Thursday, November 17, 2011

Twenty-one Day "Daniel Fast" Reduces Insulin Levels by 23%

Also improves multiple metabolic markers

The Biblical book of Daniel includes a description of what some assert to be the first dietary clinical trial recorded in "Western" literature.  In Daniel 1:8-16 (NIV) we find:

"But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, 'I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.' Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 'Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.' So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.  So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. "
Daniel 10:2-3 provides a similar passage:
"At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over." 
I wonder if these passages might provide some cognitive dissonance for Judeao-Christian followers of low-carbohydrate diets, at least those who take the Bible as guidance from God.

Whether your consider these passages history or fiction, it seems likely to me that the author(s) had some experience that informed it.  The author(s) evidently believed that 'royal food' including meat and wine pollutes and corrupts humans, and that a 10-21 day diet consisting exclusively of "vegetables" would make a person look "healthier and better nourished" than a royal diet, although at that time the meat would have come from grass-finished animals and the wine from 'organically grown' fruits.

Susan Gregory has written a book about the Daniel Fast, so-called because the follower abstains from animal foods and alcohol, while having ad libitum intake of unrefined plant foods.  The book apparently focuses on the 'fast' as a religious, not health care, method.   I myself would not call a eating plan that allows you to eat unlimited plant foods a 'fast.'  To me, doing so sort of implies that you believe that only animal products, not plants, qualify as food.  So I prefer to call this the Daniel Diet.

However, Bloomer et al decided to find out how 21 days on the Daniel Diet affects human health.

They enrolled 43 subjects ranging in age from 20 to 62, six of whom reported adhering to a 'vegetarian' diet before doing the 'fast.'  Bloomer et al give more details:

"Forty-four subjects (13 men; 31 women) were initially recruited to participate and were enrolled in this study. The mean age of subjects was 35 ± 1 years, with a range of 20-62 years. One female subject had a diagnosis of well-controlled type II diabetes (and used oral hypoglycemic agents), and one male subject had a history of coronary artery bypass graft surgery (and used both a statin and Plavix®). Three subjects were hypertensive upon enrollment (BP≥140/90 mmHg; 2 men and 1woman) and seven had hypercholesterolemia (total cholesterol > 200 mg·dL-1; 1 man and 6 women). One man used a beta blocker and one man used an anti-depressant. Three women used anti-depressants, six used oral contraceptives, two used estrogen replacement, two used a sleep aid, one used a statin, and one used an angiotensin II receptor antagonist."
Bloomer et al describe the 'fast' here:
"A Daniel Fast involves ad libitum intake of specific foods, but the food choices are restricted to essentially fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and oil. This plan resembles a vegan diet, which has been reported to yield health enhancing properties [16,17]. However, a Daniel Fast is more stringent, in that aside from the exclusion of all animal products, there are no processed foods, white flour products, preservatives, additives, sweeteners, flavorings, caffeine, or alcohol allowed in this plan."
Apparently the subjects liked the intervention:

"Subjects noted that they enjoyed the ad libitum nature of the plan, as well as the wide variety of food choices. In fact, most subjects reported that they would continue implementing many components of the plan into their previous diets."

The following table shows the dietary data of the subjects during the final 7 days of the Daniel 'fast.'

Some notes on the nutritional profile of the 'fast':
  • Total protein intake declined by about one-third, but the average remained at the level recommended for a lean 77 kg/171 pound man.
  • Total carbohydrate intake declined by only about 20 g per day, but as a percentage of calories, total carbohydrate intake increased from 53% to 62%.
  • Fiber intake increased by more than 50% (up 14 g per day)
  • Fat intake declined by 20 g per day, and from 30% of energy to 27% of energy
  • Saturated fat intake declined from 24 g per day to 9 g per day, a reduction of 63%.
  • Polyunsaturated fat intake increased by only 1 g.
  • Omega 3 intake increased by 87 mg (12%) daily.
  • Vitamin C intake increased by about 50 mg daily, but remained at only about 120 mg daily, indicating a rather low intake of vegetables and fruits by my standards.  A produce-dominated diet can easily supply 400+ mg of vitamin C daily, so this diet probably was dominated by grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds low in vitamin C.
  • Vitamin E intake increased by almost 50%.

