies, protruding ribs, and edema-swollen legs, ankles, and faces. Other problems such as anemia, neurological deficits, and skin changes became apparent." The men lost interest in sex, and had no functional energy.

Again from the Journal of Nutrition: "The St. Paul Dispatch reported: '... the ... men on the starvation diet have lost so much physically and mentally that their ambition is gone, their will to go forward is gone, and they cannot do heavy work such as farming, mining, forestry, lifting and many other types of work necessary to rebuild war-torn Europe.'"

So, if you choose caloric restriction, you might spend more years breathing, but would you call that living? Do we have a better way?

On the CR (Caloric Restriction) Society International website FAQ page you can find this:

“Are there any other ways of retarding biological aging or extending lifespan besides CR?

None known to science at this time. .. as of this writing, there is no reliable evidence to support the notion that anything besides CR is capable of retarding biological aging or extending maximum lifespan in adult mammals. “

Yet just above this statement, on the same page, you will find this:

Studies have shown that rodents fed all they can eat [emphasis added], but fasted every two, three or four days, also have an increase in longevity, though the increase is not quite as great as that of rodents on the standard kind of CR (when implemented in mature organisms). For some people, this might be an easier way of doing CR since hunger is limited to two or three days a week.

A humane approach to life extension research would look for a method that would not entail all of the harmful side effects listed above. I personally would not want to live a long, cold, depressed, constantly hungry, food-obsessed, neutered life having insufficient strength, muscle mass, or energy for activities I enjoy, and unable to heal wounds at a normal rate.

I think intermittent fasting can give you more life to live while preserving your ability to live it.

IF extends lifespans of Wistar Rats

In 1945, Anton J Carlson and Frederick Hoelzel of the department of physiology at the University of Chicago published “Apparent Prolongation of the Life of Rats by Intermittent Fasting” in the Journal of Nutrition. This paper detailed the results of their studies in which they put adult rats on intermittent fasting schedules of 1 fast day in 2 days, 1 in 3 days, and 1 in 4 days, compared to control animals allowed to eat ad libitum.

In this study, they fed the rats in four groups, three getting one of three different omnivorous diets and one getting a vegetarian diet.

The three omnivorous diets included:
1) A basic diet consisting of 61.5% cooked and dried whole veal (including practically all of the edible parts of calves, excepting excess fat and blood), 31 % corn starch, 2% powdered yeast, 1% cod liver oil, 1.5% inorganic salt mixture and 3% veal bonemeal. This diet provided 35% protein.
2) The basic diet (#1) plus 10% finely ground alfalfa stem meal.
3) The basic diet plus 5% psyllium seed husk and 5% specially prepared kapok fiber.

The one vegetarian diet consisted of 50% whole wheat flour, 10% peanut flour, 7% lima bean flour, 7% wheat gluten flour (containing 80% gluten), 7% corn gluten meal, 7% linseed meal, 5% powdered yeast, 5% alfalfa leaf meal and 2% NaCl. This diet provided approximately 30% proteins.

Hoelzel had previously performed a study in which he found that rats fasted every other day and fed a diet low in protein on non-fast days developed peptic ulcers within about 2 weeks, but rats fed adequate protein did not develop ulcers.

All groups got lettuce trimmings daily. During feeding periods, they supplied food continuously to all groups, so rats ate ad libitum when not fasting. Fasting began at 42 days (before which all rats received identical feed) and continued until the rats died.

Table 1 of the paper shows the effects on lifespan of fasting 1 day in 2, 3, or 4 days in male and female rats.

Fasting increased the average lifespan of males by 90 days, and that of females by 23 days.

Optimum fasting interval

Upon detailed analysis of their data, Carlson and Hoelzel found that rats fasting 1 day in 4 and 1 day in 2 displayed complications by “extraneous factors” more than either control rats eating ad libitum or rats fasting 1 day in 3. Those factors included:

1) The earliest male and female deaths occurred in the groups fasted 1 day in 4, and it appeared that other rats did not fare as well fasting 1 day in 4 as in 1 day in 3. Carlson and Hoelzel suggested that “Perhaps the amount of food consumed in 3 days of feeding, with increased voracity but without proportionately increased capacity after 1 day of fasting, constituted a greater physiological overstrain than the amount of food consumed by the controls or by the rats fasted 1 day in 3.”
2) Fasting 1 day in 2 produced both a greater mortality rate and the longest-lived rats. The males and females fasted 1 day in 2 also began dying earlier than the rats fasted 1 day in 3. Carlson and Hoelzel commented: “Evidently fasting 1 day in 2 and beginning this at the age of 42 days was too much fasting for some rats. One of the females fasted 1 day in 2 apparently died of a hemorrhage from a chronic duodenal ulcer.” Fasting 1 day in 2 produced the longest-lived male and female rats, 1052 and 1073 days respectively, but the average rat did very poorly on this level of fasting.

Carlson and Hoelzel concluded that the optimum amount of fasting for the average rat in their study was 1 day in 3, or about twice weekly. This fasting frequency produced a 15% increase of average lifespan for females and 20% for males.

Of interest, in their raw data (Table 1), the average lifespan of male rats fasted 1 day in 4 did not significantly differ from those fasted 1 day in 3. Females fasted 1 day in 3 actually on average lived longer than those fasted 1 day in 2, but the reverse for males.

Another way to interpret this: Fasting 1 day in 2 produced a restriction of calories that proved too harmful for the majority of rats. Fasting 1 day in 3 or 4 produced the optimum result without daily caloric restriction.

Taking the average lifespan of 75 years in the U.S., this would mean IF twice weekly could increase the span to 86 to 90.

IF did not affect growth

Whereas 40% CR adversely affects muscle growth and mass, in this study, Carlson and Hoelzel found no or only small effects on growth or body mass in rats fasted 1 day in 4 or 1 day in 3.

Under unrestricted feeding conditions, male Wistar rats reach 450-520 g, and females reach 250-300 g.

In this study Carlson and Hoelzel compared littermates fed ad libitum to those fasted 1 day in 2, 3, or 4 days.

Using litter mate controls, male rats fasted 1 day in 4 attained body mass 91% of males fed ad libitum (413 v. 449 g), those fasted 1 day in 3 attained 85% of the mass of ad libitum males (339 v 397 g), and males fasted 1 day in 2 attained 74% of the body mass of ad libitum littermates (265 v. 356 g).

Female rats fasted 1 day in 4 attained body mass 89% of ad libitum females, those fasted 1 day in 3 attained 89% of ad libitum females, and those fasted 1 day in 2 attained body mass 85% of ad libitum females.

Again using litter mate controls, in some cases fasted rats actually had longer femurs than rats fed ad libitum, illustrating that intermittent fasting did not impair healthy tissue growth. In contrast, as stated by the CR Society's Risks Page, "Physical growth may be impaired by calorie restriction, as observed in lab animals."

Genetic controls

Carlson and Hoelzel found a large variation in response to fasting and feeding regimens. All rats were Wistar variety, and regardless of regime, 67% of all rats died between ages of 550 and 850 days, and 85% between 400 and 900 days. Further, “Some littermate rats, after having been kept from 400 to 1000 days on widely differing nutritional regimens, died within 24 hours or a few days of one another. Four of the twelve rats that lived to be over 1000 days old belonged to one of the seventeen litters.” Thus, genetic factors played a strong role in mortality.

IF influence on development of disorders leading to death

Carlson and Hoelzel also found that fasting rats had retarded development of mammary tumors, both in terms of age of onset and size of tumor, proportional to the amount of fasting. The following table from their paper displays the data.

Mammary tumors occurred in 37% of ad libitum female rats, compared to 29% of females fasted 1 day in 4 , 36% of those fasted 1 day in 3, and only 7% of those fasted 1 day in 2.

Average weight of tumors in ad libitum females equaled 193 g, versus only 67 g in rats fasted 1 day in 4 and 36 g in those fasted 1 day in 3.

Rate of tumor growth was +134 g/100 days in ad libitum rats, +48 g/100 d in rats fasted 1 day in 4, +42 g/100 d in rats fasted 1 day in 3, and +13 g/100 d in rats fasted 1 day in 2.

IF extends healthy lifespan

Carlson and Hoelzel thus showed in 1945 that intermittent fasting 1 in 3 days extends healthy lifespan of rats by 15-20% compared to ad libitum feeding, without daily food restriction (hunger), restriction of protein intake (these rats had 30-35% protein diets), impairing healthy lean tissue growth, or causing extreme loss of body mass.

It looks to me like IF offers a rational alternative to daily caloric restriction.

Monday, December 21, 2009

High dietary animal protein links to lower population growth and greater longevity

Roger Williams, the biochemist who first identified, isolated, and synthesized pantothenic acid, wrote a book titled Nutrition Against Disease (Pitman, 1971), in which he has a chapter titled "How Can We Delay Old Age?" In this chapter he discusses human population growth, because the goal of extending life span conflicts a bit with the growth of population. He points out that if life spans get extended and population growth also continues, in 200 years "Tokyo, New York, and London would each have populations several times that of the entire present world population."

In this context he remarks that in The Geography of Hunger, the author Josue d Castro states that he thinks that "hunger, particularly protein deficiency, is an important factor in creating the problem of overpopulation." To support his hypothesis, de Castro cites several observations that support, such as the fact that cattle become sterile if overfattened. de Castro also produced the following table indicating that human populations display an inverse relationship between birth rates and amount of dietary animal protein.

Williams comments on this data (collected before the introduction of hormonal contraception):

"There seems, however, to be an interesting principle involve which should be further explored. Nature does take measures to prevent the extinction of a species, and when extinction is threatened––by starvation for example––it may be that an exaggerated sex urge is one of he devices used to perpetuate the race. It may be that this contributes to the high birth rate among people who are ill fed. A parallel is found in the area of plant physiology where t has been observed that plants often grow vegetatively as long as well fertilized, and tend to go to seed (reproduce) only when conditions become adverse.

