Dr. Catherine Shanahan On Dietary Epigenetics and Mutations

Dr. Catherine Shanahan is a board-certified family physician with an undergraduate degree in biology, along with training in biochemistry and genetics. She has also studied ethno-botany, culinary traditions, and ancestral health. Besides regularly appearing in and writing for national media, she has worked as director and nutrition consultant for the Los Angeles Lakers. On High Intensity Health, she was interviewed by nutritionist Mike Mutzel (Fat Adapted Athletes Perform Better). At the 31:55 mark in that video, she discussed diet (in particular, industrial vegetable oils or simply seed oils), epigenetic inheritance, de novo genetic mutations, and autism. This can be found in the show notes (#172) where it is stated that,

“In 1909 we consumed 1/3 of an ounce of soy oil per year. Now we consume about 22 pounds per year. In the amounts that we consume seed oils, it breaks down into some of the worst toxins ever discovered. They are also capable of damaging our DNA. Many diseases are due to mutations that children have that their parents did not have. This means that mothers and fathers with poor diets have eggs/sperm that have mutated DNA. Children with autism have 10 times the number of usual mutations in their genes. Getting off of seed oils is one of the most impactful things prospective parents can do. The sperm has more mutations than the egg.”

These seed oils didn’t exist in the human diet until the industrial era. Our bodies are designed to use and incorporate the PUFAs from natural sources, but the processing into oils through high pressure and chemicals denatures the structure of the oil and destroys the antioxidants. The oxidative stress that follows from adding them to the diet is precisely because these altered oils act as trojan horses in being treated by the body like natural fats. This is magnified by a general increase of PUFAs, specifically omega-6 fatty acids, with a simultaneous decrease of omega-3 fatty acids and saturated fats. It isn’t any difference in overall fat intake, as the 40% we get in the diet now is about the same as seen in the diet at the beginning of last century. What is different is these oxidized PUFAs combined with massive loads of sugar and starches like never seen before.

Dr. Shanahan sees these industrial plant oils as the single greatest harm, such that she doesn’t consider them to be a food but a toxin, originally discovered as an industrial byproduct. She is less worried about any given category of food or macronutrient, as long as you first and foremost remove this specific source of toxins.** She goes into greater detail in a talk from Ancestry Foundation (AHS16 – Cate Shanahan – Bad Diet, Bad DNA?). And her book, Deep Nutrition, is a great resource on this topic. I’ll leave that for you to further explore, if you so desire. Let me quickly and simply note an implication of this.

Genetic mutations demonstrates how serious of a situation this is. The harm we are causing ourselves might go beyond merely punishment for our personal sins but the sins of the father and mother genetically passing onto their children, grandchildren, and further on (one generation of starvation or smoking among grandparents leads to generations of smaller birth weight and underdevelopment among the grandchildren and maybe beyond, no matter if the intervening generation of parents was healthy).

It might not be limited to a temporary transgenerational harm as seen with epigenetics. This could be permanent harm to our entire civilization, fundamentally altering our collective gene pool. We could recover from epigenetics within a few generations, assuming we took the problem seriously and acted immediately (Dietary Health Across Generations), but with genetic mutations we may never be able to undo the damage. These mutations have been accumulating and will continue to accumulate, until we return to an ancestral diet of healthy foods as part of an overall healthy lifestyle and environment. Even mutations can be moderated by epigenetics, as the body is designed to deal with them.

This further undermines genetic determinism and biological essentialism. We aren’t mere victims doomed to a fate beyond our control. This dire situation is being created by all of us, individually and collectively. There is no better place to begin than with your own health, but we better also treat this as a societal crisis verging on catastrophe. It was public policies and an international food system that created the conditions that enacted and enforced this failed mass experiment of dietary dogma and capitalist realist profiteering. Maybe we could try something different, something  less psychopathically authoritarian, less psychotically disconnected from reality, less collectively suicidal. Heck, it’s worth a try.

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** I’d slightly disagree with her emphasis. She thinks what matters most is the changes over the past century. There is a good point made in this focus on late modernity. But I’d note that industrialization and modern agriculture began in the prior centuries.

It was in the colonial era that pasta was introduced to Italy, potatoes to Ireland, and sugar throughout the Western world. It wasn’t until the late 1700s and more clearly in the early 1800s that there were regular grain surpluses that made grains available for feeding/fattening both humans and cattle. In particular, it was around this time that agricultural methods improved for wheat crops, allowing it to be affordable to the general public for the first time in human existence and hence causing white bread to become common during the ensuing generations.

I don’t know about diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis. But I do know that the most major diseases of civilization (obesity, diabetes, cancer, and mental illness) were first noticed to be on the rise during the 1700s and 1800s or sometimes earlier, long before industrial oils or the industrial revolution that made these oils possible. The high-carb diet appeared gradually with colonial trade and spread across numerous societies, first hitting the wealthiest before eventually being made possible for the dirty masses. During this time, it was observed by doctors, scientists, missionaries and explorers that obesity, diabetes, cancer, mental illness and moral decline quickly followed on the heels of this modern diet.

Seed oils were simply the final Jenga block pulled out from the ever growing and ever more wobbly tower, in replacing healthy nutrient-dense animal fats (full of fat-soluble vitamins, choline, omega-3 fatty acids, etc) that were counterbalancing some of the worst effects of the high-carb diet. But seed oils, as with farm chemicals such as glyphosate, never would never have had as severe and dramatic of an impact if not for the previous centuries of worsening diet and health. It had been building up over a long time and it was doomed to topple right from the start. We are simply now at the tipping point that is bringing us to the culmination point, the inevitable conclusion of a sad trajectory.

Still, it’s never too late… or let us hope. Dr. Shanahan prefers to end on an optimistic note. And I’d rather not disagree with her about that. I’ll assume she is right or that she is at least in the general ballpark. Let us do as she suggests. We need more and better research, but somehow industrial seed oils have slipped past the notice of autism researchers.

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On Deep Nutrition and Genetic Expression
interview by Kristen Michaelis CNC

Dr. Cate: Genetic Wealth is the idea that if your parents or grandparents ate traditional and nutrient-rich foods, then you came into the world with genes that could express in an optimal way, and this makes you more likely to look like a supermodel and be an extraordinary athlete. Take Angelina Jolie or Michael Jordan, for instance. They’ve got loads of genetic wealth.

Genetic Momentum
 describes the fact that, once you have that extraordinary genetic wealth, you don’t have to eat so great to be healthier than the average person. It’s like being born into a kind of royalty. You always have that inheritance around and you don’t need to work at your health in the same way other people do.

These days, for most of us, it was our grandparents or great grandparents who were the last in our line to grow up on a farm or get a nutrient-rich diet. In my case, I have to go back 4 generations to the Irish and Russian farmers who immigrated to NYC where my grandparents on both sides could only eat cheap food; sometimes good things like chopped liver and beef tongue, but often preserves and crackers and other junk. So my grandparents were far healthier than my brother and sisters and I.

The Standard American Diet (SAD) has accelerated the processes of genetic wealth being spent down, genetic momentum petering out, and the current generation getting sick earlier than their parents and grandparents. This is a real, extreme tragedy on the order of end-of-the-world level losses of natural resources. Genetic wealth is a kind of natural resource. And loss of genetic wealth is a more urgent problem than peak oil or the bursting of the housing bubble. But of course nobody is talking about it directly, only indirectly, in terms of increased rates of chronic disease.

Take autism, for example. Why is autism so common? I don’t think vaccines are the reason for the vast vast majority of cases, since subtle signs of autism can be seen before vaccination in the majority. I think the reason has to do with loss of genetic wealth. We know that children with autism exhibit DNA mutations that their parents and grandparents did not have. Why? Because in the absence of necessary nutrients, DNA cannot even duplicate itself properly and permanent mutations develop.

(Here’s an article on one kind of genetic mutation (DNA deletions) associated with autism.)

Fortunately, most disease is not due to permanent letter mutations and therefore a good diet can rehabilitate a lot of genetic disease that is only a result of altered genetic expression. To put your high-school biology to work, it’s the idea of genotype versus phenotype. You might have the genes that make you prone to, for example, breast cancer (the BRCA1 mutation), but you might not get the disease if you eat right because the gene expression can revert back to normal.

Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food
by Dr. Catherine Shanahan
pp. 55-57

Guided Evolution?

In 2007, a consortium of geneticists investigating autism boldly announced that the disease was not genetic in the typical sense of the word, meaning that you inherit a gene for autism from one or both of your parents. New gene sequencing technologies had revealed that many children with autism had new gene mutations, never before expressed in their family line.

An article published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states, “The majority of autisms are a result of de novo mutations, occurring first in the parental germ line.” 42 The reasons behind this will be discussed in Chapter 9.

In 2012, a group investigating these new, spontaneous mutations discovered evidence that randomness was not the sole driving force behind them. Their study, published in the journal Cell, revealed an unexpected pattern of mutations occurring 100 times more often in specific “hotspots,” regions of the human genome where the DNA strand is tightly coiled around organizing proteins called histones that function much like spools in a sewing kit, which organize different colors and types of threads. 43

The consequences of these mutations seem specifically designed to toggle up or down specific character traits. Jonathan Sebat, lead author on the 2012 article, suggests that the hotspots are engineered to “mutate in ways that will influence human traits” by toggling up or down the development of specific behaviors. For example, when a certain gene located at a hotspot on chromosome 7 is duplicated, children develop autism, a developmental delay characterized by near total lack of interest in social interaction. When the same chromosome is deleted, children develop Williams Syndrome, a developmental delay characterized by an exuberant gregariousness, where children talk a lot, and talk with pretty much anyone. The phenomenon wherein specific traits are toggled up and down by variations in gene expression has recently been recognized as a result of the built-in architecture of DNA and dubbed “active adaptive evolution.” 44

As further evidence of an underlying logic driving the development of these new autism-related mutations, it appears that epigenetic factors activate the hotspot, particularly a kind of epigenetic tagging called methylation. 45 In the absence of adequate B vitamins, specific areas of the gene lose these methylation tags, exposing sections of DNA to the factors that generate new mutations. In other words, factors missing from a parent’s diet trigger the genome to respond in ways that will hopefully enable the offspring to cope with the new nutritional environment. It doesn’t always work out, of course, but that seems to be the intent.