 The following three tables show some of the changes that occurred over 21 days on the Daniel Fast:

Notable improvements in table 1 include decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, body weight, and body fat.  This study did not find a marked average decline in body weight and body fat mass primarily because almost half (21) of the subjects were classified as normal weight at the outset of the study; these lean people didn't lose weight, so they diluted the weight loss average.  

Fat free mass declined by an average of 1.7 kg, which could have been water or muscle; we can't determine which from this data in table 1 alone.  However, since blood pressure and insulin levels (data below) dropped significantly, I would expect that this lean mass loss consisted primarily of a significant loss of sodium and water in the 10 overweight and 13 obese subjects in the study (because insulin increases sodium retention, hence water retention and blood pressure).

The subjects did report a small decline in mental health.  According to Bloomer et al, "Through completion of a post fast questionnaire, subjects reported that the main enervation of their mental health was the omission of caffeine."  In other words, they had caffeine withdrawal syndrome.


Notable improvements listed in table 3 include:
  • Reduced blood sugar
  • Reduce Blood Urea Nitrogen
  • Slightly reduced AST and ALT, possibly indicating healthier liver function
 Notable improvements:

  • Total cholesterol declined about 30 points to less than 150 mg/dL, a level thought to confer virtual immunity to heart attack and found by Esselstyn to allow reversal of atherosclerosis.
  • Triglycerides declined by about 12%.
  • LDL-C declined to about 76 mg/dL, a level found in wild animals, hunter-gatherers, and newborn infants.
In addition:

"Insulin (pre: 4.42 ± 0.52 vs. post: 3.37 ± 0.35 μU·mL-1; p = 0.10), HOMA-IR (pre: 0.97 ± 0.13 vs. post: 0.72 ± 0.08; p = 0.10), and CRP (pre: 3.15 ± 0.91 vs. post: 1.60 ± 0.42 mg·L-1; p = 0.13) were lowered in a clinically meaningful manner, although this decline failed to reach statistical significance."
This whole foods diet rich in carbohydrates produced a 23% decline in insulin levels, a 26% decline in insulin resistance (measured by HOMA-IR),  and a 49% decline in C-reactive protein, indicating a substantial decline in inflammation.  Although not statistically significant, these are clinically very significant reductions boding well for these subjects.

Did the Daniel Diet affect obese people differently from lean?  Apparently not.

"Although our intention with this study was not to make comparisons between normal weight and overweight/obese subjects, in an attempt to clarify our findings we also analyzed data using a 2 (weight status: normal weight vs. overweight/obese) × 2 (pre/post fast) analysis of variance. No interaction effects were noted for any variable (p > 0.05), indicating that normal weight and overweight/obese subjects respond to the Daniel Fast in a similar manner."
Although not inspired by the Bible, Tracy and I have been eating mostly (well more than 99%) plant foods for a couple of months now, as an ongoing experiment.  We differ from the Daniel Fast in that we have emphasized eating more like a wild chimp or gorilla: lots of green leaves, non-green vegetables (including starchy vegetables), fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds, while limiting whole grains, not including them every day or in large amounts. 

Compared to my previous experiments with diets containing minimal or no animal products, I have recently focused on eating larger amounts of green and starchy vegetables, nuts, and seeds, with limited amounts of beans, even more limited whole grains.  In those past experiments I ate very limited amounts of nuts and seeds but large amounts (2-3 times daily) of whole grains including substantial amounts of home-made whole wheat breads (both sourdough and yeasted) on most days. Now I have many days with no grains at all, and very little wheat in comparison.

We have so far responded very favorably to this produce-dominated, 99%+ plant food approach.  We'll see how it progresses.

30 comments:

FredT said...

and the total calories reduced by 26 percent. Interesting.

Thanks Don.

Renaud said...