The contrary possibility that a decrease in human birth rates could automatically be brought about by the provision of certain nutritional factors is at least worthy of study.”

Of interest, international data from 2004 also indicate that healthy life expectancy may also correlate inversely with animal protein intake. The following table based on WHO data shows that nations with lower animal protein intake and higher birth rates (e.g. Mexico, China, Thailand, India) generally have lower life expectancy than nations with higher animal protein intake and lower birth rates (e.g. Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy).

These data suggest that vegetarian diets both increase population growth and decrease life expectancy. It does look like these two phenomena (increased birth rate and decreased life expectancy) arise from a common biological condition, and quite possibly de Castro and Williams have named it: animal protein (and perforce, methionine) deficiency.

Addendum 11/18/11:

I made a couple of important errors in my reasoning in this post:

1.  The reduced fertility found in modern nations with higher protein intake could equally be interpreted as an indication that high intake of animal protein might increase the prevalence of infertility in humans. Thus, the data may indicate that low animal protein intake improves fertility.

In fact, we have data indicating that high animal protein intake poisons the uterus with ammonia, reducing the viability of embryos.

“These data show that consumption of a high protein [25%] diet results in the excess accumulation of ammonium in the fluid of the female reproductive tract of mice. These high levels of ammonium subsequently impair the formation of the fetal progenitor cells and increase cell death at the blastocyst stage. These data from in vivo-developed mouse blastocysts are similar to those for blastocysts developed in culture in the presence of 300 uM ammonium. Therefore, it is not advisable to maintain mice on a high protein diet. These data have significant implications for animal breeding, and for patients attempting IVF treatment.”
Gardner, D. K., Stilley, K. S., Lane, M., 2004. High protein diet inhibits inner cell mass formation and increases apoptosis in mouse blastocysts developed in vivo by increasing the levels of ammonium in the reproductive tract (abstract). Reprod. Fertil. Dev. 16(2):190.

…amino acid inclusion, especially that of glutamine, significantly increases the level of
ammonia within embryo culture media systems. It was shown that the benefits of amino
acid addition could be annulled by the effect of ammonia build-up, partly from degradation of glutamine over the course of embryo culture, and partly as a result of deamination of amino acids during metabolism. Early embryos appear to be sensitive to levels of ammonia as low as 100 mM and levels above 300 mM yield significant detrimental effects.”
Thompson, J. G., Lane, M., Robertson, S., 2006. Adaptive responses of early embryos to their microenvironment and consequences for post-implantation development. In: Wintour, E. M., Owens, J. A. (Eds.), Early Life Origins of Health and Disease. Adv. Exp. Med. Biol. 573. Springer, New York, NY, pp. 58–69.

2.  At the time the data was collected, the populations with low animal protein intake, high fertility, and low life expectancy also had relatively high infant mortality rates, which drives down the average the life expectancy.  Thus, this data does NOT show that high animal protein intake increases longevity.   Further, although most consider high infant mortality a terrible thing, in fact it is a pretty normal biological phenomenon; most organisms produce far more fertile seeds than surviving offspring.  Modern medical care reduces infant mortality, possibly by preserving lives of weaker, more disease-prone individuals.

3.  The most long-lived nation on the second table is Japan, but Japanese do not have a 'liberal' animal food intake by U.S. standards, although it is higher than in Mexico, China, Thailand, etc..  However, here again Japan has a low infant mortality rate compared to developing nations, making it look as though adults live longer in Japan than in those developing nations, when in reality the main difference is fewer deaths in infants in Japan versus developing nations.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fructose makes bellies fat

Thanks to Eric for alerting me to this article.

Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans

Not much time to comment on it, so a quick look. The research team fed people diets in which 25% of calories came from either a glucose- or a fructose- sweetened beverage.

The results: "Consumption of fructose-sweetened but not glucose-sweetened beverages for 10 weeks increased DNL [denovolipogenesis], promoted dyslipidemia, decreased insulin sensitivity, and increased visceral adiposity in overweight/obese adults."

Small dense LDL results: The glucose-consumers had no net increase in the apparently harmfull small-dense LDL. "In contrast, fasting sdLDL concentrations increased progressively in subjects consuming fructose."

Mean 24 hour triglycerides increased 2.5% in glucose-consumers, 18.2% in fructose-consumers.

For glucose consumers, 23 hour triglyceride area under curve decreased by 32%, whereas for fructose consumers it increased by 99%.

Fasting oxidized LDL increased by 0.7% in glucose consumers, but 12.8% in fructose-consumers.

Cane sugar (white or brown) and high fructose corn syrup both provide about 50% of their carbohydrate as fructose. Honey consumed occasionally by hunter-gatherers has less fructose, at about 39%.

This study gives some indication why diets based on starch (primarily glucose) but containing little fructose do less health damage than diets containing plenty of sugars.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

McDougall on Mammography

I certainly don't agree with John McDougall's dietary philosophy, but I do agree with his recent article on Huffington Post "ACS Chief Sends Mixed Messages On Mammography."

A choice observation he makes:

"The burden of proof of 'the benefits outweighing the harms' rests with those making the recommendations--the American Cancer Society and its Chief Medical Officer in this case. Dr. Brawley has voiced doubt about the benefits of mammography, and now appears conflicted by communicating two opposing stands in less than a month. The American Cancer Society, on the other hand, has remained steadfast in a position that enhances the profits of breast cancer-related businesses, regardless of the effects on women."

As he points out, a typical breast tumor has been growing for ten years (going from one cell to 1 cm in diameter) before a mammogram can detect it:

"Adequate scientific evidence to stop mass screening programs, such as mammography, has been readily available for more than three decades. In 1976 Pietro M. Gullino presented his findings on the natural history of cancer, showing 'early detection' is really 'late detection,' at the Conference on Breast Cancer: A Report to the Profession, sponsored by the White House, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society. He explained: 'If the time required for a tumor to double its diameter during a known period of time is taken as a measure of growth rate, one can calculate by extrapolation that two-thirds of the duration of a breast cancer remains undetectable by the patient or physician. Long before a breast carcinoma can be detected by present technology, metastatic spread may occur and does in most cases.' This report was subsequently published in the journal representing the American Cancer Society (Cancer 1977 Jun;39(6 Suppl):2697-703)."

The drive for so-called "early" detection does serve people who have invested in expensive radiologic equipment. If your physician recommends early mammograms, you might want to find out if s/he has investments in or business ties with radiology centers.

It also leads to a lot of unnecessary medical intervention:

"Just as tragic is the devastation to the lives of millions of women with indolent cancers (the latent forms) that would have never appeared in their lifetime if no one had been busy looking for them with screening programs. Once found, these nonthreatening lesions are aggressively treated with life-changing surgeries, radiation treatments, and/or chemotherapies."

Having studied it for about 20 years now, the "science" of cancer treatment in the U.S. has about as much "science" to it as the lipid hypothesis. I can only conclude that it has more commercial than scientific basis. And all dissenters, such as Max Gerson, who produced evidence of cancer reversal with dietary intervention, are labeled nutcases, etc.

Imagine if it became commonly known that cancer can be cured by dietary interventions. What would happen to all those cushy jobs for those searching for cures? The ACS etc. have perverse incentive. So long as the cure is elusive, they continue to have cushy jobs and lots of donations.

Why is this relevant on a paleo blog? Because cancer is a disease of civilization, largely caused by neolithic foods and insulin levels, and we have evidence that paleo diets can prevent and probably reverse some if not all cancers.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cornfield vs. Pasture

Greg asked me if its possible to grow field crops without animal input and still build soil.

Regardless of input, I know of no one who has developed a way to grow field/row crops and build soil. The best integrated systems just maintain topsoil.

These pictures illustrate why row crops always damage the soil, whereas a stocked and well-managed pasture builds soil.

Image source:

When we raise crops, we expose long rows of soil. We struggle to keep these free of "weeds" whose natural job is to secure the soil. We can't stop wind and water (rain), which inevitably course through these furrows carrying soil away from the field. The roots of these crops reach shallowly, so they don't trap rainfall efficiently. If managed very intensively with manure, rotation with leguminous cover crops, and mulch with compost, at best we can replace the soil lost each time we plant with row crops.

In contrast, a pasture looks like this:

Image source:

The soil accumulates year after year because the tight root structure and full cover of grasses and "weeds" protects it from wind and water erosion. The roots themselves draw the water (rain) into the soil. The grass constantly takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, converting it into carbohydrates, stored in the root system. Ruminants are an essential part of perennial grass land ecosystems, providing many services to the grass including fertilization with nitrogen. The grass feeds the soil, the soil feeds the grass, the grass feeds the ruminants and the ruminants feed the grass.

In short, a field of row crops requires a constant battle against natural processes, and its very structure involves us in a largely unsuccessful battle to preserve the soil.

It reminds me of a passage in the Tao Te Ching (Chapter 29):

Does anyone want to take the world and do what he wants with it?
I do not see how he can succeed.
The world is a sacred vessel, which must not be tampered with or grabbed after.
To tamper with it is to spoil it, and to grasp it is to lose it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

How I Came To My Opinion of Vaccines

In my post on New Immunization Guidelines—Who Makes Them, I wrote:

“So far as I can tell, all the "evidence" in favor of vaccinations is epidemiological, that is, correlative, in this vein: "We gave this population the vaccine for X disease and the disease incidence declined, therefore the vaccine eliminated the disease." This is classic mistaking of correlation with causation, along with the fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc, i.e. y happened after x, therefore x caused y. Lindlahr pointed it out more than 75 years ago.”

Some people may wonder how I could come to this opinion. I added this to that post:

“I formed my opinion after examination of evidence such as this graph posted at Child Health Safety :

This shows that vaccines for measles, pertussis, and diphtheria all got introduced during the natural waning of the epidemics, making it impossible for me to conclude that the vaccine had any dramatic benefit. Child Health Safety has similar graphs referring to other vaccines.

