I know, I know, I’ve been MIA forever. Sorry about that folks!!

After my last article, I suffered from major burn out. I was working 60hrs/wk and then on top of that I was trying to make sure I was pumping out new articles regularly. Generally in the morning before work I would start my research of the next topic I would write about, collect data, and then pump out an article. This became a problem because my need for personal time got kicked to the side too much and it said “alright dude! Time to relax!!!”, and so without warning, I kinda went off the radar.

Fret not, though, my faithful followers! I am not gone, I am not out, I am alive! Nutrition and health is what I do, and that will never change, so therefore, this blog will never go away (unless it moves somewhere, but even then I’d announce that) and I’m going to keep on keeping on!

Does this mean I’m going to be adding more material regularly? We’ll see. Right now I’m studying my brain out for my NCBTMB exam, for which I have to know a crazy amount of anatomy and physiology I have previously forgotten over the years. This takes up a good deal of time for me. But I’m hoping that things will get better within the next month or two. Either way, I’m going to do everything I can to start bringing in new articles at least on a semi-regular basis this year. I’m also going to look in to setting up a spiffy Facebook account.

But enough about me, you want to know about the science. Well let’s talk about what’s been going on lately.

 

Good news for saturated fat!

 

Just last month an article was published in the BMJ titled Saturated fat is not the major issue. In it, the author argues against the widespread misconception about saturated fats correlating with heart disease. It’s really nice to see this issue gaining more traction in the mainstream literature and even in the media as well. Just recently ABC’s documentary TV show Catalyst ran a two-part program on the same topic, called Heart of the Matter. Part 1: Dietary Villains discusses the history and science of what’s called the diet-heart hypothesis (the idea that eating saturated fat and cholesterol increases the cholesterol in your blood and therefore increases your risk of heart disease). Throughout the first episode, interviews are conducted with experts (most against the diet-heart idea and a few members of government organizations that of course disagree) and they explain what is wrong with the theory, how it started, and what the evidence in the scientific literature really shows. Part 2: Cholesterol Drug War discusses the murky science of statin drugs and how the science shows that despite the hype, if you have never had a heart attack then statins are of no benefit to you.

Of course, heads are spinning in the medical community and those of the old guard that still cling to disproven, unscientific ideas. One doctor has already criticized ABC’s program, claiming that it is dangerous and that it will lead to people quitting statins and dying of heat attacks. Hey doc: what happens in science when the evidence shows something contrary to your old belief? You change your beliefs to reflect the data! I guess he missed that part in med school.

Something else that I recently noticed was this study was published the British Journal of Nutrition. The study compared the effect that dairy (low fat and full fat) had on biomarkers for cardiovascular disease. If you’ve been paying attention, then the results won’t surprise you any: full fat and fermented dairy won out! The biomarkers for cardiovascular disease were actually lower in the group that consumed full fat dairy than those that consumed the low fat dairy! This is just one more piece of evidence that confirms how wrong the diet-heart hypothesis is.

 

It’s all about the design

 

This is the diet-heat hypothesis in a nutshell:

  • Saturated fat and dietary cholesterol raise blood cholesterol
  • Elevated blood cholesterol is seen in people with cardiovascular disease
  • Therefore, saturated fat and dietary cholesterol cause heart attacks

One problem: correlation does not prove causation (unless you believe that ice cream sales are linked to homicide). This is a basic rule of science, but it’s something that most researchers seem to forget (how, I have no idea). This is why we have controlled trials like the dairy study I just mentioned. As can be seen, the diet-heart hypothesis is dead and long since disproven, but that doesn’t stop its dedicated defenders from coming out and insisting that correlation somehow proves causation.

Something that continually drives me crazy about the scientific community when it comes to health, medicine, and nutrition is that old theories are clung to as dogma. When the evidence overwhelmingly shows that an idea is wrong, it is ignored only to continue the status quo.

Over the past year+, Whole Foods Market has introduced a campaign to their stores called Health Starts Here which aims to provide customers with nutritional advice in choosing healthier foods as well as following a health supportive diet. A handful of stores also offer a Wellness Club, where customers can partake in lectures, cooking classes, dinner clubs, and a variety of other things centered around this program.

Whole Foods’ Health Starts Here program is based on what they call the “4 Pillars of Healthy Eating”: whole food, nutrient dense, plant strong, and healthy fats. On the surface, it appears like sound advice, but a closer look shows a different story.

Whole Food

The first proper step to any diet is to eat whole, real foods. It is the consumption of refined and processed foods that has largely contributed to the current disease epidemic. Naturally, Whole Foods’ central philosophy has always been to consume whole foods.

Curiously though, absent of the whole food pillar is whole milk. Instead, Whole Foods suggests consuming low-fat dairy which is itself a refined food. This is a strange paradox of most healthy eating plans that promote whole foods except when they contain fat. More on this later.

Nutrient Dense

Whole Foods suggests consuming foods with the highest nutrient density. Throughout the store, many foods are marked with an ANDI (aggregate nutrient density index) score, which signifies nutrient density. If you recall my article on meat and disease, then you may remember that these numbers are fudged. This system was developed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a Member Physician of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) (a vegan front group that masquerades as an independent scientific body promoting the pinnacle of non-partisan nutritional advice.. that’s just coincidentally vegan) ; it suggests that the highest scores are determined by the amount of nutrients per calorie in a food. There’s a little problem, though: Fuhrman doubles the numbers for plants and does not count the nutrients found in fats (fat soluble vitamins and fatty acids).

Basing nutrient density on calories is a very poor way to measure, for a few reasons. Firstly, as I’ve explained in other articles, calories are a nearly meaningless unit of measure. It’s not calories that make you fat; it’s a physiological reaction by the body to the food one eats. Not all calories are created equal, and it’s really sad that so many individuals in the field of health and nutrition do not get this.

Based on the ANDI system, skim milk is more nutrient dense than whole milk. If you understand that there are essential nutrients found in fat (which anyone who has studied basic nutrition should), then you should know that it is physically impossible for this to be true.

Plant Strong

This term is borrowed from Rip Esselstyn who describes his vegan Engine 2 Diet as “plant strong”. Whole Foods suggest that plants should compose the majority of one’s diet. As we’ll learn later, they really try to promote a vegan diet. This is a turn off for some people, since they do not want to switch to a diet that completely eschews animal products, and others (like those who are gluten intolerant and/or those with nut allergies) would have significant trouble trying to sustain such a diet for the rest of their lives.

The promotion of a vegan diet as the end-all-be-all of healthy eating is a large mistake. This diet is undeniably deficient in essential fatty acids, fat soluble vitamins (especially those of animal origin like retinol and K2), cholesterol (yes, cholesterol is a nutrient), and B12.

Eschewing animal products as a whole leaves out some very nutrient dense foods from one’s diet, such as: eggs, raw dairy, bone broth, organ meats, and seafood. Of course, under the ANDI system, these products all would appear to have a low rating, but in reality, they are all very nutrient dense and highly supportive of your good health.

Healthy Fats

Interestingly, this pillar was originally called “low-fat”. I questioned Whole Foods regional management about this and they completely denied that they support a low fat diet, but I’ve got the documentation to prove that this was indeed originally called “low fat”. You’ll find that all the individuals who make up their “scientific advisory board” support a diet that is low (or very low) in total fat and they also promote the consumption of reduced fat dairy.

Regardless of this word play, Whole Foods takes the same stance against saturated fats like most everyone else. Typically, they make the unbacked claim that saturated fats correlate with heart disease by clogging arteries and there is simply no evidence to suggest this.

Whole Foods takes this one step further though, because unlike others, they do not promote so-called “heart healthy” polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Whole Foods rightly cautions against the consumption of these newfangled foods, but for reasons different from mine. I feel that polyunsaturated fats in general should be avoided because they contain a strong imbalance of omega 3 to omega 6, while Whole Foods feels that all extracted oils (including olive oil) are empty calories and can increase cholesterol via weight gain.

Whole Foods’ stance against all extracted oils is a head scratcher for me. Dr. Fuhrman claims on his website that olive oil is dangerous because it contains 14% saturated fat, but there is no evidence that 14% or 50% or any particular percentage of saturated fats are correlative with heart disease. Fuhrman also says that olive oil can increase weight gain because it adds calories to a meal but doesn’t add fiber or protein. Fuhrman seems to have something against fat since he fails to mention fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins which are still present in the olive oil. The claim that these extra calories from fat will lead to weight gain needs a citation, but you won’t find one, because weight gain isn’t as simple as just calories. Cooking foods in butter or coconut oil, for example, will lead to weight loss since the fat will help the body with insulin resistance (high insulin levels lead to weight gain) and medium chain fatty acids burn fat.

The works supporting the program

To be fair, when I say Whole Foods supports these claims, really what they are doing is relying on a handful of individuals that make up their Scientific Advisory Board. This board is composed of 4 PCRM board members, 1 PCRM member physician, and 3 ethical vegans:

  • Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (PCRM board member)
  • Dr. John McDougall (PCRM board member)
  • John Robbins (ethical vegan)
  • Dr. Neal Barnard (PCRM president)
  • Dr. Joel Furhman (PCRM member physician)
  • Dr. Michael Klaper (ethical vegan)
  • Dr. Scott Stoll (ethical vegan)
  • Dr. T. Colin Campbell (PCRM board member)

Do you sense a conflict of interest here? Is it any wonder that a vegan diet is promoted as the pinnacle of good health?