Interesting study. And this is a very notable observation :

"It is interesting to note that even those subjects who were vegetarian prior to starting the fast experienced dramatic reductions in total and LDL-C, in addition to improvements in other markers. Clearly, the exclusion of meat from the diet (as is the case for vegetarians) is not the only dietary factor involved in raising circulating cholesterol and other risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic disease. It is possible that multiple dietary factors, inclusive moderate and high fat dairy products, as well as processed and packaged foods containing trans fats, simple carbohydrates, and various additives and preservatives can negatively affect the variables included in the present design. Future study is needed to investigate this effect."

Derek H said...

Don-

This should really get the paleo crowd going, referencing the bible.

What do you believe their "vegetables" would have consisted of. Would they had significant amount of starch? I assume wheat and barley dominated the food landscape in the middle east at the time this was written.

Derek H said...

This should really get the bulk of the paleo crowd fired up, referencing the bible.

What do you believe the "vegetables" referenced would have consisted of. I would assume that wheat and barley would have dominated the food landscape in the middle east at this time, with limited beans and nuts.

Thoughts?

Kevin Hughes said...

"we have emphasized eating more like a wild chimp"

and thinking like one too. Wasn't Daniel one of the "teach a man to fish" crowd? Why then would the lesson not have been "give a man a vegetable and feed him for a day, but teach him to grow and pick vegetables...etc.?

Steve B. said...

Don, I recently stumbled upon your blog and have been reading all of your posts over the last few years. I commend your honesty and flexibilty in diet, where you try to read and investigate ALL opinions and ALL research--not just those that conform to Paleo, low-carb, or whatever.

Like yourself, I have tried many different approaches to diet over the last five years or so, however it wasn't always like that for me. I am retired military (USMC) and I pursued many athletic endevours over the course of 25 years--I have competed as an amateur bodybuilder, boxing, mixed martial arts, and have a few trophies for winning 10k races--all in addition to the rigors of the infantry life. I was a product of the 80's dietary philosophy; Back when low-fat was the "in" thing, I took it too extreme. For the better part of those 25 years, my diet was practically fat-free--in fact, I ate no meat at all. My protein came from whey and egg protein powders and I ate a ton of carbs, like bread, pretzels, pasta, vegetables, and no fruit at all. Before I retired, I could outperform 90% of Marines half my age--and I was strong as an ox, squatting well over 400 lbs. for reps at a body weight of less than 170 lbs.

After retirement, I worked several very physical blue collar jobs before landing a position as software architect. I continue to eat my no fat, high carb diet. Then, I discovered all of the various diet blogs on the web--this at a time when low carb was all the rage. Suddenly, I learned that everything I had been doing was wrong--in fact, I should be diabetic and near death according to what I was reading. How could I have eaten a macro ratio for 25 years that looked like 80 carb/5 fat/15 protein all that time and seemed to thrive. I remember my blood numbers from my retirement physical: Total-C:156, HDL:45, LDL:101, Trigs:60--hardly the numbers of a heart attack candidate that all of those carbs should have made me.

Anyway, I thought I should give the low-carb diet a shot--after all, these folks published reams of research (which I didn't realize was cherry-picked at the time) to back their claims. I gave it an honest try, on at least three different occasions--the promised health benefits never materialized for me. Although I would feel good at first, ultimately my workouts suffered, I was less lean, and my general mental state suffered. I get so sick of people insisting you can't get lean on "high-carb". Bullshit! My leanest times (and I mean ripped, like I can see every vein in my torso) were all when carbs were highest and fats were lowest in my diet. In fact, after each time I failed with high fat/low carb, when I returned to my normal diet, the same food that kept me lean before was suddenly making me puffy--thanks to the wonderful adaption of insulin resistance from cutting carbs next to nothing.

I was happy to see that you also don't buy into the "Americans are fat from eating low-fat diets" theory. People sometimes confuse marketing trends with reality. Just because the government was promoting low-fat and the grocery store shelves were lined with products boasting "Fat-Free" does not mean people actually eating. If you look at actual data from the USDA and the World Health Organization you will actuall find that the consumption of total fat actually increased (especially in the form of added fats to packaged foods) in the so called low-fat era. Bottom line: Americans were not eating low-fat then and they are still not today.