Further, if you look deeply into this, you will find that changes and fashions in diagnosis also influenced the "decline" of epidemics "observed" after vaccines. Before the vaccine for measles, physicians were on the lookout for measles, and so diagnosed it frequently (and often erroneously). After the introduction of the vaccine for measles, for example, physicians believed that the vaccine eliminated measles so they simply were less likely to diagnose an infection as measles (or test for measles). But doctors are notoriously bad at diagnosis. They overdiagnose or underdiagnose based on fashions, such as when the incidence of arteriosclerotic heart disease "increased" in 1948 after this diagnosis was added to the ICD.

And, I notice that if the incidence of infection goes down even in unvaccinated folks, rather than questioning whether the vaccination did the job, vaccine proponents attribute this to herd immunity conferred by vaccination. Its like giving treatment A to one group and a placebo to the other; both groups get better equally, so you conclude that treatment A works so well, it even helps people who didn't receive it by having a “herd” effect. In any other investigation, people would conclude that the treatment works no better than a placebo or no treatment. I understand the rationale given for this explanation in respect to vaccinations, but for vaccine proponents, it conveniently excludes the possibility of concluding that no treatment worked as well as treatment--a possibility necessary for scientific evaluation.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Reuters reports: Companies reap the swine flu windfall

If you think there’s no profit in swine flu or other vaccines, I’ve got news from you just in from Reuters:

Companies reap the swine flu windfall

Some excerpts:

“Pretty much everyone who does something in influenza in has gained from it,” said Hedwig Kresse, an infectious diseases analyst at Datamonitor in London.

“From a sales perspective, the big players certainly will see a very significant windfall of this pandemic this year,” Kresse said in a telephone interview.”

“Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG said this week it expects the H1N1 flu vaccine to contribute about $400 million to $700 million of sales in the fourth quarter.”

“David Kagi, a healthcare analyst at Swiss-based Bank Sarasin & Co estimates pandemic vaccine sales will be worth a total of $7.6 billion, even with a mild pandemic. A severe pandemic would result in total vaccine sales of $18 billion.”

If the spread of H1N1 goes from mild to severe, the sales of vaccines will more than double the gross income of suppliers. In billions.

Talk about perverse incentives.

Drug companies only make money if they sell drugs, and they only sell drugs if people are sick.

With this as a fact, you can see why we have rising medical care costs as well as institutional resistance to principles like paleodiet.

If everyone ate a paleodiet, the pharmaceutical industry would collapse.

So would the processed food industry.

And that would cause the GDP to decline. So "the economy" would suffer.

Can't have that happen.

Got to keep those profits growing and keep the economy humming.

At all costs.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New Study: Vitamin D3 Supplementation During Pregnancy Reduces Premature Births And Improves Newborn Health

Vitamin D experts Dr. Bruce Hollis and Dr. Carol Wagner of the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, have presented results of a new trial of vitamin D supplementation in pregnant women at at an international research conference in Bruges.

They gave gave group of pregnant women 4,000 IUs per day of vitamin D at about three months of pregnancy. They gave a second group 400 IUs per day, the amount recommended by U.S. and UK governments.

They monitored the blood and urine of trial participants to make sure calcium and vitamin D levels remained within safe ranges. They found no side effects in either group.

They found the following benefits among the women who took 4000 IUs of D3 per day, compared to the controls taking 400 IUs:

1) Risk for premature birth reduced by half.
2) Reduced incidence of small babies.
3) Twenty-five percent reduced risk for infections, particularly respiratory infections such as colds and flu as well as infections of the vagina and the gums.
4) Reduced risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and preeclampsia.

In addition, babies getting the most vitamin D after birth had a reduced incidence of colds and eczema.

Source:, Vitamin D can save half million babies each year: study

Friday, October 16, 2009

Swine Flu Protection

If you think that immunization provides a safe hedge against the flu (swine or seasonal), you might want to reconsider. Today, MSNBC reported that a city nurse given the seasonal flu immunization two weeks ago has now developed paralytic Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

It appears that an outbreak of paralytic syndromes also occurred in 1976 when in response to a swine flu outbreak at Fort Dix in New Jersey, 46 million Americans got the immunization. On November 4, 1979, the CBS news program 60 Minutes aired the following video report of their investigation into the 1976 swine flu immunization, which left 4,000 people claiming injury, two-thirds of them with permanent neurological damage or dead due to paralysis that occurred after immunization.

So what do you do if you want to avoid Toxic Vaccine Syndrome and don’t take the immunization?

How to protect yourself from swine flu:

1. Vitamin D3:
a) Get your levels tested through Grassroots Health.
b) Take 2000-4000 IU daily of D3 until you get your blood test results.
c) Get as much direct sunlight as possible, without sunscreen, between 10am and 3pm, with as much skin exposed as practical.
d) Maintain levels at 50 to 70 ng/ml. Many people will need 4000 IU daily to reach and maintain this level in the winter.
e) If you feel an infection coming on, take 10,000 IU daily for 3 days or until the infection passes. Pregnant or lactating women should limit the emergency dose of D3 to 4000 IU per day.

2. Vitamin A (retinol):
a) Eat 4 ounces of liver once weekly, or take 1 teaspoon of cod liver oil daily.
b) If you feel an infection coming on, either eat liver, or take 10,000 IU of fish liver oil source vitamin A for three days in a row. Pregnant or lactating women can eat a serving of liver, but should limit the emergency dose of isolated vitamin A to 5000 IU per day.

3. Eat saturated fats, especially coconut milk or oil, or butter fat. Coconut products and dairy fats provide antiviral fatty acids (lauric, caproic, caprylic, and capric acids)

4. Avoid sugar, corn syrup, honey, fruit juices, etc. A 100 gram dose of sugar can depress your macrophage activity by 50% for more than 4 hours.

5. Reduce carbohydrate intake. Diets high in carbohydrate raise blood sugar levels, which suppresses the immune response. Eat a paleo diet of meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts, as outlined in my book, The Garden of Eating.

6. Take herbs

For prevention:

If you have frequent exposure to infectious disease (e.g. schoolteacher) and history of frequent upper respiratory infections, I recommend ongoing use of Jade Windscreen (Yu Ping Feng San) throughout the flu season. This contains a high dose of astragalus root (Huang Qi), which raises white blood cell production. I have found it very effective for such situations.

For treatment:

a) Gan Mao Ling: A very potent antiviral combination of Ilex root, Isatis root, Evodia root, Chrysanthemum flower, Vitex fruit, and Honeysuckle flower. You can take it as a preventive in case of known exposure. Indications: Sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, body aches, sinus infection, ear infection, influenza, early stage measles. Contraindicated in cases with strong chills, and used with caution by people with hemorrhagic disorders or on anti-coagulant therapy.

b) Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian: Available in prepared pills. Superior for acute sore throat and swollen glands. Contraindicated in cases with strong chills.

c) Ban Lan Gen Chong Ji: An instant herbal tea available in many Asian groceries or Chinese herb stores. Use for epidemic toxins and seasonal toxic pathogens presenting with swollen, painful, sore throat, high fever, red and swollen eyes and ears, herpes simplex, herpes zoster, abscesses, boils, carbuncles, furuncles. Contraindicated in cases of with strong chills, and use with caution in hemorrhagic disorders or with patients on anti-coagulant therapy.

d) Gan Mao Jie Du Chong Ji: An instant herbal tea available in many Asian groceries or Chinese herb stores. For upper respiratory tract infection, cold and flu, especially with fever, neck pain, body aches, headache, sore throat, runny nose or nasal congestion. Contraindicated in pregnancy, diabetes, and cases of strong chills. Contains sugar.

BTW, I have no financial interests in any of these products, unless of course you get them from my office.


Sanchez A, Reeser J, Lau H, et al. Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 26, 1180-1184

Bernstein J, Alpert S, Nauss K, Suskind R. (intr. by C.S. Davidson). DEPRESSION OF LYMPHOCYTE TRANSFORMATION FOLLOWING ORAL GLUCOSE INGESTION. Am. J. Clinical Nutrition, Apr 1977; 30: 613 (abstract only published).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Study Shows Pharmacological Foundation of Chinese Herbal Medicines

As documented in Wild Health, a book suggested to me by Todd Hargraves, a frequent commenter on this blog, not only humans, but many other species have used herbal medicine for literally millions of years. I call herbal medicine Paleolithic or primal because it originated long before even the advent of agriculture, let alone the emergence of modern allopathic medicine.

Anyway, researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston have found that ancient Chinese herbal formulas used primarily for cardiovascular indications including heart disease may produce large amounts of artery-widening nitric oxide.

Science Daily reported on this study:

"The results from this study reveal that ancient Chinese herbal formulas 'have profound nitric oxide bioactivity primarily through the enhancement of nitric oxide in the inner walls of blood vessels, but also through their ability to convert nitrite and nitrate into nitric oxide,' said Nathan S. Bryan, Ph.D., the study's senior author and an IMM assistant professor."

Traditional Chinese medicines (TCMs) used primarily for cardiovascular indications commonly contain three to 25 herbs, administered as tablets, elixirs, soups and teas. In this study, the researchers tested DanShen (salvia root), GuaLou (trichosanthis fruit) and other herbs purchased at a Houston store to determine their ability to produce nitric oxide.

They also tested the capacity of the store-bought TCMs to widen blood vessels in an animal model. They found that each of the TCMs tested relaxed vessels to various degrees.

Allopathic medical practitioners commonly assert that herbal medicine "doesn't work" or suggest it is mere "folklore." Worse, they often assert that modern pharmaceuticals are "safer" than "untested" herbs. Packaged with this comes the belief that our ancestors were stupid for believing that plants provided medicines.

Allopathic physicians learned these beliefs in medical schools funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Since herbs are non-patentable competitors for patented drugs produced by the pharmaceutical industry, the industry has done everything possible to prevent, suppress, and eliminate the practice of herbal medicine in the U.S., and internationally, including telling lies about herbs and getting licensing laws passed that effectively outlawed the practice of herbal medicine.