You could almost see it as the attempt to adjust character traits in a way that will engineer different kinds of creative minds, so that hopefully one will give us a new capacity to adapt.

pp. 221-228

What Is Autism?

The very first diagnostic manual for psychiatric disorders published in 1954 described autism simply as “schizophrenic reaction, childhood type.” 391 The next manual, released in 1980, listed more specific criteria, including “pervasive lack of responsiveness to other people” and “if speech is present, peculiar speech patterns such as immediate and delayed echolalia, metaphorical language, pronominal reversal (using you when meaning me, for instance).” 392 Of course, the terse language of a diagnostic manual can never convey the real experience of living with a child on the spectrum, or living on the spectrum yourself.

When I graduated from medical school, autism was so rarely diagnosed that none of my psychiatry exams even covered it and I and my classmates were made aware of autism more from watching the movie Rain Man than from studying course material. The question of whether autism (now commonly referred to as ASD) is more common now than it was then or whether we are simply recognizing it more often is still controversial. Some literature suggests that it is a diagnostic issue, and that language disorders are being diagnosed less often as autism is being diagnosed more. However, according to new CDC statistics, it appears that autism rates have risen 30 percent between 2008 and 2012. Considering that diagnostic criteria had been stable by that point in time for over a decade, increased diagnosis is unlikely to be a major factor in this 30 percent figure. 393

Given these chilling statistics, it’s little wonder that so many research dollars have been dedicated to exploring possible connections between exposure to various environmental factors and development of the disorder. Investigators have received grants to look into a possible link between autism and vaccines, 394 smoking, 395 maternal drug use (prescription and illicit), 396 , 397 , 398 organophosphates, 399 and other pesticides, 400 BPA, 401 lead, 402 mercury, 403 cell phones, 404 IVF and infertility treatments, 405 induced labor, 406 high-powered electric wires, 407 flame retardants, 408 ultrasound, 409 —and just about any other environmental factor you can name. You might be wondering if they’ve also looked into diet. But of course: alcohol, 410 cow’s milk, 411 milk protein, 412 soy formula, 413 gluten, 414 and food colorings 415 have all been investigated. Guess what they’ve never dedicated a single study to investigating? Here’s a hint: it’s known to be pro-oxidative and pro-inflammatory and contains 4-HNE, 4-HHE, and MDA, along with a number of other equally potent mutagens. 416 Still haven’t guessed? Okay, one last hint: it’s so ubiquitous in our food supply that for many Americans it makes up as much as 60 percent of their daily caloric intake, 417 a consumption rate that has increased in parallel with rising rates of autism.

Of course, I’m talking about vegetable oil. In Chapter 2 , I discussed in some detail how and why gene transcription, maintenance, and expression are necessarily imperiled in the context of a pro-inflammatory, pro-oxidative environment, so I won’t go further into that here. But I do want to better acquaint you with the three PUFA-derived mutagens I just named because when they make it to the part of your cell that houses DNA, they can bind to DNA and create new, “de novo,” mutations. DNA mutations affecting a woman’s ovaries, a man’s sperm, or a fertilized embryo can have a devastating impact on subsequent generations.

First, let’s revisit 4-HNE (4-hydroxynonanol), which you may recall meeting in the above section on firebombing the highways. This is perhaps the most notorious of all the toxic fats derived from oxidation of omega-6 fatty acids, whose diversity of toxic effects requires that entire chemistry journals be devoted to 4-HNE alone. When the mutagenicity (ability to mutate DNA) of 4-HNE was first described in 1985, the cytotoxicity (ability to kill cells) had already been established for decades. The authors of a 2009 review article explain that the reason it had taken so long to recognize that HNE was such an effective carcinogen was largely due to the fact that “the cytotoxicity [cell-killing ability] of 4-HNE masked its genotoxicity [DNA-mutating effect].” 419 In other words, it kills cells so readily that they don’t have a chance to divide and mutate. How potently does 4-HNE damage human DNA? After interacting with DNA, 4-HNE forms a compound called an HNE-adduct, and that adduct prevents DNA from copying itself accurately. Every time 4-HNE binds to a guanosine (the G of the four-letter ACGT DNA alphabet), there is somewhere between a 0.5 and 5 percent chance that G will not be copied correctly, and that the enzyme trying to make a perfect copy of DNA will accidentally turn G into T. 420 Without 4-HNE, the chance of error is about a millionth of a percent. 421 In other words, 4-HNE increases the chances of a DNA mutation rate roughly a million times!

Second, 4-HHE (4-hydroxy-hexanal), which is very much like 4-HNE, his more notorious bigger brother derived from omega-6, but 4-HHE is derived instead from omega-3. If bad guys had sidekicks, 4-NHE’s would be 4-HHE. Because 4-HHE does many of the same things to DNA as 4-HNE, but has only been discovered recently. 422 You see, when omega-6 reacts with oxygen, it breaks apart into two major end products, whereas omega-3, being more explosive, flies apart into four different molecules. This means each one is present in smaller amounts, and that makes them a little more difficult to study. But it doesn’t make 4-HHE any less dangerous. 4-HHE specializes in burning through your glutathione peroxidase antioxidant defense system. 423 This selenium-based antioxidant enzyme is one of the three major enzymatic antioxidant defense systems, and it may be the most important player defending your DNA against oxidative stress. 424 , 425

Finally, there is malonaldehyde (MDA), proven to be a mutagen in 1984, but presumed to only come from consumption of cooked and cured meats. 426 Only in the past few decades have we had the technology to determine that MDA can be generated in our bodies as well. 427 And unlike the previous two chemicals, MDA is generated by oxidation of both omega-3 and omega-6. It may be the most common endogenously derived oxidation product. Dr. J. L. Marnett, who directs a cancer research lab at Vanderbuit University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, and who has published over 400 articles on the subject of DNA mutation, summarized his final article on MDA with the definitive statement that MDA “appears to be a major source of endogenous DNA damage [endogenous, here, meaning due to internal, metabolic factors rather than, say, radiation] in humans that may contribute significantly to cancer and other genetic diseases.” 428

There’s one more thing I need to add about vegetable-oil-derived toxic breakdown products, particularly given the long list of toxins now being investigated as potential causes of autism spectrum disorders. Not only do they directly mutate DNA, they also make DNA more susceptible to mutations induced by other environmental pollutants. 429 , 430 This means that if you start reading labels and taking vegetable oil out of your diet, your body will more readily deal with the thousands of contaminating toxins not listed on the labels which are nearly impossible to avoid.

Why all this focus on genes when we’re talking about autism? Nearly every day a new study comes out that further consolidates the consensus among scientists that autism is commonly a genetic disorder. The latest research is focusing on de novo mutations, meaning mutations neither parent had themselves but that arose spontaneously in their egg, sperm, or during fertilization. These mutations may affect single genes, or they may manifest as copy number variations, in which entire stretches of DNA containing multiple genes are deleted or duplicated. Geneticists have already identified a staggering number of genes that appear to be associated with autism. In one report summarizing results of examining 900 children, scientists identified 1,000 potential genes: “exome sequencing of over 900 individuals provided an estimate of nearly 1,000 contributing genes.” 431

All of these 1,000 genes are involved with proper development of the part of the brain most identified with the human intellect: our cortical gray matter. This is the stuff that enables us to master human skills: the spoken language, reading, writing, dancing, playing music, and, most important, the social interaction that drives the desire to do all of the above. One need only have a few of these 1,000 genes involved in building a brain get miscopied, or in some cases just one, in order for altered brain development to lead to one’s inclusion in the ASD spectrum.

So just a few troublemaker genes can obstruct the entire brain development program. But for things to go right, all the genes for brain development need to be fully functional.

Given that humans are thought to have only around 20,000 genes, and already 1,000 are known to be essential for building brain, that means geneticists have already labeled 5 percent of the totality of our genetic database as crucial to the development of a healthy brain—and we’ve just started looking. At what point does it become a foolish enterprise to continue to look for genes that, when mutated, are associated with autism? When we’ve identified 5,000? Or 10,000? The entire human genome? At what point do we stop focusing myopically only on those genes thought to play a role in autism?

I’ll tell you when: when you learn that the average autistic child’s genome carries de novo mutations not just in genes thought to be associated with autism, but across the board, throughout the entirety of the chromosomal landscape. Because once you’ve learned this, you can’t help but consider that autism might be better characterized as a symptom of a larger disease—a disease that results in an overall increase in de novo mutations.

Almost buried by the avalanche of journal articles on genes associated with autism is the finding that autistic children exhibit roughly ten times the number of de novo mutations compared to their typically developing siblings. 432 An international working group on autism pronounced this startling finding in a 2013 article entitled: “Global Increases in Both Common and Rare Copy Number Load Associated With Autism.” 433 ( Copy number load refers to mutations wherein large segments of genes are duplicated too often.) What the article says is that yes, children with autism have a larger number of de novo mutations, but the majority of their new mutations are not statistically associated with autism because other kids have them, too. The typically developing kids just don’t have nearly as many.

These new mutations are not only affecting genes associated with brain development. They are affecting all genes seemingly universally. What is more, there is a dose response relationship between the total number of de novo mutations and the severity of autism such that the more gene mutations a child has (the bigger the dose of mutation), the worse their autism (the larger the response). And it doesn’t matter where the mutations are located—even in genes that have no obvious connection to the brain. 434 This finding suggests that autism does not originate in the brain, as has been assumed. The real problem—at least for many children—may actually be coming from the genes. If this is so, then when we look at a child with autism, what we’re seeing is a child manifesting a global genetic breakdown. Among the many possible outcomes of this genetic breakdown, autism may simply be the most conspicuous, as the cognitive and social hallmarks of autism are easy to recognize.

As the authors of the 2013 article state, “Given the large genetic target of neurodevelopmental disorders, estimated in the hundreds or even thousands of genomic loci, it stands to reason that anything that increases genomic instability could contribute to the genesis of these disorders.” 435 Genomic instability —now they’re on to something. Because framing the problem this way helps us to ask the more fundamental question, What is behind the “genomic instability” that’s causing all these new gene mutations?