Another thing that disturbs me is when the paleo followers start adding carbs to their diets, put on some weight, and swear it is the sweet potato that made them fat--in fact, it's all the damn butter, coconut oil, and bacon grease you are eating with it. People overlook the simple fact that as long as your body has enough carbs to use at fuel, it will deposit most of the fat consumed as bodyfat--they fail to reduce fat intake when increasing carb intake. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

Steve B. said...

These days, I have eliminated the breads and processed foods as carb sources. My carb staple is a concoction of three whole grains, mixed together and cooked like rice (hulled barley, rye berries, oat groats). Meat is minimal, most of my protein comes from egg and whey protein powder. Every day I have a huge salad and sometimes sweet potatoes. It is VERY easy lose too much weight on this diet. It seems I can eat a ton of this stuff and not gain an ounce of body fat.

Don said...

FredT,

Spontaneous caloric reduction via a whole foods diet.

Renaud,

Thanks for that. I wanted to incorporate it.

Derek,

I would have to do research on that but I would guess they had many non-starchy vegetables and fruits as well as barley, lentils, chickpeas, millets, and wheat.

Kevin Hughes,

Sorry, I don't get your meaning.

How does this post illustrate thinking like a chimp?

And how do you know how a chimp thinks?

Steve B,

Your experience is in some ways similar to mine.

Steve B. said...

Don, there is one thing that I have tried recently that seems to work well; I'm sure you are familiar with the "CKD" method, where people cycle carbs--very low carb all week, then carb up on the weekend. Well, I have done just the opposite--very low fat/high carb all week, then very low carb/high fat on the weekend. There is a method to my madness. Remember the post you made recently regarding "fat balance"? I think there is a great deal of truth in that. On my high fat days, the bulk of my fat comes from plant sources (nuts/peanuts) and I have a fatty fish such as salmon. I can literally eat 4500+ calories for two days straight (sometimes as many as 4 days) and not gain bodyfat. I think this happens because in addition to not providing carbs for fuel, I have not yet reached "fat balance"--were I to continue this for a week or more, I start gaining weight because I have positive fat balance and I'm consuming more than I can burn.
Anyway, it seems to work well so far. I can get the essential fats and benefits of the fatty foods without going overboard,I can stay lean at the same time and avoid the drawbacks of being full-time low carb--sort of giving me the best of both worlds.

Jenny said...

Very interesting post. I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian and we fast by eating vegan almost half of the year. Our fast consists of no meat or dairy for most Wednesdays and Fridays during the year and for certain periods (like Lent). However, we do not gorge on vegan foods during fast periods; fasting includes portion control.

The fast is prescribed as a spiritual discipline (not for weight loss). However, I lost a lot of weight (120 pounds) by following the fast. Most of my carbs are from vegetables and fruit and not grains, although I do eat grains.

Chris said...

Do I understand correctly that you practically ate a vegan diet the last couple of month?

I've been browsing through your blog and I can see that you revised your thinking in a lot of things from meat-fat-based to plant-based but would you now endorse a vegan diet?

Even though I come from the paleo/primal camp and I had good results, mainly fat-loss and body re-composition with a relatively high-fat/low-carb diet, I find your ideas very interesting. Mainly because I had no changes in other important parts of well-being(sleep requirements, motivation, muscle-tension, etc)

I've incorporated more starches(mainly potatoes), more fruits, more vegetables and less meat in my diet. But I haven't seen any changes in well-being so far, mainly I was hoping for my constant muscle tension in my upper-back to resolve.

I personally find it harder now to eat enough calories with more starches, fruits and vegetables than before with my high-fat/high-protein diet as I have to eat around 3000kcal a day.

ejazz1 said...