Whole Foods also promotes certain books and other materials rather heavily to either influence one’s diet or help assist it, such as:

The Engine 2 Diet

The first one is The Engine 2 Diet, by Rip Esselstyn (son of the Dr. Esselstyn mentioned above). Rip is a former athlete and firefighter; his book talks a lot about how firefighters have to be in good condition and they can’t afford to drop dead of a heart attack while in a burning building. Rip’s book continues on with the themes of heart disease and fitness. The Engine 2 solution to the current diet dilemma is to just eat lots of plants. He offers no real direction or advice on how to balance a vegan diet, just “eat lots of plants”. Rip of course can’t help but promulgate the myth of saturated fats being correlative with heart disease on a number of pages.

In his book, Rip claims that our athletic performance will improve after switching to a “low fat plant strong diet”. I guess Rip has never heard of the Kalenjin people of Kenya, who have more championship Olympic runners than any other country in the world. The Kalenjin are a pastoral tribe, so they eat meat, and a whopping 50% of their calories comes from raw milk products such as mursik, which is a dietary staple among the Kalenjin. Amazing, isn’t it, how collectively 40% of all championship Olympic runners are Kalenjin and they consume a diet that supposedly will give them heart disease.

The Engine 2 book is filled with other gems throughout the “myths and truths” section. Rip claims that the only nutrient missing in a vegan diet is B12, but one can easily overcome that by eating nutritional yeast and fortified foods. Assimilation of B12 from nutritional yeast is rather low, and the assimilation of any vitamin from a fortified food is quite low as well. Rip also has no problem promoting the myth that “excess consumption of dairy leeches calcium from the bones”. This is based on observational data that shows high rates of osteoporosis in countries with high dairy consumption. If you read my previously mentioned article, then you will likely know that this in itself is not proof. In addition to calcium, dairy also contains vitamin D and cholesterol which assist in the assimilation of calcium. What do you think most Americans are deficient in, considering the trend of low-fat, vitamin-fortified, and cholesterol-free foods?

Eat To Live

The second book that is offered as a guideline is Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live. Fuhrman’s book proposes that one consume foods with the highest nutrient density (labeled a “Nutritarian diet”) based on Fuhrman’s own ANDI scoring system. This program is, in my opinion, a bone thrown to those who don’t want to switch to veganism, because you can consume up to 10% of your total calories as (low-fat) animal products. While Fuhrman gets some things right (nutrient density is always good, and he even suggests to soak grains, nuts, and legumes), it ultimately fails in the end. Chris Masterjohn writes in his review of the book:

Fuhrman’s calculations of nutrient density suffer from three fatal flaws: first, he excludes from these calculations many nutrients known to be essential to the body while doubling the score of other putative nutrients whose physiological functions are uncertain; second, he fails to account for variations in the bioavailability of nutrients between foods; third, he groups all nutrients present in a food into a single score as if they were interchangeable, rather than acknowledging that different types of foods provide different types of nutrients.

His definition of nutrient density as nutrients per calorie can be valuable for someone whose first priority is to restrict calories, but it can be inappropriate for others. Rather than instructing the reader about how to judiciously use the ten percent of calories allotted to animal products to select the most nutrient-dense of these foods, Fuhrman dismisses their nutritional contribution as insignificant. Although the premise of Eat to Live—nutrient density—is solid, his assumptions in the application of this principle seriously diminish the value that this book will have to many readers and may even lead some down a path that will ultimately damage their health.

I’ve been talking about deficiencies, and Fuhrman actually confirms that sometimes his patients who follow his nutritarian diet, especially the vegans, develop a deficiency in:

  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B12
  • DHA Omega 3
  • Taurine
  • Idodine

Aside from vitamin B12, the others are not present in the ANDI scoring. Chris Masterjohn mentions in his review:

According to the explanation of this ranking system posted on Fuhrman’s web site, he also excludes a number of other important nutrients. The B vitamins biotin and pantothenic acid, preformed vitamin A, and vitamins K1 and K2 are among those absent. Major minerals such as sodium, chloride, potassium, sulfur, and phosphorus are excluded. Essential trace minerals such as copper, manganese, boron, molybdenum, and chromium are nowhere to be found in Fuhrman’s list. Essential fatty acids like EPA, DHA and arachidonic acid are likewise absent. Finally, none of the eight essential amino acids is included in his ranking system.

Fuhrman excludes a whole host of essential nutrients from his list while including a number of non-essential nutrients. Some non-essential nutrients are actually required by the body but are not considered essential because we can synthesize them ourselves. Other non-essential nutrients are not required by the body but may nevertheless be beneficial because they can absorb free radicals—dangerous compounds with unpaired electrons that can wreak havoc on the cell—and thereby act as antioxidants. The selectivity with which Fuhrman includes non-essential nutrients heavily favors plant foods over animal foods and likewise favors compounds that play no essential role in the body and may even be harmful under certain circumstances over compounds that do play essential roles.

Many of the “antioxidants” in fruits and vegetables are actually potent inhibitors of enzyme activity. Some of them may reduce the levels of certain enzymes that some researchers believe promote cancer. Many of them, however, especially those found in onions, kale, broccoli, apples, cherries, berries, tea and red wine, are potent inhibitors of a process that takes place in the liver called sulfonation. Sulfonation is necessary for the detoxification of drugs and environmental pollutants and the normal activity of steroid hormones and thyroid hormone. Because sulfonation can also make some chemicals more toxic, researchers have proposed that the inhibition of this process could be beneficial. Perhaps because the absorption of these compounds from many foods is negligible, or perhaps because they have so many conflicting effects on our metabolic processes, they are not associated with either an increase or a decrease in the risk of cancer.

While Fuhrman doubles the score of plant chemicals that play no essential role in the body, he completely excludes many nutrients found in animal foods that do play essential roles. Creatine is vital for muscle function; taurine is essential to digestion and the functioning of the brain and retina; carnitine and coenzyme Q10 are required for energy metabolism; carnosine functions as an antioxidant, protects DNA and proteins from being destroyed by sugars that run amuck, and plays important roles in the nervous system. None of these nutrients—not even taurine, which Fuhrman himself says is sometimes deficient in his vegan patients—is included.

As can be seen, either Fuhrman relies on data that is either unknown to many health experts, or he simply chooses to leave out these details that are rather important. How odd that plant numbers are doubled in Fuhrman’s ANDI scoring, but more than two dozen nutrients found in animal products are completely ignored. If a nutrient-dense diet ignores a range of essential nutrients, then is it really nutrient-dense after all?

Supplemental material

One book that gets name-dropped all the time in vegan circles and that is heavily relied upon as the defacto proof that animal protein correlates with cancer is The China Study, by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. Campbell’s evidence relies on 2 separate studies. The first was an epidemiological study done in China which found that those who consumed the most animal protein had the most disease (see my quick post for a simple understanding of what’s wrong with epidemiological studies). The second piece of evidence was a biochemical isolation study where Campbell fed either powdered casein or gluten to rats and found that the rats who ate the casein died of cancer, but the rats that switched to gluten had the cancer halted. In my article Will Ditching Meat Save You from Disease?, I elaborated on how poorly controlled such a study is:

..in regards to the rat study, this was seriously flawed. In fact, the way the study was designed really makes one wonder if Campbell was purposely making the study flawed to get the results he wanted (that meat is bad and plant protein is divine). The rats were given powdered casein as the representative of the “meat group”. They weren’t given real meat, or milk, or eggs, or any whole food animal product. Instead, they were given a powdered protein isolate that I can assure you I wouldn’t touch with a 10 ½ ft pole! Really, I am not surprised that feeding rats powdered casein gives them cancer, not at all. In addition to the casein being removed from the vitamins and fatty acids that are naturally found with it, it’s quite likely that the source came from conventional milk which is cancerous when treated with growth hormones. Even if Campbell’s source came from a healthy, pastured cow, it’s still likely that isolated protein (especially when powdered) can trigger cancer. An easy way to test this would be to give rats powdered casein that comes from rat milk (since all breast milk contains casein). But surprise, surprise: Campbell never investigated this.

My qualms about the study’s controls aside, Denise Minger actually took the time to read through the “China Study” (not the book that Campbell wrote, but the actual study with all the raw data) and it is undeniable that the data in the study doesn’t support the conclusions that Campbell came to. Really, the data showed an interesting conclusion that was opposite of what Campbell claimed: animal protein protects against cancer.

The last piece of information that Whole Foods heavily promotes is the documentary Forks Over Knives. This film essentially discusses the work of some of the PCRM board members, as well as other select studies. Denise Minger did an extremely thorough critique of the film (~40pgs, I believe). I really should write an abridged version of this review, but until then, here is a very short summary of the heavy flaws in the film, from Minger:

  • Hey, fatty. A major component of Esselstyn’s heart-disease-reversal diet is the massive reduction in fat—not just from animal sources, but also the elimination of nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, olive oil, canola oil, coconut, and any other forms of concentrated plant fat; this movie barely mentioned this part of Esselstyn’s program. By keeping fat under 10% of total calories, omega-6 intake—particularly the problematic linoleic acid—sinks. Although these plant-based-diet doctors have a different view of fat than I do (Esselstyn, for instance, believes that any dietary fat damages the endothelial cells and promotes heart disease), it still would’ve been useful to hear about this in the movie, if only for the sake of full disclosure. I almost wonder if the movie’s creators dodged the “uber low fat” message to avoid freaking out the audience. What? We can’t even put olive oil on that ten-pound salad?! 
  • Go fish. Some of the anecdotes used to support a plant-based diet (such as Norway’s war-time cuisine and the traditional Japanese diet) actually point to marine foods being a great addition to your menu. For some reason, no one in the movie says a gosh darn thing about fish. Are they lumping fish into the same “meat” category as Oscar Mayer Weiners? Have they forgotten that fish exists in the food supply? Are they ignoring the health benefits of marine foods that nearly everyone—even the folks who swear on their momma’s grave that red meat will kill you—agrees on? What’s going on here?
  • Welcome to False Dichotomyville—population: you. According to this movie, “plant-based diet” and “Standard American diet” are the only two ways you can possibly eat, and an egg is exactly the same as a bag of Cheetos. A recent pingback led me to this review, which nicely sums up the movie’s flip-flopping description of America’s cuisine: “the definition of the Western diet changes suddenly, one second referring to cake and donuts and the next [to] animal products.” Animal foods, it seems, are synonymous with the Western diet, and meat exists only in industrialized countries. Non-Westernized populations like the Masai, traditional Inuit, Australian aborigines, and countless hunter-gatherers have conveniently vanished for the duration of this movie. It must be awesome to selectively choose reality like that!