In the section titled “What Makes DNA Forget” in Chapter 2 , I touched upon the idea that an optimal nutritional environment is required to ensure the accurate transcription of genetic material and communication of epigenetic bookmarking, and how a pro-oxidative, pro-inflammatory diet can sabotage this delicate operation in ways that can lead to mutation and alter normal growth. There I focused on mistakes made in epigenetic programming, what you could call de novo epigenetic abnormalities. The same prerequisites that support proper epigenetic data communication, I submit, apply equally to the proper transcription of genetic data.

What’s the opposite of a supportive nutritional environment? A steady intake of pro-inflammatory, pro-oxidative vegetable oil that brings with it the known mutagenic compounds of the kind I’ve just described. Furthermore, if exposure to these vegetable oil-derived mutagens causes a breakdown in the systems for accurately duplicating genes, then you might expect to find other detrimental effects from this generalized defect of gene replication. Indeed we do. Researchers in Finland have found that children anywhere on the ASD spectrum have between 1.5 and 2.7 times the risk of being born with a serious birth defect, most commonly a life-threatening heart defect or neural tube (brain and spinal cord) defect that impairs the child’s ability to walk. 436 Another group, in Nova Scotia, identified a similarly increased rate of minor malformations, such as abnormally rotated ears, small feet, or closely spaced eyes. 437

What I’ve laid out here is the argument that the increasing prevalence of autism is best understood as a symptom of De Novo Gene Mutation Syndrome brought on by oxidative damage, and that vegetable oil is the number-one culprit in creating these new mutations. These claims emerge from a point-by-point deduction based on the best available chemical, genetic, and physiologic science. To test the validity of this hypothesis, we need more research.

Does De Novo Gene Mutation Syndrome Affect Just the Brain?

Nothing would redirect the trajectory of autism research in a more productive fashion than reframing autism as a symptom of the larger underlying disease, which we are provisionally calling de novo gene-mutation syndrome, or DiNGS. (Here’s a mnemonic: vegetable oil toxins “ding” your DNA, like hailstones pockmarking your car.)

If you accept my thesis that the expanding epidemic of autism is a symptom of an epidemic of new gene mutations, then you may wonder why the only identified syndrome of DiNGS is autism. Why don’t we see all manner of new diseases associated with gene mutations affecting organs other than the brain? We do. According to the most recent CDC report on birth defect incidence in the United States, twenty-nine of the thirty-eight organ malformations tracked have increased. 438

However, these are rare events, occurring far less frequently than autism. The reason for the difference derives from the fact that the brain of a developing baby can be damaged to a greater degree than other organs can, while still allowing the pregnancy to carry to term. Though the complex nature of the brain makes it the most vulnerable in terms of being affected by mutation, this aberration of development does not make the child more vulnerable in terms of survival in utero. The fact that autism affects the most evolutionarily novel portion of the brain means that as far as viability of an embryo is concerned, it’s almost irrelevant. If the kinds of severely damaging mutations leading to autism were to occur in organs such as the heart, lungs, or kidneys, fetal survival would be imperiled, leading to spontaneous miscarriage. Since these organs begin developing as early as four to six weeks of in-utero life, failure of a pregnancy this early might occur without any symptoms other than bleeding, which might be mistaken for a heavy or late period, and before a mother has even realized she’s conceived.

Healthy Diet Made Simple

Let me share the Cosmic Secret of Dietary Success™. It cannot fail! Money back guaranteed.

I’ve studied and experimented with various diets. And I’ve observed many others in their own experiences and results. One begins to see patterns across all dietary regimens and strategies. There is a basic consistency to what works for most people.

Here it is — the official DICE Dietary Protocol© (not in order of priority):

  1. Don’t eat fat and carbs together, limiting one or the other or both. That is to say, do a low-carb/moderate-to-high-fat diet or a low-fat/moderate-to-high-carb diet. In either case, it can be done as plant-based, animal-based, or fancy-free omnivory. In practice, this would mean, for example, eating the bread or eating the meat but not eating a sandwich with the two combined. This is the standard strategy for any health issue related to metabolic syndrome, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and fatty liver. This is because lots of starchy carbs and added sugar combined with lots of fats, especially industrial seed oils (oxidized and high in omega-6 fatty acids), causes all kinds of havoc in the body. Going one way or the other will effectively improve health, at least in the short term of counteracting the accumulated harm of the Standard American Diet (SAD). Debates about what is the best long-term diet is a separate issue.
  2. If struggling, try an elimination diet in order to determine specific allergies or intolerances: wheat gluten, dairy lactose, egg whites, plant oxalates, and many other potentially problematic foods and categories of foods (such as the nightshade family and anything high in histamines). There are many versions of the elimination diet. The most conventional one is to remove from the diet everything besides rice. However, a downside to this is that a significant percentage of people have a high glycemic response to rice, which is a problem with 88% of the American population with one or more symptoms of metabolic syndrome. So, some might find using meat, instead of rice, as a better starting point (Like water fasts, meat fasts are good for health). Few people have any problems with fresh meat from ruminants. In fact, some find this so beneficial with all that ails them that they remain carnivore or else decide to use plant foods sparingly. Sure, others might instead choose to go the vegetarian or vegan route, but I’ve never heard of anyone trying an elimination diet with rice and deciding to eat nothing other than rice for the rest of their lives.
  3. Change metabolic functioning with fasting, calorie restriction, portion control, protein leveraging, hormonal hunger signaling, etc. This is one of the most powerful and effective tools, especially for fat loss and weight maintenance. Some of these methods have the added benefit of curbing appetite, cravings, and addictions while improving mood, energy, and stamina. This is specifically true with ketosis that can be achieved by numerous means, not limited to the ketogenic diet. Many diets, intentionally or unintentionally, increase ketone levels and, simply put, that makes one feel good. There are way more ketogenic and lower-carb diets than is generally acknowledged in how they are labeled or marketed (e.g., Weight Watchers’ Paleo Diet). This is a natural tendency in the dieting world because low-carb, especially ketogenic, is a powerhouse strategy. It’s not the only strategy, but it’s hard to go wrong with it. Even on higher carb diets, many people will turn to other methods that promote ketone production — the above mentioned fasting, calorie restriction, and portion control or else long periods of aerobic exercise. People intuitively seek out ketosis, whether or not they know anything about it.
  4. Exclude highly processed foods with chemical additives, refined carbs, added sugar, and seed oils. Basically, avoid junk food and fast food: candy, chips, crackers, commercial breads, pop, fruit juice, and other such crap. So, eat whole foods or else those prepared in traditional ways: lightly cooked or steamed vegetables, soaked and rinsed legumes, long-fermented breads, real sauerkraut, yogurt, raw aged cheese, homemade bone broth, naturally-cured meat, etc (ignoring minor disagreements over details, as there are always disagreements). Generally, avoid packaged foods, especially those with long lists of ingredients that you don’t recognize and can’t pronounce. And when possible, cook your own meals with ingredients procured from trustworthy sources.

Some combination and variation of this set of guidelines will solve basic diet-related health concerns for almost anyone. For bonus points, eat foods that are locally produced, in season, organic, pasture-raised, wild-caught, nutrient-dense, and nutrient-bioavailable. You’re welcome!

“Now we know.”
“And Knowing is half the battle.”
“G.I. Joe!!!”

Dietary Health Across Generations

It’s common to blame individuals for the old Christian sins of sloth and gluttony. But that has never made much sense, at least not scientifically. Gary Taubes has discussed this extensively, and so look to his several books for more info about why applying Christian theology to diet, nutrition, and health is not a wise strategy for evidence-based medicine and public health policy.

Yes, Americans in particular would be wise to do something about their health in a society where 88% of the adult population has one or more symptoms of metabolic syndrome with about three-quarters being overweight and about half diabetic or prediabetic (Joana Araújo, Jianwen Cai, June Stevens. “Prevalence of Optimal Metabolic Health in American Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009–2016”; for more info, see The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or Science Daily). Consider, these statistics are even worse for the younger generations. But let’s put this in even greater context. It’s not only that each generation is unhealthier than the last for this declining health is being inherited from before birth. There is now an obesity epidemic among 6 month old babies. I doubt anyone thinks it’s reasonable to blame babies. Should babies eat less and exercise more?

This goes back a while. European immigrants in the early 1900s noticed how American children were much chubbier than their European counterparts. By the 1950s, there was already a discussion of an obesity epidemic, as it was becoming noticeable with the younger generations. We are several generations into this modern industrialized diet of highly processed starchy carbs, added sugar, and seed oils. Much of this is caused by worsening environmental conditions, from harmful chemicals to industrial food system. The effects would begin in the womb, but the causality can actually extend across numerous generations.

This is called epigenetics, what determines which genes get expressed and how. And this epigenetic effect is magnified by the microbiome we inherit as well, since microbes help determine some of the epigenetic effect, involving short-chain fatty acids that can be obtained either through plant or animal foods (Fiber or Not: Short-Chain Fatty Acids and the Microbiome). This is important, as it is easier and more straightforward to manipulate our microbiome than our epigenetics, or at least our knowledge is more clear about the former. By changing our diet, we can change our microbiome. And by changing our microbiome, we can change our epigenetics and that of our children and grandchildren.

The dietary aspect is the most basic component, in that some diets seem to have an effect directly on the epigenome itself, however the microbiome may or may not be involved — for example, there is “recent evidence that KD [ketogenic diet] influences the epigenome through modulation of adenosine metabolism as a plausible antiepileptogenic mechanism of the diet” (Theresa A. Lusardi & Detlev Boison, Ketogenic Diet, Adenosine, Epigenetics, and Antiepileptogenesis). It’s been proven for about a century now that the ketogenic diet is the most effective treatment for epileptic seizures, but there has been much debate about why. Now we might know the reason. The mechanism appears to be epigenetic.

This is not exactly new knowledge (Health From Generation To Generation). Such cross-generational influences have been known since earlier last century, but sadly such knowledge is not epigenetically inherited by each succeeding generation. Francis M. Pottenger Jr studied the health of cats on severely malnourished and well-nourished diets — by the third generation the malnourished cats were no longer capable of breeding and so there was no fourth generation. This doesn’t perfectly translate to the present human diet, although it does make one wonder. Many of our diseases of civilization seem to be at least partly caused by malnourishment. This is a public health epidemic as national security crisis.