I've followed the dash diet since I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2004, even though I still eat small portions of meat (mostly chicken & turkey, very little pork, no beef)
fish and nonfat dairy and like the Daniel Fast diet I do not eat anything made from white flour and white rice and very little sugar. I have significantly improved my health. I also had high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. I lost 150 lbs in 1 1/2 years and have kept it off since. My a1c has been 4.2 for the last 6 years and blood pressure is normal. My hdl was 40 ldl 140's triglycerides 387.
My last cholesterol test a few months ago was hdl 68, ldl (calculated ) 86, trigs 61.
My diet has an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grain products, legumes, and nuts.
I never counted carbs when I was diagnosed and chose the dash diet because it addressed all my health concerns. Also I read several articles stating the importance of a high fiber diet in controlling blood sugar levels. I usually eat between 60 to 70 grams of fiber per day. I did the complete opposite of what type II diabetes are told to do in terms of carbs and still have this disease under control. A few months ago I started to read and comment on several diabetes forums curious to see if other type 2's follow a diet similar to mine, a majority of people follow low carb. I think blogs like yours and others are important to give an more objective view on nutrition rather than espousing only one viewpoint.

Steve B. said...

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with referencing religion. Who says that one who is interested in scientific analysis must be an atheist. Isaac Newton has been estimated to have had one of the highest IQ's in human history, in addition to establishing a foundation of physics and mathematics, without which modern engineering as we know it would not exist. What many don't know is that Newton was a deeply religious man and actually published more religious works than he did on science or mathematics!
I have my own religion based idea regarding our constant, but still fruitless, pursuit of dietary perfection and the fountain of youth. For example, from a purely scientific point of view, a "Paleo" diet, one which has been theorized to have been the human diet for hundreds of thousands of years prior to agriculture, should guarantee perfect health, right? Well, so far this has not proven to be true. You can study all the hunter-gatherer tribes you want--they get old, get sick, and die too, often at a much younger age than their modern, industrialized cousins in Tokyo.
I won't quote the Bible directly, because the quote is different, depending on which version you read. In Genesis, Adam and Eve, for their sins, are cast out of the Garden of Eden to live off the land by the "sweat of their brow". Whatever it was we were originally intended to eat was no longer available from that point forward. That said, what if everything we have used for food, whether hunted and gathered or obtained by agriculture, is ALL food we can get by on and adapt to, but is still not was God originally had in mind for us? What if, no matter how much we research or how hard we try, we will never find dietary utopia because we permanently screwed ourselves with original sin? Sometimes, I envy the retards eating at McDonald's every day who never even think about what they shove in their mouths while I drive myself nuts researching and experimenting with diets--because in the end, I'm gonna' die, just like them, and maybe sooner from the stress of thinking about this stuff all the time.

Mike deCock said...

"they fail to reduce fat intake when increasing carb intake. You can't have your cake and eat it too. "

I'm on a very low carb diet because it works for me. Once every week or two, I eat some potatoes because I enjoy them. I also keep very strict calorie counts.

After reading much of what Don and Paul Jaminet have been writing, I tried incorporating some potatoes into my diet every day. Not much, just 20-40 carb grams worth per day. I made no other changes in diet or activity levels.

I also made sure to keep the calorie count the same. In other words, I reduced my fat intake and maintained protein at a moderate level.

The result was two weeks of consistent weight gain, higher post prandrial blood sugar levels and higher fasting BSL. I am not diabetic. My BSL stays in a very narrow range between 85 and 95 and rarely exceeds 105 after a meal including potatoes.

After removing the daily starches, my weight loss resumed its former trend and my BSL dropped back down. None of the changes were dramatic but it was significant enough for me to be confident that increasing carbs isn't the right move for me at this time.

This was a minor change from 7% carbs to 14% carbs and strictly isocaloric. Rationalize it any way you want, but to claim that people gain weight because they fail to adjust their fat intake is false, at least in my case.

MM said...

There is no doubt in my mind that the Daniel fast helped these people. When a person is in a state of chronic energy excess, cutting back on energy intake is going to help no matter how it is accomplished. However, I think you're missing the point of the bible story. It isn't that we should all be eating only vegetables. The point is that God intervened and helped Daniel to remain vigorous and healthy despite the scanty diet he was eating.