A week of meals and the 28-day challenge

On Whole Foods’ website they offer a sample menu for this diet as part of a 28-day challenge. In the interest of saving space, I won’t go over each food in detail, but it is obvious that this diet is deficient in essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, fat soluble vitamins, and cholesterol. It also seems to be rather rich in foods that contain enzyme inhibitors (unprepared grains, beans, nuts, and legumes), and other nutrient blockers (phytates and saponins).

Jimmy Moore, of Livin’ La Via Low Carb, made a great post about Whole Foods’ online health immersion program. Individuals fill out a survey noting their diet, height, weight, and cholesterol, and then are given a bunch of nonsensical scares based on the previously cited poor science. Jimmy was told that his diet put him at an extreme risk of a heart attack, but his heart scan showed zero buildup in his arteries. Throughout the length of the program, Jimmy notes that the individual is encouraged to cut back more and more on animal products. Jimmy is correct when he says that the amount of allowable animal products is so slim that one may as well be vegan; there really is little difference. This of course pokes a hole in the “we’re not trying to make people vegan” argument Whole Foods is making.

Final thoughts

Many people will likely look at this article and be outraged that Whole Foods supports such a wretched dietary program. Indeed, Whole Foods really made a mistake by handing the program over to the PCRM and not taking an integrative approach to healthy eating. I had tried to ask this of Whole Foods’ corporate management that oversee this program, and the only answer I got was that “we’re not trying to make people vegan, we’re just saying eat more plants” and “it is integrative; we have a program for meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans”. Really though, it is John Mackey, the head of Whole Foods, who shoulders the blame for this because he personally follows the Engine 2 Diet, which is how all of this came into being.

Regardless of Whole Foods’ disastrous nutrition advice, it is still a great company. Whole Foods does a lot to help their local neighborhoods, as well as back positive environmental programs, and they pay their workers a fair wage. Boycotting Whole Foods won’t change their nutrition program; it will just affect those that work at the store itself. It is debatable if change will ever come, considering how the PCRM is running the show now. The best thing you can possibly do to incite change is to contact John Mackey and Whole Foods’ corporate management, and express to them what a mistake they have made. Back your statements with as much science as you can muster. I fear that anything less will fall on deaf ears.

I really don’t mind that Whole Foods offers a vegan nutrition program. What I take issue with is that Whole Foods mistakenly promotes this as the ultimate dietary way (there is no evidence to support this claim), that animal products are correlative with disease (again, an unfounded claim), and that they didn’t have the sense to make this program more integrative. Whole Foods’ program will only continue the nutritional confusion that so many people face. The unfounded claims by Whole Foods advisory board (there’s not much science to it) will further drive the false notion that people carry in their heads that animal products, dietary fat, saturated fats, and cholesterol are all bad for your health and that animal products are low in nutritional value. The truth, however, is quite the opposite. Slowly, people are starting to understand this, but it will still take a while longer for it to be accepted as fact and Whole Foods’ dietary dogma isn’t going to help things any.

A new study is generating a lot of buzz in health circles. While I’m still working on my educational classes (which will go into great detail about general nutrition as well as foods like dairy, meat, grains, and produce), I felt compelled to comment on this study considering all the attention it’s getting.

This was a cohort study which analysed the intake of over 100,000 individuals. The results of the study concluded that those who consumed the most red meat were more likely to die 20% sooner than those who consumed less red meat. The authors of the study concluded:

“Our study adds more evidence to the health risks of eating high amounts of red meat, which has been associated with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers in other studies”.

Well, there you have it folks, time for me to chuck out all the beef I have in the freezer!

Okay, not quite. Let’s get into the details here. As I mentioned, this was a cohort study, so it was purely observational, and it checked in with participants (via a questionnaire) every 4 years to analyze their diet and general health (and whether or not they died). The end result, as stated, showed that the more red meat you ate, the more likely you were to see an early grave. Does this sound familiar? Why yes, I talked a lot about cohort studies in my article Will Ditching Meat Save You From Disease?. Here are some basic questions that the study fails to address:

What kind of meat was consumed?
Pastured? Organic? Conventional? Burger King?
What was consumed along with the red meat?
What was the health-related lifestyle of these individuals like?

Without these being properly answered, how can it come to the conclusion that it was the meat?  What if the red meat eaters consumed white bread and vegetable oil along with their steak? That would increase their risk of heart disease and cancer. If these same individuals drank a soda at each meal, that would increase their risk of diabetes and obesity. All of these factors will increase the risk for mortality. So hey, where’s the beef?

Ben Coomber sifted through the full study and made some fantastic bullet-points:

  • The people that consumed the least amount of meat did the most exercise, so there was a correlation that the people already looking after themselves presented less disease risk and thus ate less red meat anyway
  • Smoking in the high meat group was almost double
  • % rate of current diabetes was almost double in high meat group
  • The people that consumed the least meat actually had higher cholesterol levels
  • More “healthy” participants consumed a multi-vitamin
  • High bad meat consumers drank 1.5x more alcohol
  • High bad meat consumers consumed nearly 1/2 as much fish indicating 80% lower levels of omega 3 fats
  • Both men and women with high processed meat intake were less likely to exercise, more likely to smoke, have more body fat, eat more calories good and bad in general, eat less fruit and vegetables and drink more, a catch 22 bad lifestyle making you more prone to disease
  • The study showed a correlation that red meat consumption is declining in general, but we are seeing higher rates of disease, so is it the red meat or a multitude of factors that is effecting the rate of disease?
  • So in light of the above the study focused on red meat but reported the people eating the most red meat also had all the other lifestyle factors that lead to disease in the bag!
  • If you consume more processed meat like hot dogs you will be at a high risk of disease
  • The review understands that one of the two pooled studies didn’t differentiate between red meat and processed meat….. epic fail!
  • They appreciate that cuts of meat were hard to quantify and left room for error in terms of things like ham, red meat, rate of processing as it was up to the participant to quantify and tick a box … Hmmm
  • They were unable to assess the impact of fat content in the meat and disease correlation as there were too many variables
  • People consuming processed meats have higher chance of impaired insulin response – a key marker of diseases like diabetes linked to a multitude of other diseases
  • The link to red meat and cancer ACTUALLY seems to come from high temperature cooking which causes carcinogenic materials to be released! So it’s not just red meat but how we cook it
  • The conclusion they made: replace red and processed meat with fruits, vegetables, whole grains etc – so what they are really saying is be healthier. No mention of all the other lifestyle factors that they correlated like exercise, smoking etc etc

Considering all these caveats. would you attach your name to this study? Would you support the conclusions of this study? I’d be embarrassed to associate myself with it, personally, and I’m amazed that these researchers can actually stand by this turd.

It’s poor studies like this that have a dramatic effect on the dietary choices of the public. It only serves to misinform them, and in 20 or 30 years, we’ll hear that the research was wrong all  along. It is very unfortunate that people have to suffer because of bad research.

To get a humorous look at what’s wrong with cohort studies, click here.

Imagine for a moment an isolated village surrounded by mountains. The only food and water source comes directly from the land that is bordered by these mountains. There are no paved roads, no hospitals, no dentists, no doctors, and no electricity. There are also no modern health foods (low calorie, reduced fat, raw kale chips, smoothies, zero-calorie sugar, soy-based meat, milk & cheese substitutes), and not even tooth brushes!

Such a place once existed, in the Lötschental Valley, located in the Burnese Alps of Switzerland. In 1931 when Dr. Weston A. Price first visited, the Lötschental Valley was nearly inaccessible. It is almost a mile above sea level and surrounded by steep mountains. Due to their remoteness, the villagers were completely isolated and were fully dependent on what they could harvest and produce for themselves. Everyone in the village would work to help out, and such skills were taught to children as part of their general education in school.

Diet

Like other traditional cultures that endure long and cold winters, the villagers of Lötschental Valley relied on animal products to sustain them. Staples of the villagers diet were raw milk, raw butter, raw cheese, raw cream, and sourdough rye bread. A typical lunch children would eat was a swiss cheese sandwich which had two very thick slices of soured rye sandwiching an almost equally thick slice of raw swiss cheese.

Butter was a very important staple to these villagers, and it was revered to a very high degree. Dr. Price writes in his book:

From Dr. Siegen, I learned much about the life and customs of these people. He told me that they recognize the presence of Divinity in the life-giving qualities of the butter made in June when the cows have arrived for pasturage near the glaciers. He gathers the people together to thank the kind Father for the evidence of his Being in the life-giving qualities of butter and cheese made when the cows eat the grass near the snow line. This worshipful program includes the lighting of a wick in a bowl of the first butter made after the cows have reached the luscious summer pasturage. This wick is permitted to burn in a special sanctuary built for the purpose. The natives of the valley are able to recognize the superior quality of their June butter, and, without knowing exactly why, pay it due homage.

Generally when Dr. Price was visiting a village, he would send samples foodstuff back to his lab in Ohio for testing. In his book, Dr. Price mentions how the cattle’s hay that he had tested was “far above the average in quality” for such feed. This in turn means that the nutritional quality of the products that came from these animals was superior in nature and highly nutrient dense.