Here is the question that comes to mind: In this modern industrialized diet, what generation of malnourishment are we at now? And if as a society we changed public health policies and medical practice right now, how many generations would it take to reverse the trend and fully undo the damage? To end on a positive note, we could potentially turn it around within this century: “Dr. Pottenger’s research also showed that the health of the cats could be recovered if the diet were returned to a healthy one by the second generation; however, even then it took four generations for some of the cats to show no symptoms of allergies” (Carolyn Biggerstaff, Pottenger’s Cats – an early window on epigenetics).

So, what are we waiting for?

* * *

To give you some idea of how long our society has experienced declining health, check out some of my earlier posts:

Malnourished Americans
Ancient Atherosclerosis?
The Agricultural Mind

* * *

Videos, podcasts, and articles on epigenetics as related to diet, nutrition, microbiome, health, etc with some emphasis on paleo and ketogenic viewpoints:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nutriepigenomics
from Wikipedia

Changes in the diet affect epigenetics via the microbiota
from EurekAlert!

Diet and the epigenome
Yi Zhang and Tatiana G. Kutateladze

Dietary Epigenetics: New Frontiers
by Austin Perlmutter

RHR: The Latest Discoveries in Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, and Epigenetics
by Chris Kresser

Epigenetics, Methylation, and Gene Expression
by Kevin Cann

Epigenetics: Will It Change the Way We Treat Disease?
by Kissairis Munoz

Hacking Your Genes Through Epigenetics and Targeted Nutrigenomics
by Daniel Rash

The Promise of Paleo-Epigenetics
by Jennifer Raff

Dawn of Paleoepigenomics
by Zachary Cofran

37: Robb Wolf – Diets, Epigenetics, Longevity, and Going Foodless for 9 Days
by Andy Petranek

Epigenetics and the Paleo Diet
from The Paleo Diet

Paleo, Epigenetics, and Your Weight
from Paleo Leap

EP157: Improving Mental Health with Epigenetics, Diet & Exercise with Alex Swanson
from Paleo Valley

Epigenetics Warning: Are You Wrecking Your Kids’ Health?
by Louise Hendon

EPISODE 64: Epigenetics 101 with Bailey Kirkpatrick
from Phoenix Helix

Episode 90 – Dr. Lucia Aronica studies keto and epigenetics
by Brian Williamson

Can Keto Affect Your Genes?
from KetoNutrition

Energy & Epigenetics 1: The Infant Brain is Unique
by Jack Kruse

Dr. David Perlmutter: Intermittent Fasting, Epigenetics & What Sugar Really Does To Your Brain
by Abel James

Epigenetic Explanations For Why Cutting Sugar May Make You Feel Smarter
by Caitlin Aamodt

Eating Sweet, Fatty Foods During Pregnancy is Linked to ADHD in Children
by Bailey Kirkpatrick

High Fat, Low Carb Diet Might Epigenetically Open Up DNA and Improve Mental Ability
by Bailey Kirkpatrick

A Child’s Mental Fitness Could Be Epigenetically Influenced by Dad’s Diet
by Bailey Kirkpatrick

Dad’s Drinking Could Epigenetically Affect Son’s Sensitivity and Preference for Alcohol
by Bailey Kirkpatrick

B Vitamins Protect Against Harmful Epigenetic Effects of Air Pollution
by Bailey Kirkpatrick

Vitamin D Adjusts Epigenetic Marks That Could Hinder A Baby’s Health
by Bailey Kirkpatrick

Could We Use Epigenetics and Diet to Fix Binge Eating?
by Bailey Kirkpatrick

Early Epigenetic Nutrition ‘Memory’ Could Program You for Obesity Later in Life
by Bailey Kirkpatrick

The Consequences of a Poor Diet Could Epigenetically Persist Despite Improving Eating Habits
by Bailey Kirkpatrick

Epigenetic Transfer of Nutrition ‘Memory’ Ends Before Great-Grandchildren
by Bailey Kirkpatrick

How your grandparents’ life could have changed your genes
by Tim Spector

Nutrition & the Epigenome
from University of Utah

The epigenetics diet: A barrier against environmental pollution
from University of Alabama at Birmingham

How Epigenetics May Help Explain the Complexity of Autism Spectrum Disorder
from Zymo Research

Epigenetics, Health and the Mind
from PBS with John Denu

Eating for two risks harm to the baby
by Laura Donnelly and Leah Farrar

Micronutrients in Psychiatry: Sound Science or Just Hype?
by Seth J. Gillihan

Epigenetics: A New Bridge between Nutrition and Health
by Sang-Woon Choi and Simonetta Friso

Role of diet in epigenetics: a review
by Abhina Mohanan and Raji Kanakkaparambil

The science behind the Dutch Hunger Winter
from Youth Voices

Epigenetic Marks From Parents Could Influence Embryo Development and Future Health
by Tim Barry

Can Your Diet Epigenetically Shape Your Child’s Health?
by Janeth Santiago Rios

Epigenetic Insights on Nutrition, Hormones and Eating Behavior
by Janeth Santiago Rios

Paternal Environmental and Lifestyle Factors Influence Epigenetic Inheritance
by Estephany Ferrufino

How Diet Can Change Your DNA
by Renee Morad

Food that shapes you: how diet can change your epigenome
by Cristina Florean

The Unknown Link: Epigenetics, Metabolism, and Nutrition
by Nafiah Enayet

Obesity, Epigenetics, and Gene Regulation
by Jill U. Adams

Epigenetics and Epigenomics: Implications for Diabetes and Obesity
by Evan D. Rosen et al

Epigenetic switch for obesity
from Science Daily

Epigenetics between the generations: We inherit more than just genes
from Science Daily

Low paternal dietary folate alters the mouse sperm epigenome and is associated with negative pregnancy outcomes
by R. Lambrot et al

Diet-Induced Obesity in Female Mice Leads to Offspring Hyperphagia, Adiposity, Hypertension, and Insulin Resistance
by Anne-Maj Samuelsson et al

Maternal obesity increases the risk of metabolic disease and impacts renal health in offspring
by Sarah J. Glastras

Transgenerational Epigenetic Mechanisms in Adipose Tissue Development
by Simon Lecoutre et al

Your Grandma’s Diet Could Have Made You Obese, Mouse Study Suggests
by Kashmira Gandery

Your Diet Affects Your Grandchildren’s DNA, Scientists Say
by Christopher Wanjek

You Are What Your Grandparents Ate
by Maria Rodale

People who eat too much fast food could cause heart disease in their great grandchildren by Jasper Hamill

Eating Badly When Pregnant Might Make Your Kid Fat
by Zak Stone

Perinatal Western Diet Consumption Leads to Profound Plasticity and GABAergic Phenotype Changes within Hypothalamus and Reward Pathway from Birth to Sexual Maturity in Rat
by Julie Paradis et al

A Maternal “Junk Food” Diet in Pregnancy and Lactation Promotes Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Rat Offspring
by S. A. M. Bayol et al

Exposure to a Highly Caloric Palatable Diet during the Perinatal Period Affects the Expression of the Endogenous Cannabinoid System in the Brain, Liver and Adipose Tissue of Adult Rat Offspring
by María Teresa Ramírez-López et al

A maternal junk food diet alters development of opioid pathway in the offspring
from Science Daily

‘Junk food’ moms have ‘junk food’ babies
from Science Daily

Born to Be Junk Food Junkies
by Linda Wasmer Andrews

Reality check: Do babies inherit junk food addictions from their moms?
by Carmen Chai

Bad Eating Habits Start in the Womb
by Kristin Wartman

Could Over-Snacking While Pregnant Predispose Children to Be Obese?
by Natasha Geiling

Overeating in pregnancy could lead to child obesity
by John von Radowitz

Eating for two puts unborn child at risk of junk addiction
by James Randerson

Craving for junk food ‘inherited’
from BBC

Craving for junk food ‘begins in the womb’
by Fran Yeoman

Hooked on junk food in the womb
by Fiona MacRae

How pregnant mums who ‘eat for 2’ can make their babies fat
by Victoria Fletcher

 

A Fun Experiment

I’ve written a lot about diet lately, but let me get personal about it. I’ve had lifelong issues with diet, not that I thought about it that way when younger. I ate a crappy diet and it was the only diet I knew, as everyone else around me was likewise eating the same basic crappy diet. Even my childhood sugar addiction didn’t stand out as all that unique. Though I didn’t know it at the time, looking back at it now, I’m sure an unhealthy diet with nutrient-deficiencies and food additives (maybe along with environmental toxins or other external factors) was likely contributing factors to my learning disability and word finding difficulties (WFD) — see previous posts: Aspergers and Chunking; and Specific Language Impairment. As early as elementary school, there were also signs of what would later be diagnosed as depression. I knew something was wrong with me, but felt at a loss in that there was no way to explain it. I was just broken, inferior and inadequate. I didn’t even understand that I was depressed during my youth, although my high school art teacher once asked me if I was depressed and, in my ignorance, I said I wasn’t. Being depressed was all I knew and so it just felt normal.

I didn’t have the insight to connect my neurocognitive and psychological struggles to physical health. The crappiness of my diet only became apparent to me in adulthood, although I’m not sure when I started thinking about it. I grew up in churches where people were more health-conscious and my mother tried to do what she thought was healthy, even as good info was lacking back then. Still, a basic mentality of healthfulness was instilled in me, not that it initially did me much good. It took a while for it to lead to anything more concrete than doing what was the height of “healthy eating” in those day, which was skim milk poured over bran cereal and an occasional salad with low-fat dressing. That simply would’ve made my depression and learning disabilities worse as it surely was fucking up my neurocognition precisely as my brain was developing, but mainstream advice asserted that this USDA-approved way of eating would cure all that ails you. Fat was the enemy and fiber was a health tonic. Few at the time realized that fat-soluble vitamins were key to health nor that a high-fiber diet can block nutrient absorption.