For example, consider how the FDA demonized Ephedra. Ephedra is an excellent bronchodilator that Chinese physicians traditionally used to treat asthma. The FDA removed Ephedra from the market after collecting 100 cases where people had died while voluntarily using it. All Ephedra-related deaths in America occurred among people using the herb improperly, without the guidance of a trained herbalist, and for purposes not endorsed by traditional OM herbalists (energy-enhancement, weight loss). Moreover, in none of the cases did the evidence clearly show that the Ephedra caused the deaths.

Aside from this being another sure-to-fail attempt at prohibition, comparatively, aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have much worse safety records than Ephedra. According to James Fries, M.D., of the Stanford University School of Medicine, about 76,000 Americans are hospitalized and 7,600 die each year from gastrointestinal bleeding caused by aspirin and other NSAIDs. Yet these remain on the market, approved by the FDA.

Moreover, the FDA still allows OTC sales of psuedoephedrine, the patented copy of the natural compound. I wonder who this benefits.....

Shows how you can always count on the wisdom and benevolence of the government. I believe that if we did not have the government (FDA, state medical licensing boards, FCC, etc.) protecting NSAIDs from competitive market forces by suppressing natural alternatives (FCC suppresses information about alternatives), we would have far fewer deaths from NSAIDs because people would naturally seek the safer alternatives.

And since herbal medicines are not protected by profit-generating patents (another way the government increases costs of drugs, etc.), and anyone can grow herbs, the cost of medical care would go down.

But then the Statist economists would start complaining about deflation, since you know that it would kill our economy if the cost of living declined, resulting in a decline of the GDP. Or so they believe.

Anyway, as this study of TCMs shows, the continuing denigration of our ancestors and diatribe against Paleolithic medicine that forms part of conventional "wisdom" does not stand up to critical analysis.

National Center For Policy Analysis: Baucus Bill Will Force Me to Triple My Expenditures on Insurance

What Will It Force You To Pay?

According to the National Center For Policy Analysis, PricewaterhouseCoopers has analyzed the Baucus bill and found the following:

"* For individuals making $34,140 (three times the Federal Poverty Level) the Baucus health care proposal could mandate up to $4,097 in annual premiums, a sum which could have been spent on over nine months of food, almost four months of housing or well over a year of utilities.
* For a family of four making $69,480 (300 percent above poverty) the Baucus bill mandates annual health insurance premiums of $8,338, which would be worth the equivalent of over 10 months of food, four months of housing or almost two years of utilities.
* For individuals earning $45,520 (400 percent above poverty) Baucus mandates $5,462 for health insurance, or over a year of food, four months of rent or a year and a half of utilities.
* For families earning $92,640 (400 percent above poverty) Baucus mandates $11,117 in health premiums, the equivalent of over a year of food, five months of housing or two years of utilities."

According to the NCPA, those numbers include the subsidies for health insurance in the Baucus bill; i.e. these costs are after subsidies. If true, when I look at that and compare it to what I currently pay for catastrophic insurance to go with my health savings account, the Baucus plan will (if passed) force me to spend more than three times what I currently pay for insurance, none of it going into savings.

Frankly, this makes me very angry. I have other needs and if the State forces me to spend at this level for unwanted insurance, my overall quality of life will decline, and I will probably have to increase the fees I charge for my services.

Upon reading about these mandates, one of my friends said:

"That's just for insurance??? They probably have deductibles so anyone needing any care would have to pay that ON TOP OF that amount for insurance? you would not necessarily get ANY medical care!"

She added:

"Man, with that much money per year I could do so much more with wellness care AND a health savings account. How on earth could anyone think it will save us money to use this plan? Propaganda and lack of info will enroll a nation in a plan that wastes our money and leaves us without the true health care you and I desire!

Who will benefit? Government workers & pharmaceutical companies, and whoever else has their hand in the cookie jar! It really bothers me this stupid plan."

Reading the original document put out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (you can download it at the NCPA site), I feel amazed that people would pay more than $1000 per month ($13K per year) for medical insurance for a family of four right now (before "reform"). That amounts to spending $250 monthly on every member. That would buy 30 pounds of grass-fed ground beef; up to 8 acupuncture or herbal treatments in my office; ten bottles of vitamin D3; and at least two "preventive" visits to a physician's office.

It seems to me that one would get more value, i.e. more real health care, by taking most of that $250 and actually spending it on health care every month, rather than throwing it in the insurance hole. By health care, I don't mean drugs and surgery (disease care), I mean quality food, stress reduction, play, exercise, vacation, necessary supplements, consultation with a health care professional, herbal medicines, etc. But I think differently than most people.

I pay a much lower premium because I elect to carry only catastrophic insurance with a $5K deductible per individual. I pay for real ongoing health care (quality food, vitamin D3, herbal medicines, etc.) out pocket as I go along, and put the difference in savings. I have not yet found out if the "reform" will allow me to continue with this choice, or will force me to pay triple for something I don't use.

PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that with the Baucus "reform" that $13K per annum cost of medical insurance will increase to $26K per annum (family of four) by 2019. Without the reform, it will increase to $22K by 2019. A large part of the increase is simply inflation (decline of the value of the dollar). I expect the price tag in either case will ultimately be much higher since I expect dramatic inflation in the near future as a result of the FED flooding the market with "stimulus" money.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Immunization Guidelines -- Who Makes Them?

On September 22, 209, Medscape reported:

"New Guidelines Issued for Immunization of Infants, Children, Teens, Adults

An Expert Panel of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) has prepared updated, evidence-based guidelines for immunization of infants, children, adolescents, and adults. The new guidelines, which are published in the September 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, replace the previous IDSA clinical practice guideline for quality standards for immunization, published in 2002."

This apparently officious body now recommends a host of new vaccines:

"New vaccines that have been licensed since 2002 include human papillomavirus vaccine; live, attenuated influenza vaccine; meningococcal conjugate vaccine; rotavirus vaccine; tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid, and acellular pertussis vaccine; and zoster vaccine. New combination vaccines that have become available are measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella vaccine; tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis and inactivated polio vaccine; and tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis and inactivated polio/Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine.

For young children, hepatitis A vaccines are now universally recommended. All children aged 6 months through 18 years and adults who are 50 years or older should receive annual administration of influenza vaccines. The routine childhood and adolescent immunization schedule now includes a second dose of varicella vaccine. The adolescent and adult immunization schedules have expanded to accommodate many of these new recommendations."

The Infectious Diseases Society of America sounds impressive, eh? When you get to the end of the article, you find this:

"The IDSA supported formulation of these guidelines. Some of the guidelines (sic) authors report various financial relationships with Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi Pasteur, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices working group for Influenza and HPV, Astellas, MedImmune, Wyeth, AstraZeneca, the National Institute of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Novavax, Protein Sciences, Novartis, CSL Limited, PowderMed, and/or Avianax."

So we have people who profit from the sale of immunizations setting the guidelines for immunizations. On top of that, they endorse making some immunizations mandatory. How convenient to have the State make your products mandatory. Wouldn't Coca Cola like Congress to pass a law requiring that every U.S. citizen purchase 4 liters of Coca Cola every week?

How about giving us an opinion from a disinterested third party?

If immunizations work, i.e. really make immunized people immune, what do those people have to fear from non-immunized people? In 1922, when smallpox still occurred regularly, Henry Lindlahr, M.D. wrote about vaccinations:

"From England vaccination gradually spread over the civilized world and during the nineteenth century the smallpox disease (variola) constantly diminished in virulence and frequency until today it has become of comparatively rare occurrence.

'Therefore vaccination has exterminated smallpox,' say the disciples of Jenner.

Is that really so? Is vaccination actually a preventive of smallpox? This seems very doubtful when the advocates of vaccination themselves do not believe it. 'What,' I hear them say, 'we do not believe in our own theory?' Evidently you do not, my friends. If you believe that vaccination protects you against smallpox, why are you afraid of catching it from those who are not vaccinated? If you are thoroughly protected, as you claim to be, how can you catch the disease from those who are not protected? Why do you not allow the other fellow to have his fill of smallpox and then enjoy a good laugh on him? The fact of the matter is you know full well that you are not safe, that you can catch the disease just as readily as the unprotected.

I have yet to find a single proponent of vaccinations who can answer this simple question asked more than 75 years ago by Lindlahr. Sometimes they talk of "herd" immunity being the key to vaccine effectiveness. I find this funny. If you actually get a disease, like chickenpox, and let it run its course, you build immunity for life, regardless of whether or not the 'herd' has immunity.

Not so if you get the vaccine. On March 15, 2007, the New York Times reported on a study done by CDC researchers (and published in the New England Journal of Medicine) that found that the chickenpox vaccine "has sharply reduced the number of cases in children but that its protection does not last long." The Times article states:

With fewer natural cases of the disease, the study says, unvaccinated children or those whose first dose of the vaccine fails to work are getting chickenpox later in life, when the risk of complications is higher.

“If you’re unvaccinated and you get it later in life, there’s a 20-times greater risk of dying compared to a child, and a 10- to 15-times greater chance of getting hospitalized,” said Dr. Jane Seward of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, who worked on the study.

Apparently now unvaccinated children have a higher risk of adult chickenpox due to the influence of the vaccine, whereas unvaccinated children did not have such a risk by contact with people who actually had chickenpox. So the vaccination converted a non-life threatening childhood disease into a life-threatening adult disease.

The NEJM authors admitted that vaccinated children still get the chickenpox, and that vaccinated individuals who get chickenpox have a more severe form of the disease:

And when vaccinated children were infected [with chickenpox], they tended to be sicker, probably because they were older. “Children between the ages of 8 and 12 years who had been vaccinated five years or more previously were two times as likely to have moderate-to-severe breakthrough disease as were those who had been vaccinated less than five years previously,” the researchers wrote.