Being so far above sea level in the mountains of Switzerland meant that the villagers of Lötschental Valley had a very short growing period for any produce. This means that their diet relied heavily on their storage crop of rye as well as various forms of dairy for daily sustenance. This flies in the face of conventional nutritional guidelines that suggest to consume a diet of 50% or more of plants (or the staunch suggestions by members of the PCRM that ones diet must include 90% or more of plants or face disease).

Sheep’s meat was eaten once a week by the villagers, and the bones then were used to make mineral-rich stock which would be used in other dishes and for soup throughout the week.

During special athletic performances, athletes were fed bowls of cream and special, mineral-rich cheese.

As published in the July 1933 issue of Dental Digest by Dr. Price, here is the breakdown of their diet in nutrients:

Calories Food Fat Soluble Vitamins Calcium (grams) Phosphorus (grams) Iron (grams)
800 Rye Bread Low .07 .46 0.00
400 Milk High .68 .53 0.00
400 Cheese High .84 .62 0.00
100 Butter Very High 0.00 0.00 0.00
100 Barley Very High 0.00 0.03 0.00
100 Vegetables Low 0.06 0.08 0.00
100 Meat Medium 0.00 0.12 0.00
2000   Very High 1.76 3.04 0.01

General Health

Despite a diet high in (mostly saturated) fat, mainly from dairy, and very little fruits and vegetables, the villagers of Lötschental Valley were of superb health. When Dr. Price came to Lötschental Valley, the first thing he did was examine the teeth of everyone in the village.

Dr. Price’s findings were astonishing: for every 3 people examined, only one would have a cavity. These people did not brush their teeth, by the way; Dr. Price mentions:

The reader will scarcely believe it possible that such marked differences in facial form, in the shape of the dental arches, and in the health condition of the teeth as are to be noted when passing from the highly modernized lower valleys and plains country in Switzerland to the isolated high valleys can exist. Fig. 3 shows four girls with typically broad dental arches and regular arrangement of the teeth. They have been born and raised in the Lötschental Valley or other isolated valleys of Switzerland which provide the excellent nutrition that we have been reviewing. They have been taught little regarding the use of tooth brushes. Their teeth have typical deposits of unscrubbed mouths; yet they are almost completely free from dental caries, as are the other individuals of the group they represent. In a study of 4,280 teeth of the children of these high valleys, only 3.4 per cent were found to have been attacked by tooth decay. This is in striking contrast to conditions found in the modernized sections using the modern foods.

During this period of time in Switzerland, tuberculosis was a major problem. Raw milk has been blamed at times for contributing to this pandemic, but government officials told Dr. Price that there were no recorded cases of TB in the Valley, ever. The people living there were so hardy that children would actually play in the freezing cold rivers (which were created from glacial runoff) barefoot and bareheaded, right in the middle of winter.

While in Switzerland, Dr. Price inquired about other areas that contained isolated populations. In the village of Grächen, Dr. Price notes coming across a 62 year old woman who was carrying an enormous load of rye on her back at an altitude of about 5,000 feet. He continues, mentioning that he and his assistants and translators met her later and talked to her, and found that she was extraordinarily well developed and well preserved, as were her grandchildren who had fine physiques and facial developments.

Life and diet was very similar in all the isolated villages that Dr. Price visited. He continually notes that all the Swiss villagers were strong, sturdy, and had fine endurance. These people had no tractors, nor even employed animal labor. Bushels of rye, as well as the enormous loaves of rye bread (a month’s supply was baked at a time), were carried by hand and likewise the rye itself was thrashed by hand. All of the villagers had exceptional athletes that were fantastic mountaineers as well.

Industrialization

Modernized Swiss, Rampant Tooth Decay, Weston PriceAn argument often made in Dr. Price’s time was that certain villages had perfect teeth because of genetics. However, this is simply not true. When Dr. Price visited modernized towns in Switzerland, their health was completely different. Their teeth were ravaged with decay, their bodies frail, and their immune systems were weak.

In the town of St. Moritz, the children had about 10 cavities per person. Among the group of children studied,

there were three children whose teeth were much better. Dr. Price then analyzed their diet and they seemed to eat similarly to their traditional diet with liberal amounts of milk and dark bread. The diet of the other children was largely that of white bread and no milk.

Throughout the industrialized parts of Switzerland, officials had said that the two biggest health issues that plague them were dental carries and tuberculosis. In St. Moritz, they kept a herd of dairy cows, but clearly they weren’t drinking much of it, and they were also kept in barns to increase production. Dr. Price writes:

Since so many cattle were stall-fed in the thickly populated part of Switzerland, and since so low a proportion of the children used milk even sparingly, I was concerned to know what use was made of the milk. Numerous road signs announcing the brand of sweetened milk chocolate made in the several districts suggested one use. This chocolate is one of the important products for export and as a beverage constitutes a considerable item in the nutrition of large numbers living in this and in other countries. It is recognized as a high source of energy, primarily because of the sugar and chocolate which when combined with the milk greatly reduces the ratio of the minerals to the energy factors as expressed in calories.

Again in the July 1933 issue of Dental Digest, Dr. Price mentions shows a breakdown of the diet of the industrialized Swiss:

Calories Food Fat Soluble Vitamins Calcium Phosphorus Iron
1000 White Bread Low 0.11 0.35 0.00
400 Jam, Honey, Sugar, Syrup Low 0.05 0.08 0.02
100 Chocolate and Coffee Low 0.02 0.07 0.00
100 Milk High 0.17 0.13 0.00
100 Canned Vegetables Low 0.08 0.08 0.00
100 Meat Medium 0.01 0.11 0.00
100 Vegetable Fat Low 0.00 0.00 0.00
100 Butter High 0.00 0.00 0.00
2000   Low 0.44 0.82 0.026

Conclusions

It is amazing how the Swiss villagers of Lötschental Valley and other isolated towns were fit and healthy despite not following what we are told today is a necessary diet. As I had mentioned before, no foods that were reduced in fat, nothing low in calories, and yet they were in great health.

Dr. Price called the foods of these industrialized diets the “displacing foods of modern commerce”. Indeed, it is in the name of commerce that foods like white bread have been brought in and eventually ruined the diet, and health, of traditional people.

Compared to a modernized diet, Dr. Price found that the primitive Swiss had a diet that was higher in calcium (3.7x), phosphorus (2.2x), iron (3.1x), and magnesium (2.5x), as well as a 10-plus increase in the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K, & K2), and a large increase in the water soluble vitamins (the B vitamins and vitamin C)

The faces of the villagers that still followed their traditional diets were broad and their jaws had no problem fitting all their teeth. Even without toothbrushes, they were able to largely resist cavities.

I think that this really shows how deeply diet affects us. Many already know how diet holds a relationship with disease, but few understand how it even affects how our body grows. In the coming future I’ll be writing about what Dr. Price called physical degeneration.

Hey folks!

As you’ve no doubt noticed, my posts went from regular to non-existent. What gives? Well, it all started on a dark and rainy night 3  days before Christmas. I was doing my regular commute home from work an I was halfway home. I had begun my departure – by bike – from the Staten Island Ferry terminal and as I was pedaling up the hill my bike slipped out from under me and I smacked the pavement. I was unscraped, but I felt a slight pain in my wrist and I figured that I had sprained it. After getting home, I took an old hemp sock and soaked it with the rest of the wood lock oil I had left and then kept attached it to the wound so as to help the sprain. The next day my hand wasn’t looking that great. It was very swollen and it hurt, man! Well, I knew from reading A Tooth from the Tiger’s Mouth that the R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) was only half-true. Elevation (to prevent swelling) and rest are good, but compression and ice restrict blood flow to the area. Here’s a copy and paste from the book (much thanks to Simona for typing this out, since my copy of the book is out on loan!)

RICE TREATMENT

The Western treatment for reducing this kind of inflammation is known as “RICE“: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. It is usually recommended that RICE begin in the first 24 hours after the injury.

  • Rest is obvious. Continued activity may further inflame and irritate the injury.
  • Ice contracts the blood vessels in the local area, reducing swelling. It reduces pain and cools the heat of the inflammation. In Western medicine, ice is universally recommended for all kind of inflammation, including that present in chronic injuries. In Chinese medicine, it is almost never used and is considered a culprit in joint injuries that don’t heal properly, because cold causes contraction of the muscles and tends to freeze and congeal the fluids that cause swelling, ultimately preventing their complete re-absorption.
  • Compression limits swelling. Usually an elastic bandage is wrapped around the injured area to compress the tissues, thereby limiting blood flow into the area. This is contrary to Chinese medicine, where such constriction is felt to cause blood to stagnate and congeal above and below the injury. This slow re-absorption into the blood vessels.
  • Elevation involves simply raising the injured part above the level of the heart to let the force of gravity aid in draining excess fluid. This method is also employed in Chinese sports medicine.

CONTRAST BATHS

Once inflammation and swelling are reduced, treatment is directed at restoring movement and circulation to the injured area through gentle movement and exercise. Sometimes after the first 24 to 28 hours of RICE, when the swelling has stabilized, contrast baths (alternating hot and cold baths) are recommended. Contrast baths cause an alternating contraction and dilation of blood vessels in the local area, which serves to pump blood and fluids through the injured tissue. This helps restore normal circulation to the local area.

LIMITS OF RICE TREATMENT

This mechanical approach that Western medicine used to diagnose and treat ankle sprains is useful in many ways similar to Chinese medicine, but beyond RICE, it doesn’t give the athlete many tools to work with in rehabilitating an injury, and it leaves many questions unanswered:

  • Why do some sprains heal while others do not?
  • Why does one athlete quickly shake off an injury and return to his or her sport while another athlete with the same injury is caught in a cycle of chronic pain and re-injury?
  • Why do some fractures and sprains hurt more in damp or cold weather?
  • Why do some injuries become arthritic in later life while others do not?