Everything fell apart after high school. I despised life and wanted to escape the world. I dropped out of college and seriously considered becoming a hermit, but the prospect was too lonely and after moving out to Arizona I felt homesick. Then in going back to college, I attempted suicide. I failed at that as well and earned myself a vacation in a psychiatric ward. I was bad off, but having been raised in New Thought Christianity I was always looking for answers in self-help books and similar things. It would’ve been maybe in my early to mid 20s when I first read books that were explicitly about diet, nutrition, and health. I do recall, for instance, a book I picked up on low-carb diets and it wasn’t about the Atkins diet — it might have been an old copy of Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s Not By Bread Alone or it could have been something else entirely. Around that time, there was a minor incident that comes to mind. I told my friend that fast food was unhealthy and he didn’t believe me. It sounds odd now, but this was back in the 1990s. His mother was a nurse and regularly bought him fast food as a child. So how could it be bad? Many people at the time didn’t have much sense of what made food healthy or not, but obviously something had got me thinking about it. I knew that some foods were not healthy, even as what a healthy diet should look like was a bit hazy in my mind, beyond the nostrum of eating more fruits and veggies.

I lacked knowledge and there weren’t many sources of knowledge prior to my getting internet. Still, based on what limited info I could glean, I did start experimenting during that period. I began trying supplements to deal with my depression with the related low energy and low motivation, as therapy and medications had failed to put a dent in it. Around 1998, four years after graduating high school and a couple years after the suicide attempt, I tried vegetarianism for a time, maybe for a year or so, but it mainly involved eating as a regular meal a mix of Ramen noodles, eggs, and frozen vegetables cooked in the microwave — it was a poverty diet as I was living in poverty. I probably also was eating plenty of junk food as well, considering most cheap processed foods are vegetarian. Avoiding meat certainly doesn’t guarantee health — it didn’t fill me with joy and vitality. A bit later on I did finally try a low-carb diet, but it mainly consisted of eating processed meat because I was too depressed to cook. Even then, I might not have been getting many fat-soluble vitamins, as I didn’t understand nutrient-density. I wasn’t procuring pasture-raised meat, much less emphasizing organ meats, bone broth, wild-caught fish, etc.

My experiments weren’t well-informed and so weren’t done under optimal conditions. There was no one around to offer me guidance and so it didn’t work out all that well. I don’t give up easy, though. I went looking for guidance from dozens of psychiatrists, therapists, energy healers, body workers, and even a shaman. In my desperation, I’d try anything. Then I went to massage school where I learned Shiatsu massage and traditional Chinese theory, along with some other modalities. Even that didn’t change anything. My massage teachers were alternative health practitioners, one being a naturopath, but it seemed like no one understood what was wrong with me and so nothing could make a difference. My depression was an incomprehensible mystery. Rather than something being wrong with me, I was the problem in being inherently defective, so it seemed in my lingering dark mood.

The only thing that made much of a difference was exercise. I found that I could keep the worst symptoms of depression at bay through jogging, if only temporarily. At some point, I learned to jog before eating anything in the morning and I found that my hunger and cravings were less for the rest of the day. I had accidentally discovered ketosis and didn’t know what it was. It didn’t make sense that physical exertion minus food would lead to such results — rather counterintuitive. I was also occasionally fasting around then which also would’ve contributed to ketosis. That isn’t to say ketosis while in nutrient deficiency is a good thing. I’d have been better off in having avoided ketosis entirely and, instead, having filled up on nutrient-dense fatty animal foods. I needed healing and only high dosage of nutrition was going to accomplish that. I had been too malnourished for far too long at that point. Ketosis would’ve been great after a period of deep nourishment, but I didn’t understand either the significance of key nutrients nor how to implement ketosis in a more beneficial way.

At some point, I read Sally Fallon Morrell’s Nourishing Traditions (1995) where I was introduced to nutrient-density and fat-soluble viatmins along with traditional food preparation, but I was too depressed and too isolated to fully and successfully implement what I was learning. Depression is a real kick in the ass. Still, I was slowly accruing basic knowledge and making small changes when and where I felt able. I was limiting some of the worst problematic foods. In particular, I began cutting back on junk food, especially candy. And I replaced sugar with such things as stevia. Simultaneously, I increased healthier foods like probiotics and Ezekiel bread, although I’m not sure that the latter really is all that healthy (it has vital gluten added to it and it mostly starchy carbs). I tried to limit my sugar intake to foods that were relatively better, such as yogurt and kefir. I still was experimenting a bit with supplements, but wasn’t getting any clear results. My depression persisted and I see now that, even with these changes, I continued to lack nutrient-density. It just wasn’t clicking together for me. Maybe my depression had moderated ever so slightly, to the degree that I was a functional depressive and not in the total gloom and doom of my late teens to early twenties. I figured that was as good as it was going to get. I had survived that far and figured I’d be depressed for the rest of my life. Let me put this in perspective. This slightly lessened depression was, nonetheless, chronic and severe. For example, suicidal ideation persisted — maybe more as a background noise to my thoughts, but there, always there. I had this suspicion that eventually depression would catch up with me and then that would be the end of me. Suicide remained a real possibility in my mind, a persistent thought. It was hard for me imagine myself surviving into old age.

I carried on like this. I managed my life at a bare minimal level. I held down a job, I sort of kept my apartment clean, I fed my cats and sometimes changed their litter, and I more or less paid my bills on time. But depression had kept me working minimal hours and barely staying above poverty. There wasn’t only the depression for, over the decades, a crippling sense of shame had accumulated. I felt worthless, a failure. I wasn’t taking care of myself or at least wasn’t doing it well. Everything felt like a struggle while nothing I did seemed to make a difference. It was shitty and I knew life was just going to get worse as I aged and thinking about that made me feel more hopeless. To add to that general anxiety and despair, as I drifted through my thirties, I began gaining weight. I had always thought of myself as athletic. I played soccer from 1st grade to 11th grade and was always slim and trim, although I remember at one point after high school having been so inactive for a number of years that I felt winded just by walking up a hill — that was a strange experience for me because I had never been out of shape before that time. That was why I came to focus so much on exercise. Yet with age, mere exercise wouldn’t stop the weight gain, much less help with weight loss… nor any of the other symptoms of declining health. I was jogging multiple times a week for long periods, sometimes while wearing a heavy backpack as I hoofed it out to my parent’s place on the far edge of town. Still, the excess fat remained. That was rather dispiriting. Yet from a conventional viewpoint, my diet was balanced and my lifestyle was generally healthy, at least by American standards. I was doing everything right, as I understood it. Just the expected results of aging, most doctors would likely have told me.

I realize now that insulin resistance probably had set in quite a while back. I was probably prediabetic at that point, maybe even in the early stages of diabetes (I sweated a lot, in the way my grandmother did before her diabetes was managed with insulin shots). I know that I no longer handled sugar well, which helped keep my sugar addiction in check. About a decade ago, my friend and I visited a nearby donut shop and I got several fine specimens. Upon eating them, I felt sick with a slight headache. No more donuts for me. Sugar or not, my diet was still fairly high-carb, but I wasn’t yet fully aware of how starches and sugars sneak into everything. Then last year I randomly came across the paleo documentary The Magic Pill and watched it without any expectation. I suppose it was just basic curiosity, as is my habit. Something about it resonated with me. I showed it to my parents and they too found it inspiring. So, we all set about changing our diets — having mutual support from family was surely an important factor for motivation. The diet portrayed is standard paleo with a combination of low-carb and nutrient-density. What made the documentary compelling was how a wide variety of people were followed as they tried the paleo diet: a woman living alone with various health problems, a family with a young daughter with severe autism, and an Australian Aboriginal community that had lost their traditional way of life. It demonstrated the significant changes that could occur through diet. The transformation of the autistic girl was particularly impressive. The entire documentary was motivational. After that, I looked for some other documentaries to watch with my parents: The Perfect Human Diet, Carb Loaded, etc. Learning more reinforced this new view and brought together all that I had learned over the decades. I finally had a broader framework of understanding.

It was this low-carb paleo diet that was the starting point for me, although my mother never was quite on board with it. After looking online, she was drawn to the FODMAP diet in hoping it could help with her gut issues, specifically GERD and belching, but also osteoporosis (and indeed it did seem to work for her, as her former high-fiber diet apparently was the source of her problems), although her diet had some overlap with paleo. Going into my typical obsessive-compulsive mode, I gathered dozens of books on the subject, voraciously took in all the info I could find online, and began following various people on social media. I quickly figured out the basics and what was most essential while determining the points of disagreement and uncertainty. What I liked about the paleo and low-carb community was the attitude of curiosity, of exploration and experimentation. Try something and see what happens. And if it doesn’t work, try something else. There was no failure, a much more positive attitude about health. Within three months of implementing the paleo diet, I had lost 60 pounds of fat and I did it without starving myself. I simply figured out how to tap into the body’s natural mechanisms for fat-burning and hunger signalling. As I switched from general low-carb to ketogenic, my experience improved even further. It finally dawned on me that my depression had gone away, simply and utterly disappeared, decades of depression along with a lifetime of sugar addiction no longer an issue. I didn’t need to struggle against it. I wasn’t even trying to cure my depression, not that I realized this even was a possibility. It was a complete surprise.

It’s been a little over a year now. I’m still coming to terms with this new state of being. It’s strange. Depression had become part of my identity, as had sugar addiction and the roller coaster hangriness of insulin resistance. I now simply wake up in the morning feeling perfectly fine. It’s not that I go around feeling ecstatic, but the extreme low moods and funks no longer happen. I feel more balanced and relaxed. I used to fall into long periods of apathy and despair where all I could do was isolate myself until it passed, sometimes requiring days or weeks before I could rejoin humanity. How I functioned at all in such a state is kind of amazing, but not nearly as amazing as the miracle of its drama-free disappearance. Depression was there and then it wasn’t. I didn’t really notice it going away, until after it was gone. This leaves me in a strange position, as the decades of depressive thought and behavioral patterns remain. It’s hard for me to know how to not be a depressed person. I can’t quite wrap my mind around it. I don’t remember the last time I had any suicidal tendencies or fantasies. Yet the decades of damage to my body also remains as a reminder.