Yet people still "believe" in vaccines. As this article in The Atlantic discusses, many authorities 'beleive' in flu vaccination as a 'public health' measure, despite lack of evidence for efficacy or safety. This reminds me of the 'belief' in high-carbohydrate low-fat diets and cholesterol-lowering drugs, also pushed on the public without evidence for efficacy or safety.

Lindlahr again:

"But," our opponents insist, "you cannot deny that smallpox has greatly diminished since the almost universal adoption of vaccination."

Certainly the disease has diminished. But so have diminished and, in fact, nearly disappeared the plague, the Black Death, cholera, the bubonic plague, yellow fever and numerous other epidemic pests which only recently decimated entire nations.

Not one of these epidemics was treated by vaccination. Why, then, did they abate and practically disappear?

Not vaccination, but the more universal adoption of soap, bathtubs, all kinds of sanitary measures, such as plumbing, drainage, ventilation and more hygienic modes of living generally have subdued smallpox as well as all other plagues.

Lindlahr has part of the answer. Not only hygienic measures, but also the replacement of horses with autos (removing manure from city streets), improved nutrition, and simple evolution contributed to the subsidence of epidemic diseases. When these diseases ravaged populations, the people affected had poor quality nutrition. In every case, the diseases ran their course through the populations, affecting all who had low immunity, causing them to either build immunity or die, and thus leaving in their wake a population having immunity to the disease. As well, the disease entity itself evolves. A disease that kills its hosts will eventually eradicate itself.

So far as I can tell, all the "evidence" in favor of vaccinations is epidemiological, that is, correlative, in this vein: "We gave this population the vaccine for X disease and the disease incidence declined, therefore the vaccine eliminated the disease." This is classic mistaking of correlation with causation, along with the fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc, i.e. y happened after x, therefore x caused y. Lindlahr pointed it out more than 75 years ago.

I formed my opinion after examination of evidence such as this graph posted at Child Health Safety :

This shows that vaccines for measles, pertussis, and diphtheria all got introduced during the natural waning of the epidemics, making it impossible for me to conclude that the vaccine had any dramatic benefit. Child Health Safety has similar graphs referring to other vaccines.

And if you look deeply into this, you will find that changes and fashions in diagnosis also influenced the "decline" of epidemics "observed" after vaccines. Before the vaccine for measles, physicians were on the lookout for measles, and so diagnosed it frequently. After the introduction of the vaccine for measles, for example, physicians believed that the vaccine eliminated measles so they simply were less likely to diagnose an infection as measles. But doctors are notoriously bad at diagnosis. They overdiagnose or underdiagnose based on fashions, such as when the incidence of arteriosclerotic heart disease "increased" in 1948 after this diagnosis was added to the ICD.

And, I notice that if the incidence of infection goes down even in unvaccinated folks, rather than questioning whether the vaccination did the job, vaccine proponents attribute this to herd immunity conferred by vaccination. Its like giving treatment A to one group and a placebo to the other; both groups get better equally, so you conclude that treatment A works so well, it even helps people who didn't receive it by having a “herd” effect. In any other investigation, people would conclude that the treatment works no better than a placebo or no treatment. I understand the rationale given for this explanation in respect to vaccinations, but for vaccine proponents, it conveniently excludes the possibility of a control group, or of concluding that no treatment worked as well as treatment--possibilities necessary for scientific evaluation.

But who cares about science when you can get politicians to force everyone to take your product by government decree, and at taxpayer expense?

Of course I could be wrong. Do the research and think for yourself.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Freedom to say no

In response to my last post (Kiss Your Health Care Choices Goodbye), Charles R said:

"So I am really trying hard to figure out why it's a bad thing for anyone who wants to buy into this insurance plan to do so."

I want to make it clear. Charles clearly assumes it this is voluntary. It is not. The plan under discussion will FORCE you to purchase insurance that meets with government approval. You will not have a choice to forgo insurance.

Why would anyone forgo insurance? Why does anyone forgo purchase of any other product or service?

OK, let's suppose you have determined that you are healthy and want to keep it that way by eating a paleo diet including grass fed meats. Suppose also that your income level is such that if you purchase grass fed meat, you elect to forgo medical insurance policies and take your chances on what works (a paleo diet) rather than investing in a policy that would only get you "care" from an industry (allopathic medicine) that ranks as the third largest cause of death in the U.S. and appears to know nothing about healthy eating.

What am I talking about? According to Barbara Starfield, writing in JAMA, allopathic medical treatments rendered in hospitals by licensed personnel cause at least 225,000 deaths annually, due to nonerror adverse drug effects, medication errors, other errors, unnecessary surgeries, and hospital-acquired infections. Starfield also cited an analysis indicating that between 4% and 18% of consecutive outpatients experience adverse effects of medical treatments, resulting in 116 million extra physican visits, 77 million extra prescriptions, 17 million emergency department visits, 8 million hospitalizations, 3 million long-term admissions, 199,000 additional deaths, and $77 billion in extra costs. [Starfield B. Is US Health Really the Best in the World? JAMA, July 26, 2000;284(4);483-85]

That's more than 400,000 deaths annually caused by allopathic medical care. In comparison, only about 50,000 people die in auto accidents annually. Do you think those medical errors drive up the cost of medical care? Sure enough, and more insurance won't change it. Fundamentally our medical system is off course.

Now Obamacare comes along and says you have to purchase a government approved plan that covers hazard-ridden allopathic services you don't want (e.g. flu immunizinations, cholesterol tests, and deadly statins) but doesn't cover real health care that you do want (e.g. VT-D tests and supplements and grass fed meat).

The cost of Obamacare increases your taxes and insurance expenditures such that you now can't afford to purchase grass-fed meat. You have to get the insurance or pay a large fine (I've seen quotes up to $3200) or go to jail.

You can't make the choice you determined the best for yourself because Obama determined that you need unnecessary immunizations, cholesterol tests, and statins, rather than necessary VT-D and grass fed meat. Its a boon for the drug companies, cholesterol labs, and the big insurance corporations (because people who previously opted out will now be forced to purchase their products if not the government product).

Now, because you were forced to buy insurance you didn't want, you can't buy the food you do want. You are now more likely to end up needing medical care.

Bureaucrats generally don't know anything about health care; they listen to the people who peddle immunizations (instead of VT-D), statins (instead of species-appropriate diet), and insurance. I don't want them determining what I do with my dollars, how I maintain my health, or how I get my insurance.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Kiss Your Health Care Choices Goodbye

I don't have time to comment on this right now but did want to get it out. Basically I agree with everything in this press release and urge anyone interested in health freedom to join the National Health Federation.



By Lee Bechtel, NHF Lobbyist

October 6, 2009

In his recent address to Congress on health-care reform, President Obama made clear that he and his allies in the Congress know how to spend your health-care money better than you do. It’s a matter, you see, of “shared responsibility”: You share your dollars with the Feds, and the Feds are responsible for making your health-care decisions. In the health-care bill currently before the House, H.R.3200, there is even a “Health Choices Commissioner,” to be appointed by the President, who will rigorously define your choices.

There are numerous health-freedom and government-control issues in play in the current Congressional legislation. One that really sticks out is the issue of enforcing an individual mandate to buy insurance, and the costs for Americans who take responsibility and do not want the Federal government involved. Never before has Congress forced Americans to buy a private good or service. In this case, that means the forced purchase of private insurance or a government-insurance plan. In fact, for those with a traditional understanding of the Constitution as a charter of liberty (as opposed to the “living” version), the list of Congress’ powers in Article I, Section 8 grants it no authority to require any such thing.

Along with H.R.3200, Senator Max Baucus (D. Mont.) has unveiled a Senate Finance Committee bill that also has an individual mandate. It would levy a penalty of up to $3,800 on families for what President Obama has called “irresponsible behavior,” by which he means health-care choices of which he and his Democratic allies in Congress disapprove. In Obama’s usage, “personal responsibility” is selective; it does not extend to the question of taking responsibility for one’s own health care. That’s the government’s job, of course.

President Obama is right on one key point: The current system makes those with health coverage pay for those without. Those who are without health coverage, illegal aliens or US citizens, often get their care in hospital emergency rooms – the most expensive place possible. The President correctly calls this a hidden tax. Under existing Federal law, hospitals are required to provide treatment to everyone who comes into their emergency room, regardless of their ability to pay. There is no legislation under consideration that would change this.

At this time, there remains a difference between the key House bill, H.R.3200, and the key Senate legislation on Federal health-insurance coverage for illegal aliens. In the Waxman bill, illegal aliens could register and if they pay the monthly premium for a taxpayer-funded Federal health plan – "the public option" – they would then be covered. In other words, there is no requirement for verification of US citizenship. Without trying to sound partisan, there have been, to the best of my knowledge, four separate attempts/amendments by Republicans in the House committees to require verification. These amendments were voted down by the Democratic majorities in two different House committees. There have been other Republican amendments to reform the private health-insurance market that were similarly defeated (such as allowing insurance companies to sell such policies across State lines without individual State restrictions, similar to the way that automobile insurance is now sold, thereby allowing price competition on a scale not seen before).

On the other hand, as it now stands, the Baucus bill in the Senate at least requires one form of US citizenship verification (i.e., birth certificate, US citizenship certificate, social security card, or a State driver's license) to be eligible for and to pay for and be covered by a basic Federal government insurance plan. US taxpayer dollars, civil penalties, corporate and individual taxes, and taxes on middle-income taxpayers who have insurance coverage, will pay for this illegal alien coverage. This, in all fairness, may be good for individual State budgets, since many States, especially in the Southwest, already pay for illegal alien health care in hospital emergency rooms through their State Medicaid programs. Good for States like California, home to House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, for example.

It gets worse. In the Baucus plan, if a person refuses to buy health insurance, either through the private insurance State cooperative program to be created, or via the Federal public insurance plan, when cited by the IRS issuing the mandated IRS penalty, and if a person also refuses to pay the penalty on Constitutional grounds, they will have to go to court and could end up in jail. This is fact. This was extensively discussed at the Baucus Senate mark-up and several Republican amendments to change this were voted down by the majority of Democrat members on the committee. The political spin on both sides of Congress is deep and heavy for proponents of government-controlled health insurance.