Daniel 10:15 "And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat." KJV

I sort of doubt the people on the Daniel fast are going to be "fatter in flesh" afterward. This is an example of God helping Daniel, not a recommendation to eat a vegan diet.

MM said...

Oops, that should be Daniel 1:15.

lightcan said...

I'm trying to do a Greek-orthodox type of fast before Christmas including rice, vegetables, fruit, some beans, nuts, little olive oil and fish only on certain days like the week-end and special religious feast days. The religious aspect is rather a template for me, a plan to follow. I find it difficult though to create tasty dishes for myself (I'm the only one in the family doing it), and to have something handy besides fruit and soups. Can you suggest some types of meals?

Don said...

Steve B,

Glad that works for you. Possibly you gain some fat mass, too small to be noticed (i.e. a few ounces or so), on weekends, then lose it during your low fat periods.

Jenny,

Congratulations on your body transformation.

Chris,

I wouldn’t say I am endorsing a vegan diet, although I encourage anyone to experiment freely.

In my experience, besides practicing mindfulness and stress-reduction, the only dietary change Tracy and I have found to reduce unwanted muscle tension is complete elimination of animal protein. This is one reason I have continued with my current almost-vegan diet for the past couple of months. It has helped both of us release a lot of chronic tension and increase flexibility. The change has been gradual and we aren’t completely free of the tensions we want to drop, but each week I see improvement.

To meet my caloric requirements without animal products, I eat a large amount of nuts and seeds. I probably eat ½ to 1 cup of nuts and 2-4 tablespoons of nut butter every day. Tracy doesn’t need this amount of fat/ calories so she eats more beans and less nuts.

Our primary focus is on eating lots of vegetables (especially green leaves), fresh fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds, with me eating more nuts/seeds and Tracy eating more beans. Tracy has rather effortlessly lost all the fat she gained while eating ‘paleo’, and then some, without any portion control or counting calories.

Don said...

Ejazz1,

I am glad that plant-dominated eating has helped you as it has many others. Its really not new, just outside the box.

Mike,

If you kept your energy intake constant but increased your carbohydrate to 14% of calories and consumed about 15-25% as protein, then you still had a 60-70% i.e. high fat diet.

Under those circumstances, your body would naturally use more dietary glucose at 14% carbohydrate than at 7% carbohydrate, which would reduce its utilization of fat.

20-40 g of carbohydrate yields 80-160 kcalories, roughly the same as 9-18 g fat, or 2-3 teaspoons.

If when you switched to 14% carbs, this 9-18 g fat became excess each day, and you stored all of this excess dietary fat as body fat, over a week you would gain between 63 and 162 g of body fat, i.e. between 2 and 6 ounces. Most home scales can’t detect gains this small. In two weeks you would gain between 4 and 12 ounces. This again falls outside the detection capabilities of most home scales and is actually well within natural weight fluctuations due to water/salt balance, fecal accumulation, diurnal cycles, etc.

If you eat more carbohydrate, especially while maintaining a high fat intake, your post-meal blood sugar will naturally be higher…what else can you expect? After a meal high in protein, blood amino acids also skyrocket due to the influx of food-derived amino acids. This is not pathology it is physiology.

So long as you maintain a high fat intake while also releasing body fat for utilization, your cells will be saturated with fats they can use for energy, so they will not be able to efficiently utilize incoming diet-derived blood sugar. Glucose will not get into the cells very quickly due to the backlog of fat, so you will have an increase in fasting blood sugar. This again is physiology, not pathology.

Don said...

MM,

As I quoted, in the NIV, the passage reads: “At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” The KJV uses ‘fairer and fatter in flesh” instead of ‘healthier and better nourished.’ Clearly, not everyone thinks that the original story has Daniel getting ‘fat’ on the vegetable diet.

In the passage quoted, Daniel wasn’t forced to give up royal food, he 'resolved not to defile himself' with it, and asked permission from the chief official 'not to defile himself this way.'

IOW, Daniel believes that the royal food will make him defiled/ unhealthy, but because the official believes the opposite, Daniel had to ask for the vegetable diet, otherwise he would have gotten the meat, wine, etc. that would have kept him in the same condition as the others who continued to eat those things.