That hasn’t stopped me from getting back in shape and beyond. In fact, I’m in better shape now as I move toward middle age than ever before in my life. It’s not simply that I’ve been working out but that I enjoy working out. It feels good to me and I enjoy doing physical activity, pushing myself to the point of exhaustion. Unsurprisingly, I’m looking better. People notice and tell me. This sometimes makes me uncomfortable, as I’m not used to getting compliments. Just today I went to a picnic with a large crowd, some people I knew and some I didn’t. I met a friendly young woman and she was obviously flirting with me as we talked. It was a nice day and, having been out in a kayak, I had my shirt off. She told me that I looked “gorgeous” — the exact word she chose.* I’ll be blunt about this. No one has ever said anything like that to me in my entire life. I had never been a buff guy before and now I actually have muscles. It changes how I carry myself, how I feel.

It makes me realize why some fat people, after losing a bunch of weight, will sometimes gain their weight back just to feel normal again. The person I am now is not the person I’ve known myself for as long as I can remember. And I don’t know what to do with people relating to me differently. I’m sure people treat me differently not only because I look different but probably because I’m putting off a different vibe. I’m less sullen and dissociated than I used to be. An easygoing friendliness comes more naturally to me now. I don’t feel so crappy in no longer being on a crappy diet, but I’m not sure what it might mean to be healthy and happy. That is an odd concept to my mind. What if I could really be different? I take this seriously. In the past, I didn’t feel capable of being different, but all of that has changed. I don’t feel so irritable, frustrated, and angry. In place of that, I find myself wanting to be kinder and more forgiving. I want to be a good person. I realize that, in the past, how I could be an asshole and I was often open in admitting this basic fact of my former state, sometimes apologizing for my antagonistic moods. My life didn’t always feel like a net gain for the world and I’m sure some people might have agreed with that assessment. I could be harshly critical at times and that doesn’t make others feel better — I seriously harmed a number of relationships.

Now here I am. It’s a bit late in my life, but I have a second chance to try to do things differently. It will take some further experimentation beyond diet to find better ways of relating to others and to myself. That said, I’ll go on tinkering with my diet and lifestyle. It’s an ongoing experiment, all of it. Most importantly, it’s a fun experiment. The idea that I can try various things and discover what works is new to me. I’m more used to failure, but now I’m starting to see ‘failure’ as simply part of the experiment. There is no failure. Life doesn’t have to be hard. And I’m realizing that I’m not alone in this, as I’ve come across hundreds of stories just like mine. Sometimes simple changes can have profound effects.


* I must admit that it was a disconcerting experience. A young beautiful woman telling me in no uncertain words that I’m attractive. That is not the kind of thing I’ve grown accustomed to. I handled the situation as well as I could. It was kind of an amusing scenario. She was with her family. Along with her parents, she was visiting from Tunisia in order to see her sister who now works at the local university.

So, this young woman wasn’t going to be around long. Developing a romantic relationship didn’t seem to be in the cards, even if I had wanted it, but I feel ambivalent about romantic relationships these days. I’ve become comfortable in my bachelorhood with its lack of complications. Even so, I played along with the flirtation. As I sat near her with her family at the picnic table, she kept wanting to feed me. And how I could I decline food offered by a beautiful woman, even when she offered me carbs. That is my new plan for carb cycling — I’ll eat carbs every time a beautiful woman feeds them directly to me.

Anyway, combined with introversion and shyness, the lifetime of depression has made me reticent. I’m not confident around the opposite sex, but I’ve had long years of training in hiding any anxieties. Still, I didn’t know what purpose there was in flirting with this nice-looking person who would soon be gone. She said she might be back to visit again in a few years and that seems like a long time when you just met someone. I convinced myself there was no point and didn’t give her my contact info or ask for hers. But now I feel some regret.

I was acting according to my old self, the one who was ruled by his depression. Maybe it was irrelevant that I might not see her again. I should have left the door open for the possibility. These are the kinds of habits I need to learn.

“For the average American or European, Coca-Cola poses a far deadlier threat than al-Quaeda.”

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
by Yuval Noah Harari

  • “Poverty certainly causes many other health problems, and malnutrition shortens life expectancy even in the richest countries on earth. In France, for example, 6 million people (about 10 percent of the population) suffer from nutritional insecurity. They wake up in the morning not knowing whether they will have anything to eat for lunch: they often go to sleep hungry; and the nutrition they do obtain is unbalanced and unhealthy — lots of starches, sugar and salt, and not enough protein and vitamins. Yet nutritional insecurity isn’t famine, and France of the early twenty-first century isn’t France of 1694. Even in the worst slums around Beauvais or Paris, people don’t die because they have not eaten for weeks on end.”
  • “Indeed, in most countries today overeating has become a far worse problem than famine. In the eighteenth century Marie Antoinette allegedly advised the starving masses that if they ran out of bread, they should just eat cake instead. Today, the poor are following this advice to the letter. Whereas the rich residents of Beverly Hills eat lettuce salad and steamed tofu with quinoa, in the slums and ghettos the poor gorge on Twinkie cakes, Cheetos, hamburgers and pizza. In 2014 more than 2.1 billion people were overweight compared to 850 million who suffered from malnutrition. Half of humankind is expected to be overweight by 2030. In 2010 famine and malnutrition combined killed about 1 million people, whereas obesity killed 3 million.”
  • “During the second half of the twentieth century this Law of the Jungle has finally been broken, if not rescinded. In most areas wars became rarer than ever. Whereas in ancient agricultural societies human violence caused about 15 per cent of all deaths, during the twentieth century violence caused only 5 per cent of deaths, and in the early twenty-first century it is responsible for about 1 per cent of global mortality. In 2012, 620,000 people died in the world due to human violence (war killed 120,000 people, and crime killed another 500,000). In contrast, 800,000 committed suicide, and 1.5 million died of diabetes. Sugar is now more dangerous than gunpowder.”
  • “What about terrorism, then? Even if central governments and powerful states have learned restraint, terrorists might have no such qualms about using new and destructive weapons. That is certainly a worrying possibility. However, terrorism is a strategy of weakness adopted by those who lack access to real power. At least in the past, terrorism worked by spreading fear rather than by causing significant material damage. Terrorists usually don’t have the strength to defeat an army, occupy a country or destroy entire cities. In 2010 obesity and related illnesses killed about 3 million people, terrorists killed a total of 7697 people across the globe, most of them in developing countries. For the average American or European, Coca-Cola poses a far deadlier threat than al-Quaeda.”

Harari’s basic argument is compelling. The kinds of violence and death we experience now is far different. The whole reason I wrote this post is because of a few key points that stood out to me: “Sugar is now more dangerous than gunpowder.” And: “For the average American or European, Coca-Cola poses a far deadlier threat than al-Quaeda.” As those quotes make clear, our first world problems are of a different magnitude. But I would push back against his argument, as for much of the rest of the world, in his making the same mistake as Steven Pinker by ignoring slow violence (so pervasive and systemic as to go unnoticed and uncounted, unacknowledged and unreported, often intentionally hidden). Parts of the United States also are in third world conditions. So, it isn’t simply a problem of nutritional excess from a wealthy economy. That wealth isn’t spread evenly, much less the nutrient-dense healthy foods or the healthcare. Likewise, the violence oppression falls harder upon some than others. Those like Harari and Pinker can go through their entire lives seeing very little of it.

Since World War Two, there have been thousands of acts of mass violence: wars and proxy wars, invasions and occupations, bombings and drone strikes; covert operations in promoting toppled governments, paramilitaries, and terrorists; civil wars, revolutions, famines, droughts, refugee crises, and genocides; et cetera. Most of these events of mass violence were directly or indirectly caused by the global superpowers, besides through military aggression and such, in their destabilizing regions, exploiting third world countries, stealing wealth and resources, enforcing sanctions on food and medicine, economic manipulations, debt entrapment, artificially creating poverty, and being the main contributors to environmental destruction and climate change. One way or another, these institutionalized and globalized forms of injustice and oppression might be the combined largest cause of death, possibly a larger number than in any society seen before. Yet they are rationalized away as ‘natural’ deaths, just people dying.

Over the past three-quarters of a century, probably billions of people in world have been killed, maimed, imprisoned, tortured, starved, orphaned, and had their lives cut short. Some of this was blatant violent actions and the rest was slow violence. But it was all intentional, as part of the wealthy and powerful seeking to maintain their wealth and power and gain even more. There is little justification for all this violence. Even the War on Terror involved cynical plans for attacking countries like Iraq that had preceded the terrorist attacks themselves. The Bush cronies, long before the 2000 presidential election, had it written down on paper that they were looking for an excuse to take Saddam Hussein out of power. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq killed millions of people, around 5% or so of the population (the equivalent would be if a foreign power killed a bit less than 20 million Americans). The used uranium weapons spread across the landscape will add millions of more deaths over the decades — slow, torturous, and horrific deaths, many of them children. Multiply that by the hundreds of other similar US actions, and then multiply that by the number of other countries that have committed similar crimes against humanity.

Have we really become less violent? Or has violence simply taken new forms? Maybe we should wait until after the coming World War Three before declaring a new era of peace, love, and understanding. Numerous other historical periods had a few generations without war and such. That is not all that impressive. The last two world wars are still in living memory and hence living trauma. Let’s give it some time before we start singing the praises and glory of our wonderful advancement as a civilization guided by our techno-utopian fantasies of Whiggish liberalism. But let’s also not so easily dismiss the tremendous suffering and costs from the diseases of civilization that worsen with each generation; not only obesity, diabetes, heart disease but also autoimmune conditions, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, mood disorders, ADHD, autism, and on and on — besides diet and nutrition, much of it caused by chemical exposure from factory pollution, oil spills, ocean dumping, industrial farming, food additives, packaging, and environmental toxins. And we must not forget the role that governments have played in pushing harmful dietary recommendations of low-fat and high-carb that, in being spread worldwide by the wealth and power and influence of the United States, has surely harmed at least hundreds of millions over the past several generations.