Requiring everyone to buy government-specified health insurance, whether they need it or not, is an unacceptable violation of personal liberty. The choice between freedom and responsibility, as President Obama and his congressional allies portray it, is a false choice. It is a way of taxing healthy people, and people who do not want Federal government control of health-care decisions, without calling it a tax.

As it stands at the time of this writing, the House and Senate will likely vote on their respective health-care reform legislation in early to mid October. The Senate Finance Committee is marking-up the unnumbered Baucus bill now. The process is not over yet, but when each chamber of the Congress passes its legislation, there will be a Conference Committee appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. President Obama and his allies, i.e. the Democrats, will have the majority of representation on this committee to work out differences between the two bills. This is a legislative process fact.

Congressional and Presidential elections do have consequences. The final script for the shape of our new health-care system is yet to be completed. One aspect is almost certain: American's Constitutional rights are being trampled on, along with individual health freedom of choice. The strong cry against this usurpation of our liberties is already starting to be heard, even in the insulated halls of Congress.

More than one hundred and fifty years ago, the French economist Frédéric Bastiat made the case that there is the right to individual liberty and then there are claimed “false” rights (such as the “right” to healthcare) that can only exist at the expense of destroying individual liberty. Nowhere is the battle between the two more vividly depicted than it is now with this health-care fight. If you care about your individual freedom – and just as importantly care about your right to make your own health-care choices that will differ from those that the government wants to make for you – then you will contact your Congressional representatives and tell them to either throw H.R.3200 out the window or else don’t ever bother coming home.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

New Hominid Findings

Ardipithecus image source: BBC

Science has a set of new articles from a team of researchers that have studied one of the now oldest known hominids, Ardipithecus ramidus, dated to about 4.4 million years ago.

The skeletal remains indicate that "Ardi" walked upright but still had prehensile feet with opposable large toes enabling it to climb and nest in trees. Unlike later, grassland-dwelling hominins, Ardi "lived in a woodland, climbing among hackberry, fig, and palm trees and coexisting with monkeys, kudu antelopes, and peafowl" according to Ann Gibbons, author of the article Habitat For Humanity, available free online after registration.

This find indicates that key human features appeared in the hominids inhabiting woodlands. Consequently, we can no longer explain some of those features--such as bipedalism--as adaptations to a grassland habitat.

Regarding Ardi's diet, according to Gibbons,

"The team suggests that Ar. ramidus was 'more omnivorous' than chimpanzees, based on the size, shape, and enamel distribution of its teeth. It probably supplemented woodland plants such as fruits, nuts, and tubers with the occasional insects, small mammals, or bird eggs. Carbon-isotope studies of teeth from five individuals show that Ar. ramidus ate mostly woodland, rather than grassland, plants. Although Ar. ramidus probably ate figs and other fruit when ripe, it didn't consume as much fruit as chimpanzees do today."

To clarify, by "more omnivorous" they mean that Ardi ate more animal food so it would be more appropriate to say that Ardi ate more carnivorously than chimpanzees. Ardi's diet of animal foods, fruits, nuts, and tubers sounds a lot like many recent hunter-gatherer diets.

Ardi also lacks the large, honing canines present in chimpanzees, which according to C. O. Lovejoy (Reexamining Human Origins in Light of Ardipithecus ramidus) indicates that Ardi tribes most likely had reduced male-to-male conflict compared to apes. Based on this, Lovejoy also believes that Ardi probably "...combined three previously unseen behaviors associated with their ability to exploit both trees and the land surface: (i) regular food-carrying, (ii) pair-bonding, and (iii) reproductive crypsis (in which females did not advertise ovulation, unlike the case in chimpanzees)" and that that "Together, these behaviors would have substantially intensified male parental investment—a breakthrough adaptation with anatomical, behavioral, and physiological consequences for early hominids and for all of their descendants, including ourselves."

In Paleobiological Implications of the Ardipithecus ramidus Dentition Gen Suwa et al conclude that the Ardi data suggests that "fundamental reproductive and social behavioral changes probably occurred in hominids long before they had enlarged brains and began to use stone tools."

I have not read all the articles yet, but as I contemplated this woodland origin of hominids, I thought of the aurochs, the ancestor of modern cattle. Although we raise cattle on open grasslands today, the Extinction Website states that the aurochs "appears to have preferred swamps and swamp woods, like river valleys, river deltas, and different kind of bogs. Beside swamp woods the aurochs shall also have lived in less wet forests." I have understood that this provides one reason cattle so easily damage open ranges compared to bison, i.e. cattle are naturally adapted to woodlands, and are more natural browsers than grazers.

Aurochs and wolves image source: The Extinction Website

The aurochs' range included North Africa, and I don't know if it ever ranged in the area where archaeologists unearthed Ardi (Ethiopia). Nevertheless, my mind went to consider the possibility that the hominid relationships with cattle and wolves (dogs) began in woodlands, not grasslands. Ardi is a fascinating find.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Brad Pilon on Losing Weight With Exercise

Brad Pilon of Eat Stop Eat has put up a nice video discussing why more exercise alone won't work to regulate weight.

Losing Weight With Exercise

Primal Potatoes, part 4

Red and white skinned sweet potatoes
Image source: Bon Appetit

As I mentioned in Paleo Potatoes, part 3, Bovell-Benjamin reports that “Early records have indicated that the sweet potato is a staple food source for many indigenous populations in Central and South Americas, Ryukyu Island, Africa, the Caribbean, the Maori people, Hawaiians, and Papua New Guineans” (1)

Sweet potato has also served as a staple for several other groups with high immunity to diseases of civilization, including Kitavans and Okinawans. It appears that this tuberous root has some unique components that may help explain why these groups sustain good health.

Note: I don't intend this as a promotion of a high carbohydrate, sweet potato based diet, just an exploration of the properties of this tuber.

Sweet potato component combats diabetes

Japanese researchers have isolated from the skin of the white-skinned sweet potato a component, known as Caiapo, that appears to have insulin-sensitizing antidiabetic and possibly antiatherogenic properties. Studies with diabetic patients have had positive results.

For example, Ludvik et al compared 12 weeks of Caiapo supplementation at 4 g/d with a placebo in a randomized, double blinded study with 61 clinically stable type 2 diabetes patients treated with diet alone (2). Thirty patients received Caiapo, and 31 received a placebo. After 3 months, The following results emerged:

• Average fasting blood glucose declined 15.2 mg/dl, from 143.7 mg/dl to 128.5, in the Caiapo group, but decreased only 6.1 mg/dl, from 144.3 to 138.2, in the placebo group. After 3 months of treatment, 48.3% of patients in the Caiapo group had fasting blood glucose levels below 126 mg/dl, the level diagnostic for diabetes.
• Average HbA1c declined from 7.21% to 6.68 in the Caiapo group, but increased from 7.04% to 7.10 in the placebo group. Caiapo performed better than either acarbose or nateglinide in controlling HbA1c.
• Average total lipoproteins (“cholesterol”) declined from 225.1 mg/dl to 214.6 in the Caiapo group, but increased from 240.9 to 248.7 in the placebo group.
• Average triglycerides declined from 211.6 mg/dl to 205.4 in the Caiapo group, but increased from 216.1 to 219.7 in the placebo group.
• Body mass declined in both groups, but to a greater degree in the Caiapo group (Caiapo, 3.7 kg; placebo, 1.0 kg).

Ludvik performed another study, this one lasting 5 months. “This study confirms the beneficial effects of Caiapo on glucose and HbA1c control in patients with T2DM after 5 months follow-up. Improvement of insulin sensitivity was accompanied by increased levels of adiponectin and a decrease in fibrinogen. Thus, Caiapo can be considered as natural insulin sensitizer with potential antiatherogenic properties” (3).

Of course, this Caiapo intervention did not perform anywhere near as well as a low carbohydrate diet, as discussed by Stephan here. Nevertheless, it did a pretty good job in the context of a high carbohydrate diet; perhaps it would have had a greater effect if the participants had also restricted their total carbohydrate intake. In any case, it appears that the sweet potato has unique properties perhaps not had by other starchy foods.

Miyazaki et al showed that the anti-diabetic components of the white skinned sweet potato “increased phagocytic activity and phagosome-lysosome fusion in neutrophils and monocytes in a dose-dependent manner” (4).

Caiapo found in orange sweet potato flesh as well as skin

Although Caiapo comes from the skin of the white sweet potato, a team from North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences “discovered that the Beauregard variety of sweet potatoes - which makes up about 85 percent of the production in North Carolina - has essentially the same protein patterns as a commercial dietary supplement known as Caiapo, marketed to control blood glucose in diabetics….. [and] that the protein content of the flesh of the Beauregard sweet potato was higher than that of the peel” (5).

How I Apply Sweet Potatoes In My Diet

As I have pointed out, you can eat sweet potatoes in moderation and still maintain a pretty low carbohydrate diet. Presently, I only eat one on each of the days that I spend glycogen in resistance training. Even on those days I don't go above a total of 150 grams of carbohydrate.

1. Bovel-Benjamin AC. Sweet potato: a review of its past, present, and future role in human nutrition. Adv Food Nutr Res. 2007;52:1-59.

2. Ludvik B, Neuffer B, Pacini G. Efficacy of Ipomoea batatas (Caiapo) on Diabetes Control in Type 2 Diabetic Subjects Treated With Diet. Diabetes Care 27:436–440, 2004.

3. Ludvik B, Hanefeld M, Pacini G. Improved metabolic control by Ipomoea batatas (Caiapo) is associated with increased adiponectin and decreased fibrinogen levels in type 2 diabetic
Diabetes Obes Metab. 2008 Jul;10(7):586-92. Epub 2007 Jul 21.