If Daniel has God’s favor, why does he ask or need to ask for the vegetable diet? Why didn't he just ask God to protect him from the defiling effects of the royal food? Couldn't God do this just as easily and miraculously as making Daniel healthy on a diet of only vegetables (which I guess you assume would have otherwise made him unhealthy)?

Regarding what the Bible may recommend for human diet, I have read Genesis 1:29-30, here’s the NIV version:

’29. Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.’
http://www.biblica.com/bibles/chapter/?verse=Genesis+1&version=niv

Genesis 3:18 NIV says:

“ It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.”

http://www.biblica.com/bible/search/

In neither of these passages does the author portray God giving animals to humans for use as foods. In fact, the author seems to believe that God originally intended for humans and animals ("everything that has the breath of life in it") to use only green and seed-bearing plants for food. The passages make no mention of God giving animals, meat, eggs, or milk, as food.

I see the sun and rain, light and darkness, warmth and cold fall equally on all people regardless of ethnic heritage, or moral or religious belief.

MM said...

The reason Daniel didn't want to eat the royal food isn't because he thought the meat would make him unhealthy. It is because the animal the meat came from could have been used as a sacrifice to a pagan god first, or it could have been from a forbidden animal (pig). It would have gone against the Mosaic law to eat it, and would have offended God. It was also supposed to be a demonstration of the God's power that Daniel could be healthier on an all veggie diet than the others who were eating meat. I suppose if you want to use the bible to justify a vegan diet you can do it, but I don't think this Daniel story works for that.

Sue said...

Don, maybe you didn't suit a lot of meat. Did you ever check your homocysteine level.
I think you will feel good on vegan for a while then you may have need for more protein in meats.
Maybe you should cycle between vegan and omnivore.

Sue said...

You say Tracy lost weight effortlessly. Does she know if that weight was mostly made up of fat or muscle? I think its important to distinguish that.
The tension you guys are feeling - what exactly does this mean? Did you have a lot of uric acid in your body from eating meat? Your body not very good at breaking it down and excreting it.

Don said...

Sue,

Tracy lost fat, not muscle...I know because she lost no strength, and skinfold testing as well as the fit of her clothes and the mirror clearly show that she lost subcutaneous fat.

I get protein from greens, nuts, seeds, beans. Meat is not the only food with protein in it. In fact, on a calorie for calorie basis, greens like kale supply more protein than meat and almost twice as much as nuts.

I don't know exactly what causes the increase in stiffness, but I think it arises from reduced blood flow and accumulation of uric acid and ammonia in the blood. High protein diets provide excess protein that gets metabolized to ammonia, and they also increase sympthetic nervous system activity that constricts blood vessels. The way we ate (high fat, low carb) has also been shown to make the blood more sticky and less fluid, which impairs removal of wastes from the muscles.

MM,

I have to wonder why the authors of the Bible depict their God as so easily offended by what people eat, if it has nothing to do with health. Wouldn't a worthy leader make his laws to protect his people from harm and disease, not just demand obedience to arbitrary ceremonies and food lists?

I also have to wonder, if this God is loving and all-powerful, why didn't He just forgive Daniel for eating non-kosher food under duress?

After reading this research that shows that after 21 days, people following that all vegetable diet are demonstrably healthier than people on royal food (i.e. the standard American diet), I wonder if it explains why we find that passage in Daniel.

Its not that God intervened, its that if you take people who have been eating a royal diet and put them on just plant foods for 10-21 days, they experience some important and measurable health improvements, so, like Daniel, they look healthier than their neighbors who continue to eat royal foods.

MM said...

Don,

I think you must not be too familiar with the Old Testament, because otherwise you would know that the consequences for offending God or disobeying his commands were very severe, like death. Here are some examples: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Examples_of_God_personally_killing_people

I have no explanation for this behavior of God's, but it's all there in the bible if you care to find it.