The fact that sugar is more dangerous than gun powder, Coca-Cola more dangerous than al-Queda… This is not a reason to stop worrying about mass violence and direct violence. Rather than as a percentage, the total number of violent deaths is still going up, just as there are more slaves now than at the height of slavery prior to the American Civil War. Talking about percentages of certain deaths while excluding other deaths is sleight of hand rhetoric. That misses an even bigger point. The corporate plutocracy that now rules our neo-fascist society of inverted totalitarianism poses the greatest threat of our age. That is not an exaggeration. It is simply what the data shows us to be true, as Harari unintentionally reveals. Privatized profit comes at a public price, a price we can’t afford. Even ignoring the greater externalized costs of environmental harm from corporations (and the general degradation of society from worsening inequality), the increasing costs of healthcare because of diseases caused by highly-profitable and highly-processed foods that are scientifically-designed to be palatable and addictive (along with the systematic dismantling of traditional food systems) could bankrupt many countries in the near future and cripple their populations in the process. World War Three might turn out to be the least of our worries. Just because most of the costs have been externalized on the poor and delayed to future generations doesn’t mean they aren’t real. It will take a while to get the full death count.

 

Amish Paradox

The Amish are another example of a dietary ‘paradox’ that only seems paradoxical because of dietary confusion in nutrition science and official guidelines. When we look closely at what people actually eat, many populations that are the healthiest have diets that supposedly aren’t healthy, such as lots of meat and animal fat. There are so many exceptions that they look more like the rule (Blue Zones Dietary Myth).

Besides a few genetic disorders, the Amish are a healthy population (Wikipedia, Health among the Amish). They have low incidence of allergies, asthma, etc. Some of that could be partly explained through the hygiene hypothesis (Sara G. Miller, Why Amish Kids Get Less Asthma: It’s the Cows). Amish children are exposed to more variety of animals, plants, and microbes that help to develop and strengthen their immune systems. This exposure theory has been proposed for centuries, as it was easily observable in comparing rural and urban populations. Raw milk might be an additional protective factor (Kerry Grens, Amish farm kids remarkably immune to allergies: study). Whatever the cause, the Amish are healthier than even comparable populations such as North Dakota Hutterites and Swiss farmers.

This health advantage begins young. They have low rates of Cesarean sections and few birth complications (Fox News, Amish offers clues to lowering US C-section rate). Despite lack of prenatal care, their infant mortality rate is about the same as the general population. Vaginal births, by the way, are known to contribute to positive health outcomes. On top of that, Amish mothers do extended breasteeding and that breast milk certainly is nutritious, considering diet of Amish mother’s is nutrient-dense. This early good health then extends into old age (Jeffrey Kluger, Amish People Stay Healthy in Old Age. Here’s Their Secret). They have lower rates of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia (Jimmy Holder & Andrew C. Warren, Prevalence of Alzheimer’s Disease and Apolipoprotein E Allele Frequencies in the Old Order Amish). This might relate to lower rates of environmental toxins, food additives, etc, although it surely involves more than that. Considering their low incidence of allergy and asthma, that indicates there would be less inflammation and autoimmune conditions. And that would offer neurocognitive protection against mental illness (Eric Haseltine, Amish Asthma Rates Offer Clues to Preventing Mental Illness). Related to this, suicide is far less common (Donald B. Kraybill et al, Suicide Patterns in a Religious Subculture, the Old Order Amish).

Another intriguing example of health is that the Amish get fewer cavities, even as they eat a fair amount of sugar while few floss or brush regularly (Jan Ziegler, Amish People Avoid Cavities Despite Poor Dental Habits). Weston A. Price already figured that one out. Most traditional people don’t have dental care and, nonetheless, having healthy teeth. It’s because of the fat-soluble vitamins that are necessary for maintaining tooth enamel and promoting remineralization. The dessert foods certainly don’t help the Amish, that is for sure. Still, though hunter-gatherers, for example, eating more sugary foods (honey, tropical fruit, etc) show worse dental health, they don’t have as many cavities as seen among high-carb modern Westerners. High nutrition can only go so far, but it sure does help.

Along with far less obesity and diabetes, the low cardiovascular disease also stands out because the Amish do have high cholesterol, but recent research shows that mainstream understanding is wrong, as cholesterol is one of the most important factors of health (Robert DuBroff, A Reappraisal of the Lipid Hypothesis; & Anahad O’Connor, Supplements and Diets for Heart Health Show Limited Proof of Benefit). Yet because their cholesterol is high, mainstream doctors and officials are trying to get the Amish on statins (Cindy Stauffer, Why are Amish more at risk of having high cholesterol?). It is sheer idiocy. Cholesterol is not the cause of cardiovascular disease and, as most current studies demonstrate, statins don’t decrease overall mortality. In fact, reducing cholesterol can be severely harmful, such as causing neurocognitive problems since the brain is dependent on cholesterol. For cardiovascular health, what we need to be looking for is inflammation markers, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome, along with overconsumption of omega-6 fatty acids and deficiencies in the fat-soluble vitamins.

Cancer rates among the Amish further demonstrate how mainstream advice has failed us. In one study, researchers “found that Amish dietary patterns do not meet most of the diet and cancer prevention guidelines published by American Institute for Cancer Research and others (9). Most cancer prevention guidelines emphasize minimizing calorically dense foods, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (at least 5 servings per day), avoiding salt-preserved foods, and limiting alcohol consumption. With the exception of limiting alcohol intake, our data suggest that the Amish do not meet these guidelines” (Gebra B. Cuyun Carter et al, Dietary Intake, Food Processing, and Cooking Methods Among Amish and Non-Amish Adults Living in Ohio Appalachia: Relevance to Nutritional Risk Factors for Cancer). Yet the researchers couldn’t believe their own evidence and still concluded that the Amish “could benefit from dietary changes.”

It didn’t occur to the researchers that the cancer prevention guidelines could be wrong, instead of the traditional foods that humans have been eating for hundreds of thousands of years. Not only do the Amish have few processed foods and hence not as much propionate, glutamate, etc (The Agricultural Mind) but also they have an emphasis on animal foods (Food in Every Country, United States Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch). Traditionally for the Amish, animal foods were the center of their diet. They typically eat meat with every meal and eggs year round, they are known for their quality raw milk and cheese (full fat), and even the carbs they eat are cooked in lard or some other animal fat. Interestingly, the Amish eat fewer vegetables than the non-Amish. Maybe they are healthy because of this, rather than in spite of it.

The Amish have much higher energy intake and 4.3% higher saturated fat intake. Because they eat mostly what they grow in gardens and on pasture, they would be getting much more nutrient-dense foods, including omega-3s and fat-soluble vitamins. Interestingly, they have nothing against GMOs and pesticides (Andrew Porterfield, Amish use GMOs, pesticides yet cancer rates remain very low), but there simple living probably would still keep their toxin exposure low. Even though they like their pies and such, their diet overall is low in starchy carbs and sugar, and the pie crusts would be cooked with lard from pasture-raised animals with its fat-soluble vitamins. Plus, I suspect they are more likely to be eating fruits and vegetables that comes from traditional cultivars that fewer people have problems with.

Also, because refrigerators and freezers are rare, their food preparation and storage is likewise traditional: slow-rising of breads, long-soaking of beans, and cooking of garden plants fresh from the garden; canning, pickling, and fermenting; et cetera. Look at Weston A. Price’s work from the early 1900s (Malnourished Americans; & Health From Generation To Generation). He found that populations following traditional diets, including rural Europeans, were far healthier and had low rates of infectious diseases, despite lack of healthcare and, of course, lack of vaccinations. Among the Amish, there may be some infectious diseases that could be prevented if there was a more consistent practice of vaccination (Melissa Jenco, Study: Low vaccination rate in Amish children linked to hospitalization), although exposure to outsiders might be the greatest infectious risk. The research on vaccinations overall is mixed and the conclusions not always clear (Dr. Kendrick On Vaccines). Even if their mortalities from infectious diseases might be higher, as is the case with hunter-gatherers, their health otherwise is far greater. When infectious deaths along with accidental deaths are controlled for, hunter-gatherers live about the same age as modern Westerners. The same is probably true of the Amish.

It’s hard to compare the Amish with other Blue Zones because places like Okinawa and Sardiniania don’t have the same kind of isolated farming communities. The Blue Zones are different from each other in many ways, but for our purposes here their shared feature is how so many of them are dietary paradoxes in contradicting conventional thought and official guidelines. They do so many things that are claimed to be unhealthy and yet their health is far above average. Once we let go of false dietary beliefs, the paradox disappears.

What Caused Rise In Bowel Cancer Rate?

Charlie Spedding
We are told red meat causes bowel cancer. Today @thetimes reports on surge in colon cancer among the young. But young people are eating less meat. How does  @WHO explain that?
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Louise Stephen
Fake news – there is big money behind the drive to get people off red meat and onto replacement products such as Beyond Meat.
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Frédéric Leroy
🤔 Mmm.
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Tim Noakes
just possibly, cancer might have nutritional basis. Which seems at least an outside possibility since cancer is modern disease found rarely in peoples eating their traditional diets.

Guðmundur Jóhannsson
“Hyperinsulinemia appears to be a consistent marker of enhanced colon cancer risk.”
The Role of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disturbances in Cancers of the Colon, Prostate, and Pancreas
by Edward Giovannucci & Dominique Michaud

Guðmundur Jóhannsson
Hyperinsulinemia & colon cancer. Prospective cohort study of 14.275 women:
“For colon cancer alone (75 case subjects and 146 control subjects), ORs increased up to 3.96 (95% CI = 1.49-10.50; P:(trend) <.001) for the highest versus the lowest quintiles.”
Serum C-Peptide, Insulin-Like Growth Factor (IGF)-I, IGF-Binding Proteins, and Colorectal Cancer Risk in Women
by Rudolf Kaaks et al

Fat is our Friend
“Leading a Western lifestyle, being overweight, and being sedentary are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer”… but I thought it was mostly down to red meat.😉

Guðmundur Jóhannsson
Yes, because it rots in your colon… obviously
Does Meat Rot In Your Colon? No. What Does? Beans, Grains, and Vegetables!
by J. Stanton

Guðmundur Jóhannsson
“A high-fiber diet and increased frequency of bowel movements are associated with greater, rather than lower, prevalence of diverticulosis.”
A High-Fiber Diet Does Not Protect Against Asymptomatic Diverticulosis
by Anne F. Peery et al

Tim Noakes
Is diverticulosis related in any way to bowel cancer? Recall that rise in colon cancer has occurred at same time that unproven Burkitt/Trowell hypothesis has been accepted as dogma. BT hypothesis holds that absence of dietary fibre causes colon cancer. So prevention = more fibre.