4. Miyazaki Y, Kusano S, Doi H, Aki O. Effects on immune response of antidiabetic ingredients from white-skinned sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas L.). Nutrition. 2005 Mar;21(3):358-62.

5. Stanard S. Researchers reveal sweet potato as weapon against diabetes.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Primal Potatoes, Part 2, Reply to Rambling Outside the Box

Well, my post Primal Potatoes, Part 2, appears to have struck some nerves. Drs Cynthia and David posted Primal Potatoes—a Contrary View at their blog, Rambling Outside the Box.

As I read their reply, I don’t see that they addressed the fundamental point of my post, which is that people eating low carbohydrate diets don’t have the same anaerobic capacity as people eating higher carbohydrate diets (although not necessarily “high” carbohydrate diets) that allow for greater glycogen storage. As I noted in my original post, even scientists who advocate ketogenic diets (e.g. Phinney, 1) accept this as an established fact and have demonstrated it themselves in controlled studies on keto-adapted athletes.

Cynthia and David report that one of my links to a reference did not work, so they started off their rebuttal by searching PubMed for the article. In such cases, I suggest asking me to correct it, or provide another avenue, rather than picking another article that has Fournier as an author, and assuming, perhaps wrongly, as in this case, that you have the right article in your hands.

In my post, the dead link referred to this article:

Fournier et al, Post-exercise muscle glycogen repletion in the extreme: effect of food absence and active recovery, International Society of Sports Nutrition Symposium, June 18-19, 2005, Las Vegas NV, USA

This paper includes this quote to which I referred:

“In fact, we store just enough glycogen to sustain our energy demands for only a few hours of intense aerobic exercise (Gollnick et al., 1973; Ivy, 1991), and so little glycogen is stored in our muscles that close to a third to half of these stores can be depleted within a few minutes of a maximal sprint effort (Gollnick et al, 1973; Fairchild et al., 2003). As a result, active individuals are at increased risks of experiencing a fall in their ability to engage not only in intense aerobic exercise (Ivy, 1991), but also in short sprint effort under situations eliciting fight or flight responses (Balsom et al., 1999; Fournier et al., 2002).”

Fournier et al here point out that even individuals on a mixed diet can experience declines in either intense aerobic or anaerobic (including fight or flight) performance due to glycogen depletion. It is reliably reproducible in experiment, so no one doubts it. I took this as the basis of my argument that human ancestors who did use tubers for starch intake would have had a selective advantage over those who did not, by having superior performance both in hunting related activities and in escape from predators.

Cynthia and David don't believe that glycogen depletes so quickly as claimed by Fournier et al. Let's take a look.

How rapidly does glycogen deplete?

Cynthia and David contend that the statement that close to a third to half of glycogen stores can deplete within a few minutes of a maximal sprint effort is “an exaggeration.” I disagree. Fournier et al make this statement based on research on glycogen depletion in man, some of which Lyle McDonald discusses in his book The Ketogenic Diet: A Complete Guide for the Dieter and Practitioner (Morris Publishing, 1998, pp. 120-123).

McDonald notes that researchers have collected data on glycogen levels under different conditions, including ketogenic diets, which I will now summarize:

• Supercompensated glycogen levels reach 175 mm/kg in trained athletes on high carbohydrate diets.

• Athletes on mixed diets have levels of 110-130 mmol/kg.

• Normal individuals on mixed diets have 80-100 mmol/kg.

• Normal individuals on ketogenic diets and doing no anaerobic training have 70 mmol/kg.

• Exercise performance will be impaired at 40 mmol/kg

• Exhaustion occurs at 15-25 mmol/kg.

• Protein gets converted to fuel during exercise when glycogen falls to 40 mmol/kg or below.

As McDonald points out, researchers in two studies (2, 4) have determined the rate at which glycogen gets consumed during such efforts. At 70% of maximum weight, both studies found a glycogen depletion rate of 0.35 mmol/kg/second of work performed. Translated to seconds:
• 30 second effort, 10 mmol/kg depleted
• 40 second effort, 14 mmol/kg depleted
• 50 second effort, 17 mmol/kg depleted
• 60 second effort, 21 mmol/kg depleted
• 70 second effort, 24 mmol/kg depleted
• 80 second effort, 28 mmol/kg depleted
• 90 second effort, 31 mmol/kg depleted

So, with this data you can see how an intense effort could deplete one-third to one-half of stored glycogen, depending on starting stores. If starting stores are 80 mmol/kg, and you engage in a 90 second lifting effort at 70% of maximum resistance, this will deplete 31 of 80 mmol, or 39% of glycogen, i.e. one-third to one-half.

Can recycled lactate replenish glycogen?

If an individual consumes no carbohydrate following glycogen-depleting exercise, a small amount of glycogen will get resynthesized from lactate. Now for some more numbers (McDonald cites Pascoe and Gladden, 2):

• Production of 1 mmol of glycogen consumes 2 mmol of lactate.

• Only about 20% of the lactate generated during anaerobic activity like weight training (bison lifting) can get converted back to glycogen.

• Lactate levels in muscle during intense anaerobic activity typically reach only 10-15 mmol, with a maximum of 21 mmol.

So, at 2 mmol of lactate per 1 mmol glycogen and an efficiency of only 20%, the lactate recycling would reconstitute only at most 2 mmol/kg of glycogen, an insignificant amount compared to original stores.

Low carbohydrate dieting does not make this process more efficient. One study looked at the rate of resynthesis of glycogen following resistance training absent carbohydrate intake, and found a rate of 1.9 mmol/kg/hr, with a total (maximum) regeneration of 4 mmol/kg (2).

I referred to the following carcass-carting episode as an example of anaerobic activity fueled by glycogen:

“In 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition witnessed an Indian bison kill ….A small herd was stampeded over a cliff into a deep, broad ravine. As the bison fell one on top of the other, dazed and injured, hunters killed those on top with spears; the others were crushed and suffocated underneath. The ravine was twelve feet wide and eight feet deep; most of the bulls weighed over a ton, yet a team of five Indian hunters pulled nearly all the bison out of the ravine onto level ground for butchering.” (3)

About this Cynthia and David say:

“In the example given of hauling a buffalo carcass out of a ravine, this activity may involve some anaerobic activity, but it will necessarily stretch over an extended period of time and be completed primarily using aerobic metabolism. There may be brief bursts of high intensity effort as needed, and there may even be bursts of extreme effort for particular heavy lifting tasks, but on average the task will necessarily be completed with levels of effort that can be sustained over hours not minutes. We suggest that hauling out a buffalo carcass would not necessarily require a lot of glycogen, and even if it did, would not necessitate gorging on potatoes or other carb food to replenish glycogen stores.”

First, this was not “a” bison carcass, it was a small herd. Next, each bison weighs 1500 or more pounds, the bulls over a ton, and only five men completed the task. The carcasses were hauled out of the ravine intact, for butchering on level ground. If all members of the team participated in lifting each carcass, this means each man had to deadlift and carry up out of a hole at least 300 and at times 400 or more pounds.

Cynthia and David say that this would be completed “primarily using aerobic metabolism.” I see it differently. Let me use a more contemporary example. Although a strength training routine consisting of 15 hard sets of 30-60 seconds each may involve rests of 3-5 minutes between sets, and aerobic metabolism would dominate during the rest periods, I would not say—and I don’t believe any exercise physiologist would argue-- that a strength training routine is “primarily” fueled by aerobic metabolism just because "on average” the level of effort could be sustained “over hours” by the insertion of rest periods.

The activity of interest here consists of lifting bison, not of the rest periods between lifts, and the question is, does this lifting deplete glycogen or not? The answer is, yes it does, regardless of rest between efforts.

Cynthia and David “suggest” that this “would not necessarily require a lot of glycogen…” Let's take a look.

As an experienced lifter, I believe that I can reasonably assume that the men lifting those bison out of the ravine were lifting not more than 70% of their maximum capacity, because they most likely would not have been able to repeat 10 or more such lift-and-haul operations (10 sets of the same movement) in one session if the resistance had been higher than 80% of their maximum.

OK, now let us generously assume the herd consisted of only 10 animals, and moving each animal out of the hole required only 30 seconds of intense effort (doubtful given the task, but roughly equivalent to a 5 to 8 repetition set of deadlifting). The result would be a depletion of 100 mmol/kg of glycogen. That seems like a lot to me, given that normal glycogen stores on a mixed diet amount to not more than 100 mmol/kg, and stores on a ketogenic diet amout to only 70 mmol/kg.

Now above I noted that research has demonstrated that in the absence of post-effort carbohydrate ingestion, lactate recyling only replenishes a maximum of 4 mmol/kg. So you hunt on an empty stomach, fasted for more than 16 hours, which already depletes your glycogen by 50%. Then you help lift 10 bison—your portion amounting to at least 300 pounds--out of a ravine, which would deplete something like 100 mmol/kg of glycogen. You then rely on lactate recycling to “replenish” your stores, and you end up with 4 mmol/kg—way below the exhaustion and impaired performance level. You can see that you will definitely have need for some substrate other than recycled lactate for replenishing glycogen.

Even if I cut the depletion estimate in half, we still have a scenario in which 50 mmol/kg gets depleted, leaving a person with normal stores (due to a mixed diet) at a level of 50 mmol/kg, and a person on a ketogenic diet with only 20 mmol/kg—still below the level of exhaustion. And the lactate recycling still only producees 4 mmol/kg, nowhere near enough to replenish even a third of the original stores.

The need for a substrate

Absent dietary carbohydrate, the only way out of this would consist of converting either endogenous (lean tissue) or exogenous (dietary protein) amino acids into glycogen, at a rate of 1 g protein for each 0.7 g of resulting glycogen. This is where my calculations in Primal Potatoes, part 2, come in.

