There is a great discussion between Dr. Steven Gundry and Dr. Paul Saladino. It’s an uncommon dialogue. Even though Gundry is known for warning against the harmful substances in plant foods, he has shifted toward a plant-based diet in also warning against too much animal foods or at least too much protein. As for Saladino, he is a carnivore and so takes Gundry’s argument against plants to a whole other level. Saladino sees no problem with meat, of course. And this leads to one point of potential conflict. His view contradicts what Gundry writes about in his most recent book, The Longevity Paradox.
A major argument in Gundry’s book is that too much protein leads to elevated IGF-1. That has to do with the concern that it is unhealthy for the body to be permanently in growth mode. This partly misses the point that many people on animal-based diets tend toward fasting, ketosis, and autophagy, sometimes caloric restriction as well. This happens because, as starchy and sugary plant foods are eliminated, hunger and cravings lessen. It becomes easier for people to eat less or go for long periods without food, sometimes without intentionally trying to do so.
So, contrary to Gundry’s fear, one would actually expect a carnivore diet to be low in IGF-1. That is exactly what Saladino has found, in himself and in his patients. That goes against a key argument in The Longevity Paradox. The fact of the matter is that a plant-based diet is more likely to drive up IGF-1. “So most of the carnivores I test for IGF-1 are around 120,” said Saladino, “which is significantly lower than people on mixed diets who are not even carnivores. So I think this brings back the idea of context. And the context that I’m talking about here is that IGF-1 can be triggered by a lot of things. But I think that the response of the body to protein is very different when we are in ketosis, than it is on a mixed diet. And we see this with insulin as well.”
Also, they got onto the topic of TMAO. Saladino points out that fish has more fully formed TMAO than red meat produces in combination with grain-loving Prevotella. Even vegetables produce TMAO. So, why is beef being scapegoated? It’s pure ignorant idiocy. To further this point, Saladino explained that he has tested the microbiome of patients of his on the carnivore diet and it comes up low on the Prevotella bacteria. He doesn’t think TMAO is the danger people claim it is. But even if it were, the single safest diet might be the carnivore diet.
Gundry didn’t even disagree. He pointed out that he did testing on patients of his who are long-term vegans and now in their 70s. They had extremely high levels of TMAO. He sent their lab results to the Cleveland Clinic for an opinion. The experts there refused to believe that it was possible and so dismissed the evidence. That is the power of dietary ideology when it forms a self-enclosed reality tunnel. Red meat is bad and vegetables are good. The story changes over time. It’s the saturated fat. No, it’s the TMAO. Then it will be something else. Always looking for a rationalization to uphold the preferred dogma.
Related points are made about advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Gundry asked if Saladino was worried about these. He did say they were a concern, but not for carnivores more than for anyone else on other diets. Everything we cook is going to have AGEs, but we can we lessen them by how we cook (e.g., avoid cooking with olive oil). This problem is far from being limited to cooking meat. And no matter what one is eating, there are ways of avoiding AGEs, such as using a pressure cooker.
Point by point, Saladino knocked down all possible criticisms of eating meat. And, surprisingly, there seemed to be little push back from Gundry. They both understood the science and there really was no difference of opinion based on the facts themselves. It was more about what each preferred to emphasize and the strategies they advocated, but nonetheless both appeared to understand the scientific-based reasoning of the other. It was rather refreshing. In the end, Gundry seemed to be more in line with Saladino than I thought he would be from having read The Longevity Paradox. He even threw out some evidence for how animal or insect protein is important even for other primates. Here are Gundry’s concluding thoughts:
“And in fact, one of the things that got me interested in bugs is that a very famous observation was made at the Washington Zoo back in the 1920s. And I wrote about this in my first book, Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution. They brought a bunch of marmoset monkeys from South America who are obligate frugivorous, all they eat is fruit. And they fed them fruit and these monkeys did not do well. They didn’t reproduce. And a young zoologist at the zoo said, “You know, we’re going giving them fruit that basically we buy at the grocery store. And the fruit that these guys are eating out in the jungle is full of bugs.”
“In fact, chimpanzees have been observed by Jane Goodall to take a bite of fruit and look at it, and then throw it on the ground. And she found that the ones that were thrown on the ground didn’t have any bugs in it. And so they introduced 6% animal protein into the diet of the marmoset monkeys to make up for these insects that they weren’t getting in their diet. And lo and behold, they thrived, and they actually began to reproduce. And it was one of the things that really compelled my argument that we’re a great ape, and even great apes have to have some animal protein in their diet.
“So that’s a great question. And chimpanzees will take little sticks and go into termite mounds and get the termites. And believe it or not, even hummingbirds who all they do is drink sugar water will actually go after gnats and little bugs growing or crawling on leaves, because they have to have a source of animal protein.”
We are coming to realize how important are these kinds of foods. Primates don’t only eat insects for observations of hunting have also been made. Even many herbivores will eat some occasional meat when it’s available. There are hundreds of videos of deers, rabbits, etc eating meat, maybe usually what they find dead but sometimes another living animal. We can argue about the carnivore diet, but meat consumption sure is a lot more common than previously thought.
This is true among humans as well. When the so-called Blue Zones are looked at more closely, they include more animal foods than had been acknowledged. Some of the longest living populations are in Asia where research, opposite of that in the West, correlates meat with greater health and longer life. Saladino brought up the example of Hong Kong, the residents of which have a long lifespan averaging 85 years old while also on average eating a pound and a half of meat on a daily basis. Whether or not one wants to be on a carnivore diet, there is no scientific reason to live in fear of animal foods. As Saladino makes clear, humans have been eating large amounts of meat for hundreds of thousands of years. This is what we were evolved to eat.
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