Fortunately, Chinese medicine provides clear, concise answers to these kinds of questions and offers a host of treatments for different injuries. We will see them later.

I don’t have a conventional Doctor that I see, since I only use Western medicine when it’s an emergency, so I went to my acupuncturist, Dr. Fu Zhang. He gave me a look when he saw how swollen it was and then treated me. A week later I went in for a second treatment to address some nerve compression in the area as well as some pain I was still feeling in a small part of the wrist. After another week, there was no improvement in the pain, so I was forced to get an X-ray. That’s when I was hit with the facts: I fractured my scaphoid. The scaphoid is a small, fickle bone in the wrist. It’s the most common bone affected in wrist injuries (60% I believe) and it’s also a very fickle little bone. Little scaphoid is fickle because it doesn’t get a lot of blood flow and it has a tendency to heal back incorrectly if not adjusted through orthopedic surgery. Guess who went for surgery for the first time in his life? This guy!

Due to this, it’s been difficult to write new articles (my hand is in a cast and it’ll be in a brace for 2 or 3 months after that). There is a silver lining, however. I’ll be using this extra down time to work hard on these nutrition classes I keep talking about in my newsletter (an in-depth discussion of food, food groups, and lots of debunking!). So, bear with the silence here while I heal and I promise that the wait will be worth it. You will notice that within this update, there is some educational material. See what I did there? ;)

  Most of the time, when one either tries to plan a healthy meal for themselves or their family, or is given a healthy recipe in some popular fitness/health/food magazine or website, focus is   given almost entirely to numbers. Numbers like grams of fat, calories, cholesterol, and fiber seem to dominate people’s minds when looking for a healthy meal. There’s a major problem in this equation, however: it’s just not healthy!

Say what?

Yes indeed, there is more (much, much, much more) to healthy eating than numbers. The number one thing to consider, is quality. As a health coach, I never pay attention to the numbers; instead I read the ingredients to see if there is anything in that specific food that will be harmful to me. Of course, it’s best to just plain avoid anything in a package, but that doesn’t happen over night and some people just plain aren’t interested in making everything themselves.

Why quality is paramount

Let’s make this real simple and go straight to the recipe. Here is a recipe I found on Eating Well Magazine’s website. It’s low in calories and supposedly heart healthy and good for diabetics and those looking to lose weight.

Here is Eating Well’s version of this recipe:

Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Creamy Chive Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (about 1 pound), trimmed of fat
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup chopped chives, (about 1 bunch)

Low in total fat, low in calories, low in sodium, and simple ingredients; what on earth could be wrong here? Let’s start straight from the top.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Firstly, I am seeing no suggestions are far as buying organic goes. But just to give Eating Well a small leg to stand on, I’ll assume that they actively encourage their readers to buy organic products. What’s the big deal? Well, for one there are no synthetic ingredients that are known to be cancerous. Secondly, there have been a number of studies showing that pesticides are triggers for a number of diseases.

You can drink all the skim milk you want, but if it’s got growth hormones, then you’re increasing your chances of getting cancer, and the lack of vitamin A & D (which are found in the fat) isn’t good either since they help protect against cancer (and a number of other pathologies). Lastly, cholesterol is needed for the body to help synthesize vitamin D, so even if one is consuming other foods that may be rich in vitamin D, you still want the dietary cholesterol to help keep your body from being deficient.

Goodness, this is just one single ingredient. Can you imagine what the big picture is? Well then, let’s continue.

As mentioned previously, reduced-fat dairy products are refined foods. If it’s pasteurized, the nutrient content will be minimized and the homogenization will increase the chances of heart disease. Even if it’s organic, reduced-fat products are nutritionally useless, and they can even lead to weight gain, as studies have shown.

It’s safe to assume that the animal products that are used in this recipe also don’t come from pastured animals. You see, most farm animals are kept in barns with minimal access to the outside and they are fed not their natural diet of grass (cows) or bugs and plants (chickens) but soybeans and corn (and it gets even worse when you purchase them from a conventional grocery store). Pastured animal products are naturally lower in fat and cholesterol, have a higher nutritional profile that includes the wonderful omega 3 fatty acids.

Lastly, the chicken stock used here is worthless. Even gourmet chicken stock that has added gelatin can not compare to the long-boil bone broth it originates from. Bone broths have been a nourishing tradition of a variety of healthy cultures for generations. Rich in gelatin, fat soluble vitamins, and a host of minerals, these broths have true healing properties that help to reduce bad bacteria in the gut and actually help to improve digestion.

Let’s get it on!

Now let me show you how to do this right:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 boneless, chicken breasts, (about 1 pound)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 tablespoon raw grass-fed butter
  • 2 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 14oz home-made chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup whole, raw sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon lacto-fermented Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup chopped chives, (about 1 bunch)

What’s right with this picture?

You’ll notice I removed the big fat scare with the chicken. Fat doesn’t make you fat, and neither do calories. In actuality, more fat in the diet can help encourage weight loss. Fat helps to fill you up, which means it will be longer until you’re hungry and that also means less between-meal-snacking. As I had mentioned previously, extra calories aren’t what makes us fat.

Calories themselves are a useless unit of measure. I’ve heard the objections; “but if you eat 500 calories of ice cream (or chips, or candy bars, or milk chocolate, or doughnuts..), then you get fat!”. Well yes, that is true, but it’s not because of the calories. The reason is due to simple human physiology. For these foods, the extra load carbs and sugar will cause the pancreas to produce more insulin and thus will lead to inflammation and weight gain.

The second thing I changed was the kosher salt. Sure it’s better than irradiated, iodized, sodium chloride (ie: regular table salt), but sea salt is a healing food that helps the adrenal glands thanks to the number of trace minerals that are found within it.

What’s next? The health-supportive powerhouse of raw grass-fed butter! Yes indeed, raw butter from cows that live their entire lives on the pasture and eat only grass and hay is a nutrient dense food. Butter helps prevent heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and osteoporosis, it helps support the thyroid and digestion, and it contains 13 different fatty acids, including stearic acid, arachidonic acid, and glycosphingolipids! Butter contains a perfect 1:1 ratio of omega 3 to omega 6, which is good for the heart. Lastly, butter is a super-rich source of vitamins A, E, & K2, selenium, lecithin, iodine, and the Wulzen factor! But wait, butter is a saturated fat, isn’t that terrible? The science is out, and it has shown unanimously that saturated fatty acids are in no way correlated with heart disease. In fact, saturated fats help prevent heart disease by lowering lp(a), a known risk factor.

As I mentioned previously, there is a stark difference between the chicken-flavored water that you can pick up at the store and real, traditional, nourishing bone broth. Not only is bone broth incredibly nutritious (in addition to butter, I suggest making bone broth a dietary staple), but the flavor is astounding. Use it in a sauce or gravy for your favorite meal and you will notice a dramatic difference. The flavor is incredibly rich and it really makes a dish. It’s very easy to make (all you need is some aromatic vegetables like celery, onions, carrots, parsley, and cilantro, a pound or two of chicken bones, and a stock pot), especially if you cut up the vegetables ahead of time.

There is another load of fat with the raw sour cream. Isn’t this too much? Heck no! This of course beats the pants off of typical store-bought sour creams in that it’s loaded with the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K, and K2), a great source of omega 3 since the cow ate grass, and it’s properly fermented (instead of just made sour) to ensure it not just goes down easy, but it contains wonderful probiotic bacteria as well (on top of the beneficial bacteria that’s already found in raw, unpasteurized dairy).

Lastly, what is lacto-fermented mustard? Traditionally, condiments were fermented using whey (hence, lacto-fermented) and this helped to make them healing foods. Mustard, when lacto-fermented and made from organic whole mustard seed, is indeed a traditional healing food that has been used for ages in Asia and the Middle East. Sally Fallon writes in Nourishing Traditions:

Mustard seed use for food and for healing dates back to antiquity. In China during the Tang Dynasty, it was used to treat lung diseases. The Egyptians used mustard for “respiratory therapy”. In the Middle Ages mustard was used for respiratory ailments such as chest congestion, coughs, and asthma. Eighteenth century English physician Herberden endorsed mustard seed for the treatment of asthma.

Mustard is a cousin of cabbage and broccoli. During grinding the mustard seed contains sinigrin, and releases sulfur compounds and oils. The odor irritates the skin and mucous membranes. All the more interesting that mustard seed has been used all over the world for treating the sinuses and lungs.

Looking at these two recipes, which do you think nourishes the body more? Which do you think matters more? A paper-tiger chase of fat, sodium, and calories, or helping the body heal and encouraging wellness? Which do you suppose is more like how our ancestors ate, during a time when there wasn’t epidemics of disease and obesity?

Many Americans are consuming less animal products and more plant-based products in response to a growing trend of “vegan for health”. What does the research say about plant-based diets and the health effects of avoiding meat?

The weekend before last at UCLA there was the Ancestral Health Symposium. This hosted lectures from many big names like Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, Stephen Guyenet, Tom Naughton, and others. Denise Minger, famed slayer of The China Study (not the book, but the actual China-Oxford Cornell study), hosted a lecture entitled How to Win an Argument With a Vegetarian.

Despite the name, this was not a series of silly talking points that one can read from to “shut up” that vegetarian/vegan that disagrees with them (the name was inspired from a popular post on VegSource entitled How to Win an Argument With a Meat Eater). Throughout the 40 minute talk, Minger introduces the big names in the plant-based diet community that always come up as the definitive proof that a “whole food, plant-based diet” (WFPBD)  is the singular way to good health.