Cynthia and David state “Glycogen stores can thus be regularly replenished (at least partially- enough to call on in emergencies) as needed even during prolonged aerobic exercise, even when fasting, to support the needs of occasional anaerobic activity.” I did not see anywhere in their discussion any mention of the substrate needed for replenishing glycogen. It does not magically replenish itself out of thin air. Cells have to have glucose to make glycogen, and the glucose has to come from something else: dietary glucose, dietary protein, body protein, or lactate. I just showed that lactate can’t supply enough glycogen to replenish what would get spent in this type of effort. Therefore, the body will use dietary or body protein for the task, in the absence of dietary carbohydrate, because it will replenish glycogen at the expense of muscle mass, since it is definitely more important to be able to run from a predator than to have an abundance of muscle.

Gorging on potatoes?

Cynthia and David say that even if this bison lifting would deplete glycogen, this “would not necessitate gorging on potatoes or other carb food to replenish glycogen stores.” I would like to know where in any post I have advocated “gorging on potatoes or other carb food,” or stated that our ancestors did this?

In my original post, I based all my calculations on replenishing only one-third of maximum glycogen stores (i.e. about 133 g), not on filling glycogen stores to the maximum. I agree with them that keeping the stores somewhat empty has advantages—that is why I calculated for refilling only one-third. To replenish one hundred thirty-three grams of glycogen would require only 133 g of dietary starch, only 532 calories as starch, 26% of a 2000 calorie diet. If gotten entirely from sweet potatoes, you would consume 16 ounces of sweet potato. Since most people consume three to five pounds (48 to 80 ounces) of food daily anyways, I would not classify this as “gorging on potatoes.”

Advantages of dietary carbohydrate

Cynthia and David take issue with my suggested advantages of using tubers. I suggested that consumption of tubers would “Lower dietary protein/meat requirement, reducing the pressure for success in hunting large animals, and making it possible to feed more people (offspring) with each kill.” They seem to think I expressed a “misconception” that eating less carbohydrate means eating more protein, not more fat. Well, besides the fact that eating very little carbohydrate does most certainly increase protein requirements (see below), they missed my point, which is that if you eat tubers, your total requirement for meat (the reason I used “protein/meat”) will reduce because you will now be using a plant food to supply some of your calories and glucose and to dilute protein.

In connection with this, I suggest reading “Energy Source, Protein Metabolism, and Hunter-Gatherer Subsistence Strategies,” in which Speth and Spielman point out that observers recorded recent aboriginal hunters in temperate, subarctic, and arctic habitats having difficulty meeting caloric requirements in late winter and early spring due to the decline in fat stores on ungulants making only lean meat available (5). Very likely Paleolithic hunters had similar difficulties.

Native hunters would at those times abandon a kill consisting of lean meat, despite feeling hungry and having invested considerable energy in the hunt of it, because they knew protein poisoning could occur. If these hunters had a plant source of carbohydrate (or fat), they would not have had to abandon their lean kills, which would have improved the efficiency of their hunting (i.e. less waste). It seems clear to me that this would confer an adaptive advantage. After all, would it not be better not to have to waste hunting effort (energy) on useless meat (because too lean), and would not having enough food confer an advantage over starvation?

Hunter-gatherers certainly thought so—and they weren’t averse to eating carbohydrate instead of fat in lean times. As Speth and Spielman note, “Hunter-gatherer exchange of meat with horticultural populations in return for carbohydrates is documented for many areas of the world” (5).


I also offered that having carbohydrate in the diet would reduce the burden on the liver for ammonia detoxification. They say “this is nonsense.” Well, I happen to believe that the burden on the liver will in fact vary according to the amount of protein consumed. I find it difficult to understand why anyone would call this nonsense. If I make an organ do more work, doesn’t that increase the burden upon it? Let me put it another way: If I make you do more work, doesn’t that increase your burden?

Cynthia and David say “Protein poisoning is just not a serious risk” and state that “protein consumption tends to be self-limiting at levels well below anything that would present any significant burden to the liver.” How then do they explain this report from Randolph B. Marcy in the winter of 1857-1858 , quoted by Speth and Spielman:

“We tried the meat of horse, colt, and mules, all of which were in a starved condition, and of course not very tender, juicy, or nutritious. We consumed the enormous amount of from five to six pounds of this meat per man daily, but continued to grow weak and thin, until, at the expiration of twelve days, we were able to perform but little labor, and were continually craving for fat meat.”(5)

Five to six pounds of meat supplies 560 to 672 g of protein daily, an amount that provides more nitrogen than the liver can convert to urea in a day (6). Since Marcy and his team got weak and thin on it, this illustrates that man can consume protein at levels that can burden the liver. If not so, no one would have ever experienced “rabbit starvation” and protein poisoning as referred to by Stefansson (quoted in Speth and Spielman):

“If you are transferred suddenly from a diet normal in fat to one consisting wholly of rabbit you eat bigger and bigger meals for the first few days until at the end of about a week you are eating in pounds three or four times as much as you were at the beginning of the week. By that time you are showing both signs of starvation and of protein poisoning. You eat numerous meals; you feel hungry at the end of each; you are in discomfort through distention of the stomach with much food and you begin to feel a vague restlessness. Diarrhoea will start in from a week to 10 days and will not be relieved unless you secure fat. Death will result after several weeks” (5)

In short, protein poisoning presents a serious risk, well known to aboriginal hunters, who would abandon lean meat to avoid it, despite having spent an enormous amount of energy hunting it down while starving.


Cynthia and David also claim that my statement that eating tubers would make it easier for a hunter to maintain and increase lean mass in response to the stresses of high intensity activity, with a lower dietary protein requirement, is “False!”

I guess they have never heard of the very well-established protein-sparing effects of dietary carbohydrate. Adding carbohydrate to a carbohydrate-free or very low carbohydrate diet reduces the amount of protein required for maintenance of lean mass, by supplying an alternative source of glucose. Absent dietary glucose, the liver generates glucose for maintaining normal blood glucose levels by gluconeogenesis, which is the conversion of amino acids into glucose. If you supply glucose directly, the liver will reduce gluconeogenesis, which reduces the use and need for dietary protein as a glucose source. This in turn means that the individual can maintain lean mass on less dietary protein. Simply put, the less dietary carbohydrate you ingest, the more protein you must ingest (enough for maintenance of lean mass plus some for generating variable amounts of glucose).

Low carb doesn't work magic

Let me repeat, low carb diets do not work magic. They do not enable the body to create blood glucose or glycogen out of thin air. They do not entirely eliminate the need for glucose, they just shift the individual from use of dietary glucose to endogenously produced glucose generated by gluconeogenesis (the reason for the high blood glucose they find after runs). They do not magically increase the efficiency of recycling of lactate into glycogen. They do not make it possible to consume unlimited calories without gain of body mass. They do not cause body fat to evaporate independent of energy expenditure. They do not eliminate the need to ingest essential micronutrients. They operate under all the same physical and biochemical laws as high carbohydrate diets.

Insulin spikes

On another topic, Cynthia and David state: “And carbohydrate consumption always causes blood insulin levels to spike, which has a whole series of negative consequences.” I don’t know if they have read “An insulin index of foods: The insulin demand generated by 1000 kJ portions of common foods” (7). This project demonstrated that protein-rich foods also cause insulin levels to rise, due to insulin also having a function of clearing amino acids from the blood stream. The insulin scores for beef and fish exceed those for several high carbohydrate foods (white pasta, brown pasta, porridge) and are comparable to others (brown rice, whole grain bread). While in general it is true that limiting carbohydrate reduces insulin responses, I would caution anyone against stating broadly that “carbohydrate consumption always causes blood insulin levels to spike,” without specifying what type of carbohydrate. Since dietary protein also causes release of insulin in amounts comparable to some carbohydrate sources, I suggest taking care not to assert that only carbohydrate causes insulin "spikes."

As another relevant aside, short-term, high intensity exercise also causes a “spike” in blood glucose levels along with an increase of insulin levels to 60 microU/ml, a 2-fold increase over resting values (2). Does this spike have “a whole series of negative consequences”? No. This spike has the function of promoting conversion of blood glucose into glycogen, an essential function for preserving fight or flight capacity. Not all spikes of insulin cause the sky to fall.

Finally, I suggest distinguishing between temporary spikes in insulin, and chronic hyperinsulinemia. The undesired effects of insulin arise from chronic hyperinsulinemia, not temporary rises in insulin levels, so long as those rises quickly subside.

To end, I will quote Speth and Spielman:

“The greater protein-sparing capacity of carbohydrate under conditions of marginal calorie or protein intake may also help to explain why hunter-gatherers in the early Holocene began to invest time and energy cultivating plants, despite the meager returns many of these cultigens
would have provided in their early stages of domestication.”

Not to belabor the obvious, but the Paleolithic lifestyle of hunting big game and tossing any animals with low body fat met up against ecological constraints that made it unsustainable. In response, I suggest that it appears that our ancestors looked for an option, and they discovered that carbohydrate could replace fat as a method of diluting protein, with superior results.


1. Phinney SD. Ketogenic diets and physical performance. Nutrition & Metabolism 2004, 1:2.
2. Pascoe DD and Gladden LB. Muscle glycogen resynthesis after short term, high intensity exercise and resistance exercise. Sports Med (1996) 21:98-118.
3. Eaton SB, Konner M, Shostak M. The Paleolithic Prescription. New York: Harper& Row, 1988.
4. Robergs RA et al. Muscle glycogenolysis during different intensities of weight-resistance exercise. J Appl Physiology (1991) 70:1700-1706.
5. Speth JD and Spielman KA. Energy Source, Protein Metabolism, and Hunter-Gatherer Subsistence Strategies. J Anthro Archaeo 2, 1-31 (1983).
6. Rudman et al, Maximal Rates of Excretion and Synthesis of Urea in Normal and Cirrhotic Subjects, J Clin Invest. 1973 September; 52(9): 2241–2249.
7. Holt SHA, Brand-Miller J, Petocz P. An insulin index of foods: The insulin demand generated by 1000 kJ portions of common foods. Am J Clin Nutr 1997:66:1264-76.