Daniel would have been well aware of this history at least up to the time he lived. The take home message is not that if he prayed really hard God would give him an exemption, but rather that if he wanted to keep God's favor he'd better keep the Mosaic Law. Since Daniel was living in a pagan household (I assume you know the circumstances here.), he had no control over nor any way to find out where the meat he was being served came from, how it was prepared, or if it had been used in a pagan ritual. Same goes with the wine. In order to be absolutely certain he was keeping kosher he had to opt out of meat and wine and just stick with veggies. In return for being obedient to God, Daniel was rewarded with vibrant health. Daniel would have been eating less calories during this period, but rather than losing weight and looking gaunt he was actually bigger and stronger than his counterparts. Daniel was also given the power to interpret dreams. This was all meant to show the pagans that Daniel's God was better and more powerful than their pagan gods. This is a recurring theme in the OT. The Israelites were always trying to show their God was better than the pagan gods. The people you refer to in this study were overweight and needed to lose weight in order to regain health. Daniel on the other hand was working hard and had no need to lose weight, but instead was expected to bulk up so he could be a big, strong servant in the king's household.

This is a really terrible story to use for justifying a vegan diet, because the message about diet if there is one is not that God wants us to be vegan, but that if you want to be strong and healthy on a vegan diet it takes a minor miracle.

I hate religious discussions, but I can't let this go because using religion to justify a particular diet (usually an extreme one) is a very bad idea. The problem is that if people on the diet start to have problems they feel like they can't make a change because they're convinced this is the way God wants them to eat. I know, because I've been there.

Don said...

MM,

Since I'm a non-believer, I'm not using the Bible to justify any type of diet.

I am quite familiar with the Bible's contents since I was made to memorize many passages as a youth. I am well aware of how the old testament portrays God.

"The people you refer to in this study were overweight and needed to lose weight in order to regain health. "

Almost half of the people in this study were NOT overweight, and many of them were physically active. Those who were not overweight did NOT lose weight; that's why the weight loss results on average were not spectacular.

"This is a really terrible story to use for justifying a vegan diet, because the message about diet if there is one is not that God wants us to be vegan, but that if you want to be strong and healthy on a vegan diet it takes a minor miracle."


I didn't see anywhere in the story where it says that God intervened to make them healthy despite a vegan diet. The only divine intervention I see mentioned is "God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel."

I don't know if there is any 'message' to this story except that a hero of the Bible asked for an all vegetable diet, got it, and after 10 days he looked healthier than the people eating royal food; afterwhich he continued to eat a vegan diet ("So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.").

Then the same book tells the story that on another occasion this same hero chose to eat an all vegetable diet for 21 days during a mourning period.

This piece of scientific research confirms that if you eat a "Daniel Fast" for 21 days, you will not become weak and sickly, in fact you will very likely gain some health benefits. Whether or not that is a good thing to do indefinitely isn't even a matter of discussion herein.

Renaud said...

Mike, Don:

I'm "paleo", roughly positioned between Don and Paul. I don't buy the so called "metabolic advantage", but i think there is some metabolic diferences.

The body need some carbs. These "carb calories" built from proteines have a cost (digestion, plus conversion), so geting them directly from carbs also lead to a little excess availlable calories (on an isocaloric intake).

X said...

I do believe the "King's food" included meat sacrificed to idols. Daniel was merely abstaining from idolatry; and his dietary results were meant to be a sign of God's favor. Taking this as the Bible's endorsement of a particular diet would be taking the account out of context.

Michael said...

1 Timothy 2

1 Timothy 4

New International Version (NIV)

4 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

6 If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters,[a] you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.

Don said...



" How then, after my nirvana, can you eat the flesh of living beings
and so pretend to be my disciple? You should know that those who eat meat, though their minds may open and realize a semblance of Samadhi, are but great raksasas who,
after this life, will sink back into the bitter ocean of samsara
and cannot be my disciples. They will kill and devour one another ceaselessly; how then can they escape from the three worlds of existence?"

Attributed to the Buddha in the Surangama Sutra. http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/surangama.pdf page 215

Interesting how this teaching differs from Paul's.