You will find all these individuals are interconnected, and you’ll commonly see one name be mentioned by the other (since they all belong to the vegan front-group, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)). If you shop at Whole Foods, you have likely already heard of them:

  • Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn
  • Dr. Neal Barnard
    • President of Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (a group purporting to be a body of physicians and health experts giving out the best science in nutrition and health). He has had success in treating individuals with diabetes.
  • Dr. T. Colin Campbell
    • Author of the best-selling book The China Study, which claims that animals products correlate with cancer. He is also the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University.
  • Dr. Dean Ornish
    • Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California. Known for his lifestyle intervention trials where he has combined a very low-fat vegan diet with lifestyle suggestions to reverse heart disease.
  • Dr. John McDougal
    • Launched a successful vegan and vegetarian program in some hospitals and has a food line that is sold in grocery stores.
  • Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Minger outlined the studies done by these gentlemen, which they say is the definitive proof that a WFPBD is better than anything else and the proof therefore that meat and other animal products are bad for your health and are the trigger for modern disease.  Here is a shortened version of what they espouse and what kind of diet they recommend:

  • Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn
    • Very low-fat, vegan diet. Reduce and eliminate sugars, refined and processed foods, and extracted oils.
  • Dr. T. Colin Campbell
    • Low fat, vegan diet. Reduce and eliminate sugars, refined and processed foods, and extracted oils.
  • Dr. Neal Barnard
    • Low fat vegan diet. Reduce and eliminate sugars, refined and processed foods, and extracted oils. He also suggests avoiding fried starches like potato chips and french fries.
  • Dr. Dean Ornish
    • Very low-fat, vegan diet. Reduce and eliminate sugars, refined and processed foods, and extracted oils. Ornish offers his patients lifestyle suggestions, help to stop smoking, and extra support when they need it. Patients may consume fish oil.
  • Dr. John McDougal
    • Low fat, high carb vegetarian or vegan diet. Reduce and eliminate sugars, refined and processed foods, and extracted oils. His patients also eliminate fruit juices.
  • Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Other than a lack of animal products, what else do you notice? That’s right, they all advocate a healthy lifestyle, no sugar, no white flour, no polyunsaturated vegetable oils, and no processed foods. So, let me get this straight: if you remove the smoking, and drinking, sugar and flour, processed foods and vegetable oils, sedentary lifestyle, and lastly the meat, then by God it must’ve been the meat that was the biggest culprit! Wait, what?

According to these gentlemen:

  • Smoking and drinking is the same as eating a steak, an egg, or drinking full fat milk
  • The standard American diet is a valid comparison to a healthy omnivorous diet
  • Factory farmed animal products are just the same as pasture-based animal products

Am I the only one that sees some funny math here? How can it be that a steak or an egg is equivalent to smoking or eating processed food? It’s easy to come to this conclusion when you have a very specific agenda! Of course, “agenda” is a strong word and it’s thrown around a lot, but I know that they have an agenda because for one, Activist Cash has shown how the PCRM has all sorts of connections to animal rights groups, and for two, I’ve been familiar with this group since I was in nutrition school. As a student, Dr. Neal Barnard  gave a lecture while I was there. I also was subscribed to the PCRM’s publications for a few years before I noticed just how much they like to ignore pesky little details. This group likes to blur the lines between pasture-based animal products and those that come from a factory farm. You’ll notice that no studies they have done have  involved healthy meat eaters; only those who follow a standard American diet.

The big problem here of course is that someone following a standard American diet is more likely to smoke, more likely to have a sedentary lifestyle, and you can bet your bottom dollar that they consume lots of processed and refined foods. These are the very things that we know can trigger disease, so then how is it that these men have proven that a WFPBD is superior to all other diets when what they’ve really shown is that a diet that is plant-based, with no extracted oils, no smoking, no processed or refined foods, and stress reduction bundled together can help reverse modern-day disease. At no point have they proven that solely removing meat was the panacea that worked.

Well, this is true save for one man: Dr. T. Colin Campbell, whose book The China Study is cited by most proponents of the WFPBD community as the definitive proof that animal protein causes cancer. For those that aren’t already familiar with Campbell’s work, his evidence rests upon two separate studies. The first was an epidemiological (observational) study of Chinese people and what they ate. Campbell purports that the study showed that the more animal protein people consumed, the more likely they were to get cancer. The second study was a rat study where Campbell tested the effect of both animal protein and plant protein on rats and the results showed that the rats that ate the plant protein did not get cancer (but the animal protein rats did).

Case closed, right? No, not really; the devil is always in the details, my friends. In regards to Campbell’s epidemiological study (the famed “China study”), there are some glaring issues with the method. All this study did was ask people to mail in a questionnaire about what it is they ate for the period of time that the study was conducted. At no point was the quality of the food questioned, and likewise, there was no attention given to other food and lifestyle habits (sugar? white flour? vegetable oils? stress? smoking?). Regardless, poor controls in the study don’t outright discredit it. This is where Ms. Minger comes in, as she eviscerated the study itself and showed how the study actually pointed to a greater correlation between wheat and cancer, rather than meat consumption, and there are many other glaring issues that she beautifully exposed.

Next up, in regards to the rat study, this was also seriously flawed. In fact, the way the study was designed really makes one wonder if Campbell was purposely making the study flawed to get the results he wanted (that meat is bad and plant protein is divine). The rats were given powdered casein as the representative of the “meat group”. They weren’t given real meat, or milk, or eggs, or any whole food animal product. Instead, they were given a powdered protein isolate that I can assure you I wouldn’t touch with a 10 ½ ft pole! Really, I am not surprised that feeding rats powdered casein gives them cancer, not at all. In addition to the casein being removed from the vitamins and fatty acids that are naturally found with it, it’s quite likely that the source came from conventional milk which is potentially cancerous when treated with growth hormones. It really begs the question: why hasn’t Campbell followed up on this study with better controls?

Interestingly, Dr. Chris Masterjohn analyzed Campbell’s rat study, and surprise: the data does not match the conclusions! I also have to ponder as to how casein can be cancerous if it is contained in every animal milk, including humans? Ms. Minger brought this up in her critique of  Campbell’s study, and in his response, he completely ignored this. Why?

Finally, it’s important to understand that there is a stark difference nutritionally between grass-fed milk and powdered casein. Let’s compare a whole food animal protein to powdered casein:

Raw milk from grass-fed cows:

  • CLA (conjugated linolenic acid)
  • Vit A, D, & K2
  • Omega 3
Powdered casein from conventional dairy:

  • rBGH (growth hormones)
  • No vitamins or minerals

CLA and vitamins A & D are known cancer killers, so as you can see, a high quality whole food source makes a big difference! Likewise, rBGH and A-1 beta casein can trigger cancer. Coincidence?

In conclusion, it’s obvious that these men have not proven that the animal products are what cause disease. I’ve seen the studies, and I’m just not convinced. If someone removes processed and refined foods and adopts a healthy lifestyle, then of course there will be a dramatic difference in their health. In science, you must isolate specific factors in order to come to specific conclusions. If one must prove that meat or milk are bad, then it’s not as simple as just removing them. As I mentioned previously, all these men have shown is that a diet free of animal products, sugar, white flour, processed and refined food, and extracted oils, along with positive lifestyle changes, can help to prevent and reverse disease. They have never tested these same protocols with animal products; they’ve only compared it to the standard American diet (which we all know is no good for a variety of reasons).

In reality, as I had shown in the table previously, animal products (when coming from an ideal source; not sugar covered, soybean oil-drenched garbage) contain specific nutritional factors that help to prevent cancer. It is only in the last 100 years that we’ve seen a rapid increase in disease. Go figure, since we eat away from home more, have a less active lifestyle, are under more stress, eat more garbage (factory farmed animal products, sugar, white flour, processed and refined foods, polyunsaturated vegetable oils), smoke more, and have a less fulfilling life as a whole.

So is a WFPBD really the panacea for modern disease? If it is, there’s no evidence to show it. Likewise, this complete lack of evidence and poorly designed studies really calls into question the credibility of these men from the PCRM that crow the loudest about how a WFPD (and only a WFPD) will cure all that ails you. One must be left to ponder: if these men are so well-educated and have such an illustrious background, why the heck can’t they design a proper study that truly comes to the conclusions that they claim it does? Unless of course, they are only interested in coming to those conclusions first, and designing their studies to come to this conclusion all along…

Outside of the PCRM and their biases, there are still studies that have shown that a meat-free diet is healthier. If you look at these studies, you’ll find a clear pattern: vegans and vegetarians generally have better lifestyle habits than the average meat-eater (this goes back to what I was saying before about comparing someone with a healthy lifestyle to one with an unhealthy lifestyle). Last year a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine compared a low-carb Atkins diet with a low-carb “eco-Atkins” (a meat free low carb diet). The study showed that the individuals on the “eco-Atkins” had lower mortality and heart disease, while the regular Atkins was associated with a higher incidence of these. Is this the definitive proof that meat is bad? Far from it! In this study, the “eco-Atkins” group had a healthier lifestyle; no wonder they were healthier! A Polish study published last year showed that vegans and vegetarians are much more likely to engage in healthy lifestyle habits like less smoking and drinking and less processed foods (well, except for the veggie burgers that are giving many of them thyroid disease). Again, this goes back to what I was mentioning before: is it accurate (or even honest) to compare two individuals, one whom has a healthy lifestyle, and the other who doesn’t, and base the results solely off of what their diet is like? No, no it is not.

But what about when both omnivore and herbivore have a similar lifestyle? A study Minger mentioned in her discussion was this one from Taiwan. It compared vegetarian and non-vegetarian Buddhist monks who had a similar diet (except one didn’t eat meat). I like that this was done on Buddhist monks since that means that stress levels should be about the same. Stress is a disease trigger that is often ignored. Getting back to the study now, the results showed that it was the vegetarian Buddhists that had the higher risk of heart disease.

Is it time for the PCRM to eat their words? I think so. Really, there isn’t a single study that I know of that has compared health-conscious meat eaters with health-conscious vegetarians and has found that the meat eaters were just dropping like flies from disease. I think the Taiwanese study is especially interesting because all the individuals involved ate a similar cultural diet. Over at Minger’s site Raw Food SOS, she has a lengthy article discussing heart disease and the evidence that shows that ditching meat won’t save your arteries.

Since the beginning of time, humans have consumed meat and animal products. It’s taken thousands of years now for this animal-based diet to start giving us epidemics of heart disease, cancer, and obesity. But gosh, what about 200 years ago when we weren’t consuming nearly as much garbage (and before the invention of polyunsaturated vegetable oils, packaged processed foods, growth hormones, factory farming, epic stress levels, and super-sized soda)? You guessed it! There wasn’t an epidemic of these problems. Really, Dr. Weston A. Price demonstrated very clearly in numerous populations that when we eat nutrient dense animal foods, cut out the junk, and follow nourishing traditions, we have great health, and we even keep all our teeth!

(A very special thanks to Ms. Minger for her fantastic lecture and article that helped to inspire this post!)

Since perhaps the USDA’s 2004 dietary recommendations, the entirety of the US has had a clear message: the more whole grains, the merrier. I remember I would buy 7 grain bread and then see 12 grain and think “wow! I need soma’ that!”. In my article about whole foods nutrition, I mentioned how whole grains are a great source of magnesium and selenium, but what I didn’t know at the time was that there was something else they’re good for: digestive distress.

This information drove me crazy at first. How is it that grains are bad when there are traditional cultures that have made grains a staple of their diet for centuries? The production and consumption of grains as we know it today is quite different from what once was. Traditional cultures used to soak their grains before preparing them. This process increases digestibility and neutralizes various anti-nutrients. Sally Fallon, president of the Weston A Price Foundation, explains:

Our ancestors, and virtually all pre-industrialized peoples, soaked or fermented their grains before making them into porridge, breads, cakes and casseroles. A quick review of grain recipes from around the world will prove our point: In India, rice and lentils are fermented for at least two days before they are prepared as idli and dosas; in Africa the natives soak coarsely ground corn overnight before adding it to soups and stews and they ferment corn or millet for several days to produce a sour porridge called ogi; a similar dish made from oats was traditional among the Welsh; in some Oriental and Latin American countries rice receives a long fermentation before it is prepared; Ethiopians make their distinctive injera bread by fermenting a grain called teff for several days; Mexican corn cakes, called pozol, are fermented for several days and for as long as two weeks in banana leaves; before the introduction of commercial brewers yeast, Europeans made slow-rise breads from fermented starters; in America the pioneers were famous for their sourdough breads, pancakes and biscuits; and throughout Europe grains were soaked overnight, and for as long as several days, in water or soured milk before they were cooked and served as porridge or gruel.

Gluten is one of the things that gets broken down in the soaking and fermentation process. Gluten is very hard to digest and it can cause an inflammatory reaction in many people. After time, it’s quite possible for one’s digestive system to become compromised due to the combination of this irritant and many others that we commonly consume. Dr. Marlene Merritt explains in her article myths about whole grains and vegetarianism that a diet high in unfermented whole grains, particularly high-gluten grains like wheat, puts an enormous strain on the whole digestive mechanism. When this mechanism breaks down with age or overuse, the results take the form of allergies, celiac disease, mental illness, chronic indigestion and candida albicans overgrowth. Recent research links gluten intolerance with multiple sclerosis. During the process of soaking and fermenting, gluten and other difficult to-digest proteins are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.

Something else lurking in the grains: phytic acid and various other enzyme inhibitors. Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that binds itself to calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and especially zinc, in the intestines and blocks the body’s absorption of them. Because magnesium and calcium both play a role in bone health, frequent consumption of unfermented grains can lead to bone loss and mineral deficiencies as well.

Human beings, somewhat surprisingly, are not exactly intended to eat grains. Dr. Merritt says:

Anti-nutrients are there to protect the seed — they prevent sprouting until the time is right. What we forget is that animals that nourish themselves on plants and grains have longer, slower digestive tracts, with some having multiple stomachs for digestion. Those plants, grains and seeds want moisture, warmth, time and slight acidity to sprout, and imitating that is what will allow you to eat grains and legumes (soy excluded), extract the nutrients from them, and not have them cause short and long-term damage.

Does that mean that we should skip grains all together? Certainly, one can be in good health on a diet free of grains. The Masai tribe of Kenya is said to consume nothing but meat, milk, and animal blood. They are very fit, healthy, and have little to no dental carries (see my previous article to understand why this is notable). However, Dr. Price found that those who eat a varied diet had the best overall health. Grains however, just aren’t the pinnacle of health that we’ve been lead to believe from the USDA and all the other “diet dictocrats”.

To properly prepare grains, you want to soak them in a mildly acidic solution (for a day or more); to water, add in some whey, vinegar, lemon juice, kefir or yogurt and this will help to break down the anti-nutrients present and make the grains easier to digest and thus make the vitamin content more bioavailable. Sally Fallon outlines some additional information in her voluminous classic Nourishing Traditions:

Grains fall into two general categories. Those containing gluten, such as oats, rye, barley and especially wheat, should not be consumed unless they have been soaked or fermented; buckwheat, rice and millet do not contain gluten and are, on the whole, more easily digested. Whole rice and whole millet contain lower amounts of phytates than other grains so it is not absolutely necessary to soak them. However, they should be gently cooked for at least two hours in a high-mineral, gelatinous broth. This will neutralize some of the phytates they do contain and provide additional minerals to compensate for those that are still bound; while the gelatin in the broth will greatly facilitate digestion. We do not recommend the pressure cooker for grains because it cooks them too quickly.

While it is not necessary to rinse grains that have been soaked, some have said that they find it more flavorful after doing so.

UPDATE: A few months ago I decided to drastically reduce my consumption of grains aside from those that have been properly prepared, and white rice (something I’ll be discussing in the future). The largest source of grains for me used to be 2 bowls of “spelt flakes” I would eat in the morning with a handful of raisins in each. I now have Chris Kresser’s breakfast of champions (with an extra egg and extra coconut oil and butter for an added nutritional boost) in the morning and I’ve found that my digestion feels so much better! It’s really amazing when you experience something first hand. It’s one thing to read about what effect improperly prepared grains have on the body, and it’s another when you experience the difference first hand. Try this method out for a week and see if you notice a difference. Depending on how sensitive your digestion is, you may or may not notice, but either way, it’s good practice and healthier as a whole to adopt these changes.

Lately you may have noticed a similar, reoccurring name being mentioned in my newsletter: Weston A. Price. This of course begs the question: who is Weston A. Price?

Dr. Weston A. Price (DDS) was a dentist who traveled around the world studying primitive cultures that still consumed their traditional diet. The results that he found were very shocking: many of these cultures had little to no tooth decay despite (of course) never brushing their teeth in their lives and there was no crowding or need for correcting. Dr. Price then noticed that the ones with the best teeth were also in the best of health. What Dr. Price did was document what these people ate and he found certain similarities in the diets of the healthiest of them.

Dr. Price found that these cultures ate a variety of foods, consumed a high amount of fat (particularly from animals), and would prepare their foods in traditional ways (like fermentation and long-boil bone broths). The collective information of Dr. Price’s work was chronicled in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

Years after his death, the work of Dr. Price lives on through the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF). The WAPF is headed by Sally Fallon (author of Eat Fat Lose Fat, and Nourishing Traditions) along with help from Dr. Mary Enig (a biochemist renown for her knowledge and research of fats).

What I really like about the WAPF as well as the work of Dr. Price is that it is not based on a theory; it is simply based on the direct observation of individuals who lived incredibly healthy lives. Most all diet gurus will base their work (which they proclaim to be the #1 diet for you) on their own personal theory of consuming certain foods more, or in certain proportions, or eschewing certain food groups. But when we take a look at traditional diets, we see that those who still follow them are very healthy despite eating all these things that we’ve been lead to believe are unhealthy. Saturated fat is a great example: Tibet has a very low heart disease rate despite butter being a huge dietary staple.

I have been slowly incorporating the suggestions of the WAPF into my diet over the past year and for the first time I sincerely have noticed a difference in my health. During this time I’ve not been sick once (previously, 2 – 4 a year was normal) and I really can’t think of anytime in my life when this has happened. Likely, the reason is the increase of rich fats in my diet containing cholesterol as well as vitamins A and D; all three of which help the immune system.

Nourishing Our Children came up with an awesome food pyramid that visually shows how we should ideally eat:


At the bottom is the most nourishing of foods that Dr. Price found had made the base of these traditional diets: high vitamin butter, eggs, organ meats, raw milk, and seafood. The second tier involves (obviously) organic vegetables of all kinds. On the third tier we find fermented and soaked grains (which I’ll be talking about soon!), and lastly we have fruits at the top. Generally I’m not a fan of food pyramids, but I really, really like this one. It isn’t especially rigid in that it doesn’t suggest portions in great detail and it’s flexible.

If you’ve seen What the World Eats, you’ll know that different cultures eat different ways. Dr. Price’s research found that the healthiest of the groups he studied had certain dietary habits in common, which can be summarized as:

  • There were no refined or denatured foods.
  • Every diet contained animal products.
  • Traditional diets were nutrient dense containing high levels of vitamins and minerals.
  • All cultures cooked some or most of their food … but they always ate some of their animal foods raw.
  • There were high levels of enzymes and beneficial bacteria.
  • Seeds, grains, legumes and nuts are soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened.
  • The total fat content of traditional diets varies from 30% to 80% of calories, but only about 4% of calories come from polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Traditional diets contained nearly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • All diets contained some salt.
  • All traditional cultures made use of bones, usually as bone broth.
  • Traditional cultures made provisions for future generations.

The Weston A. Price Foundation suggests the following dietary guidelines: gelatin-rich bone broths at least once per week; sea food at least once per week (especially nutrient-rich salmon and oysters); all animal products should come from pastured animals; obviously no refined or processed foods; use honey and maple as your primary sweeteners, but if you use sugar then use rapadura/sucanat sugar which is the least refined and closest to sugar cane; grains should be fermented and soaked; use lots of high-vitamin butter from local pasture-fed cows, as this is the #1 nutrient dense food containing an array of beneficial fatty acids.

For some reason, certain groups (generally members of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, a vegan front-group masquerading as a scientific body promoting the pinnacle of health) try to make the claim that the Weston A. Price Foundation is either in bed with the Meat and Dairy Industry or that somehow their dietary suggestions help them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The WAPF encourages everyone to consume meat and dairy from pasture-fed animals coming from local farms. The buying club that I belong to (which is made up of WAPF members and was originally directly connected to the WAPF) helps me get pastured animal products from a small local farm, and there are buying clubs like this all over the country. Without this buying club, I would not have access to raw milk, pastured chicken, and many other pastured meats.

The WAPF is also responsible for the Campaign for Real Milk that helps people find raw milk in their area, as well as the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which helps farmers suffering from legal issues for selling raw milk as well as help ensure that all Americans have access to farm fresh raw milk.

There is of course much more to Dr. Price and the WAPF, but the purpose of this article is to serve as a brief overview. More articles will come in the future explaining various principles of the WAPF’s dietary suggestions as well as other findings of Dr. Price.

Every 5 years, the USDA and HHS (Health and Human Services) review the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and publish their newest reformed recommendations. Last month, the  USDA presented their newest suggestions which they say is based on “best information on the latest science and research”. After watching the presentation live on the web and reading through the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 4-page executive summary, all I have to say is: what a bunch a baloney!

Americans are incredibly confused about nutrition and I place the blame largely on the hands of the USDA and their faulty suggestions. This is what helped to start the calorie and fat craze decades ago that still leaves people brainwashed to this day. It’s interesting to note that the USDA is known for caving to pressure from food industry groups; Dr. Marion Nestle and Dr. Louise Light worked on the original food pyramid and have been whistle blowers over what has gone on behind closed doors. This really makes me wonder what they consider to be “science”.

The newest recommendations are fairly similar to previous ones. It’s suggested that we consume fewer calories, avoid saturated fat, sugar, and sodium, and eat more fruits and vegetables. The mentality behind this is largely in hopes to help end our obesity epidemic, reduce the high rate of heart disease, and reduce chronic disease. Of course, the science doesn’t support these recommendations, but that’s never stopped the USDA, American Medical Association, or the American Dietetics Association from promoting the same thing.

New suggestions

In the new announcement, there was a very strong focus on calories. USDA secretary Tom Vilsack says that we need to not just consume fewer calories, but consume them smarter, saying that “not every calorie is the same”. Throughout the speech, this kept getting repeated; eat fewer calories, eat better calories, calories in versus calories out. The “good” calories, according to the new dietary guidelines are: fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean meats; the bad calories included sugar, “solid fats” (I assume this to mean saturated fats), and sodium. Secretary Vilsack did also mention something that is becoming more of a buzz word these days, and that’s nutrient density. The 2010 dietary guidelines stress consuming more plants in all forms.

Inclusive to these new suggestions, the USDA has been working to help people be able to eat healthier and afford healthy food. Two things were mentioned: putting nutrition labels on the front of packages for “busy moms” and also to implement changes put forth in the Recovery Act so that individuals on food stamps can buy “healthier food” (in this case, defined as fruits and vegetables) and receive a discount on said items. Something else they would like to implement, coming from the Affordable Care Act is to try to put calorie information on menus to “help people make smarter choices”.

What’s wrong with these suggestions?

How about almost everything? Such as has been done since the original report decades ago, it continues to misinform individuals on proper dietary choices and thus leads to the nutritional confusion most people face today.

Calories

Calories in, calories out. It keeps getting repeated like a broken record. Most people believe this strategy, and most who have tried it have found that their results just aren’t what they planned. This is because it’s the quality of the food that is paramount! The body is a complex organism and different foods affect the body in different ways (and to complicate matters, different foods affect different people in different ways; aka bioindividuality).

Some foods will cause an insulin spike which will encourage the body to gain weight, and some foods help the body lose weight. It’s not as simple as choosing between junk food and health food (though to complicate matters further, our perception of health food is often wrong as well!), because our very notion of healthy food is skewed.

Salt

In NYC, you will see adds on the subway cautioning about salt intake. On store shelves you will see reduced sodium broths, soups, and sauces. Salt, along with sugar and fat has been labeled as public enemy #1 in the health crusade, but is it justified? Typically, the bad gets mixed in with the good and we have ourselves some serious confusion. There is a difference between isolated salt (sodium chloride) and sea salt, but of course the USDA doesn’t recognize any difference between the quality of foods. The subject of sodium vs sea salt is a separate one altogether and will be tackled another day.

In regards to the USDA’s suggestion to drastically reduce your intake of sodium, take note that Gary Taubes wrote in the journal Science that there is simply no evidence to suggest that sodium is bad for your health. Taubes’s writing on this subject won him the 1999 Science in Society Journalism Award from the National Association of Science Writers.

Certainly we should avoid foods that are loaded with sodium; such as packaged foods. But of course, if you are consuming a diet of whole foods, then you don’t have to worry about such things. Similarly, it’s dangerous to reduce overall sodium content found in whole foods. Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig write in their lauded book Nourishing Traditions:

As all body fluids contain sodium, it can be said that sodium is essential to life. It is needed for many biochemical processes including water balance regulation, fluid distribution on either side of the cell walls, muscle contraction and expansion, nerve stimulation and acid-alkaline balance. Sodium is very important to the proper function of the adrenal glands.

Vegetables and Fruit

Any balanced diet should include plants; you will find a scant few health professionals who suggest otherwise. The debate, however, is how much of your diet should consist of plants. The majority of people will tell you that fruits and vegetables are where you get your vitamins and nutrients from. Even famed author and journalist Michael Pollan says that we should eat “mostly plants”. Here’s the problem though: there is no good evidence to suggest that eating more plants will have any positive effect on our health. In fact, you can see for yourself where the nutrition is if you look at the numbers.

For some reason, our understanding of nutrition has been dumbed down to believe that meat = protein & B12 and plants = vitamins, to put it simply. The undeniable fact is, however, that most of our nutrient requirements come from animal products. It would be extremely difficult (and almost impossible, depending on the circumstance) to get our nutritional requirements from eating more plants and less meat/animal products or none at all!

Fat

Fat. It’s the dietary word that sends shivers down everyone’s spine. It’s what keeps teen-aged girls afraid of gaining weight up at night. Unfortunately, of all the diet myths that have been spread, the myths about dietary fat have perhaps had the biggest effect. Fat doesn’t make you fat, and while the USDA has long since retracted their caution against all fats (now saying that unsaturated fats are where it’s at), this fear still persists and keeps people buying skim milk and whatever else has the “low in fat!” label plastered on the front of the package. You can still find publications that link “low fat” with “healthy” because of the great anti-fat campaign of years past.

There are a few problems with “low fat” foods and diets. Firstly, refined foods that are stripped of their fat are not whole foods and as such, should be avoided as a general rule. Studies have shown that such low-fat foods make the body crave more fat and as a result, and individual will eat more (usually in the form of easily accessible snacks and sweets) and thus gain more weight. Secondly, fat fills you up. It’s the in-between meals snacking that really gets most people and a diet that is low in fat leaves an individual hungry and looking for more food. Thirdly, a low-fat diet is deficient in the paramount fat soluble vitamins: A, D, E, K, and K2. Vitamins A and D by themselves have been shown to be helpful for a variety of conditions such as viral immunity, diabetes, and cancer. Fat is your friend. You want fat in your diet. It’s that simple.

But what about the renowned bad guy, saturated fat? Surely we must cut back on saturated fat intake to help prevent heart disease right? The answer to that is: no, absolutely not. There is simply no evidence to suggest that saturated fat is linked to heart disease. Coconut is one of the most dense saturated fats (containing 90% saturated fat) and you won’t find heart disease amongst coconut eaters. You also won’t find high levels of heart disease in Tibet where yak butter is a dietary staple. Numerous studies have shown that there is simply no good evidence to suggest that saturated fat is linked to heart disease. Just last year there was a meta analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which analyzed 21 different studies and reported no association of heart disease with saturated fat.

Here’s a real shocking fact that the USDA will never admit to: saturated fats actually help prevent heart disease!

What’s the answer?

The answer of course, is to do almost the opposite of what the USDA tells you. Ideally, you want a diet that is high in fat and that includes only whole foods. Choose meat and dairy products that come from animals that lived their life on the pasture and consumed their natural diet. Dairy that is consumed should ideally be raw and of course from grass-fed cows. Make your own gelatin-rich bone broth and try to include it in as many of your weekly meals as possible. Purchased wild-caught seafood and consume it at least once a week.

In short, you ideally want to consume a nourishing diet similar to that of your ancestors. The same diet that humans have consumed for generation after generation before all the food scares. We are told that these foods that our ancestors enjoyed and made a staple of their diet is bad for us. If it is, then why is it that only in the current era that we have experienced an explosion of various diseases, disorders, and other pathologies?

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