Guðmundur Jóhannsson
“There is no direct evidence of an effect of dietary fiber on colon cancer incidence… In a trial of ispaghula husk fiber, the intervention group actually had significantly more recurrent adenomas after 3 years”
Does a high-fiber diet prevent colon cancer in at-risk patients?
by Linda French, MD & Susan Kendall, PhD

Harold Quinn
If, as seems likely, colonic caracinoma is significantly pathogenically driven, then more “prebiotic” might be expected to be carcinogenic in the dysbiotic gut but potentially anti-cancer in a situation of eubiosis. Seeking some ubiquituous impact of fibre for all seems unwise

Dr. Ann
Interesting given bowel cancer may be highest in groups most likely to ingest plant fiber, at least if this study is to be believed
Vegetarians Have Fewer Cancers But Higher Risk Of Colorectal Cancer, Study
by Catharine Paddock PhD

Sydney
Did they study seed oils?

Joseph Emmanuel
‘’Elementary my dear Watson” … it’s a paradox ‘of course’ 😉 at least in nutrition epidemiology

2020 Dietary Guidelines: Fight Over Low-Carb

The HHS and USDA put out new U.S. dietary guidelines every 5 years. They are having discussions now. There recently was allowed for various interests to speak. Several of the speakers were were promoting low-carb diets.

I doubt low-carb advocates will get a fair hearing after a half century of political suppression. But at least they are no longer being silenced. Being part of the conversation is the first step. They are at least being acknowledged now.

Too many Americans are changing their lives with low-carb. It can’t be ignored any more.

42:10 Priyanka Wali, MD – (Commenter 13)
1:25:20 Nina Teicholz (Commenter 28)
2:53:25 Georgia Ede, MD (Commenter 54)
3:16:26 Sarah Hallberg, MD (Commenter 64)

The 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
Ensuring that Science is the Main Ingredient
from Union of Concerned Scientists

The Snack Food and Corn Syrup Lobbyist Shaping Trump’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans
by Laura Peterson

Food Companies at the Table in Trump Administration’s Dietary Guidelines Committee
by Derrick Z. Jackson

Diets are not one-size-fits-all. So why do we treat dietary guidelines that way?
by Nina Teicholz

Dietary Guidelines 2020: The low-carb debate
by Helena Bottemiller Evich

Dietary guidelines advisory panel to tackle carbs in 2020-2025 recommendations
by Steve Davies (Google cache)

Low-Carb Diets On The Rise
American Diabetes Association Changes Its Tune
Slow, Quiet, and Reluctant Changes to Official Dietary Guidelines
Official Guidelines For Low-Carb Diet
Obese Military?
The Creed of Ancel Keys
Cold War Silencing of Science
Eliminating Dietary Dissent
Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet
Highly Profitable Conflicts of Interest

To Supplement Or Not?

Some say vitamin, mineral, and electrolyte supplements are unnecessary, useless, or even harmful. I’ve been on the fence about this. Our modern diet is so deficient in nutrients. But it is argued that even in the modern world we should be able to get all the nutrients we need from nutrient-dense foods. I’m coming around to this view.

There are specific conditions where supplementation would be necessary. If you get a lot of caffeine, that will dehydrate you and throw off your electrolyte balance and so maybe supplementation could help, but even then it probably would be better to use a natural sea salt and eat seaweed or, better yet, give up caffeine. Another example is that, for those on statins, additional CoQ10 is required beyond what is likely found in the diet. But this shouldn’t apply to anyone who is healthy. There is the rub. Most Americans aren’t healthy.

I might add that nutrient deficiencies are much more common on vegan and vegetarian diets, especially the former. But that is the problem with these diets. We should be able to get all our nutrients from our diet without supplements, as most humans have done for most of evolution, something I’ve long agreed with in theory. Requiring supplements indicates a failure. If we aren’t getting enough nutrients, there is something wrong with either our diet or our food system. This is why food quality is so important. We need to be getting plenty of wild-caught and pasture-raised animal foods, especially organ meats. But how many people have access to and can afford these foods? And how many will go to the effort to procure and prepare them?

My own carnivore experiment only lasted a couple of months, but I did learn from it. I’m still mostly animal-based in my meals, with a few nutrient-dense plant foods (e.g., fermented vegetables). I’ve known about nutrient-density since the late 1990s, back when I first read Sally Fallon Morrell (just Sally Fallon at the time). I have been trying to improve my diet for many years, but not to the degree I’ve been doing over the past year.

The only issue I’ve had is that most foods today are nutritionally deficient. And so I’ve worried about not getting required nutrition without supplementation. I’ve argued in favor of supplementation in the past, for the simple reason most Americans are malnourished. Telling people to eat nutrient-dense foods is easier said than done, as such foods are less common and familiar while being more expensive. I’ve previously come across those who oppose general supplementation for all or most people. But I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Most people are dealing with major deficiencies while struggling to eat even moderately well. Our society isn’t exactly supportive of a healthy diet. Even the official food recommendations and guidelines are making people sick.

One thing that brought me to thinking about this again is a study reported on by the New York Times, Supplements and Diets for Heart Health Show Limited Proof of Benefit by Anahad O’Connor. The evidence on effectiveness is mixed. Maybe the risk to benefit ration is too high in taking an approach of the precautionary principle, considering we don’t have enough good research yet. I’m coming around to the conclusion that modern foods, as long as they are high quality, can or should be enough for optimal health — other than medically diagnosed deficiencies because of health problems.

I’ll experiment with this, maybe after I use up my present supply of multivitamins, and see if I observe any differences or rather observe a lack of a difference. I still don’t know what that will tell me, as some deficiencies like that of vitamin K2 are almost impossible to notice since the effects are mostly indirect. I guess eat the best food possible and hope for the best.

I must admit I still have some reservations. When I look at the people advocating nutrient-density alone can be adequate without supplementation, I notice that these are people putting immense time, effort, and money into their diet and health. They are going to great lengths to ensure high quality food — dairy, eggs, organ meats, brains, caviar, etc from animals that were pasture-raised, wild-caught, or hunted. This is simply not an option for most Americans, for many reasons. The reality is few Americans will be willing to do this, to dedicate their entire lives to this endeavor, even if they could afford it and had the time to do it.

So, I don’t know. But since I have the money and motivation, I’m going to try to do my best in getting as much food-sourced nutrition as possible.

* * *

For no particular reason, I’ll share some videos only from Frank Tufano. He is one of the carnivore advocates who talks about nutrient-density.

As a side note, Tufano got into a snit because he thought that fellow carnivore Paul Saladino stole information from him and didn’t credit him as the source. What he claimed was unjustly taken had to do with nutrient-density from animal foods. He was trying to convince his viewers that he was the first carnivore advocate to ever talk about nutrient-density. That simply is not true.

J.D. Garland has been a carnivore longer than Tufano. Where Garland comes from is specifically a nutritional approach, prior to his going on a carnivore diet. He learned of this from Sally Fallon Morrell who in turn got it from Weston A. Price, the latter having researched this topic long before any of these other people were born. This comes up in an interview with Tristan Haggard. As far as that goes, Haggard has also been going on about this topic for quite a while. It’s pretty much common knowledge at this point.

That was a bit of meaningless drama. But I wanted to set the record straight. Many people have picked up on the knowledge of traditional foods from Price. And it was Morrell who specifically did the most in popularizing his work. Still, Tufano is worth listening to, if not as original as he’d like to believe. Listen to his informative videos and ignore the rest.

Dietary Dogma: Tested and Failed

There were two recent studies that looked at diets. One compared the 2010 Dietary Guidelines against the typical American diet. The other compared multiple dietary interventions: Mediterranean diet, low-fat diet, and low-salt diet. This covers the main diets advocated most often by doctors, nutritionists, dieticians, and health officials. Yet neither study found a significant overall benefit to any of the recommended diets. That is shocking, when one considers how official experts and major institutions have pushed these diets for decades. The low-fat diet has been a favorite among dietary technocrats for about a half century (The Creed of Ancel Keys).

What these studies didn’t bother to consider is the benefits of traditional foods diet (Weston A. Price & Sally Fallon Morrell), paleo/hunter-gatherer diet, low-carb high-fat diet, ketogenic diet, carnivore diet, etc. Nor any of the related but less well known diets like ketotarian, pegan, etc. Nor related dietary strategies such as fasting, either intermittent or extended, along with calorie restriction. With a narrow focus, the comparisons were limited. Still, it is a powerful judgment that none of the diets that were tested stood out as being all that impressive. What is being brought under doubt represents the key message of authoritative opinion on diet and nutrition. These diets tested (official Dietary Recommendations, Mediterranean diet, low-fat diet, and low-salt diet) are among the best that the collective wisdom of mainstream thought has to offer.

Here is an intriguing point. The first study looked at the 2010 Dietary Guidelines as separate from weight loss, to determine what were the results of the diet itself (besides, even including weight loss, the low-fat diet is one of the worst, as studies show few people drop body fat when adhering to it — see meta-analysis by UK Public Health Collaboration, Eat Fat, Cut The Carbs and Avoid Snacking To Reverse Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes). This officially trumpeted dietary regime, a fad diet that hasn’t been around long by the way, had no noticeable affect on glucose homeostasis, fasting lipids, or type 2 diabetes. Let’s consider another study, as a comparison and to clarify a point (Parker N. Hyde et al, Dietary carbohydrate restriction improves metabolic syndrome independent of weight loss). As with the above mentioned study, body weight was carefully maintained so as to control for that potentially confounding factor. What were the results?

“Despite maintaining body mass, low-carbohydrate (LC) intake enhanced fat oxidation and was more effective in reversing MetS [metabolic syndrome, including type 2 diabetes], especially high triglycerides, low HDL-C, and the small LDL subclass phenotype. Carbohydrate restriction also improved abnormal fatty acid composition, an emerging MetS feature. Despite containing 2.5 times more saturated fat than the high-carbohydrate diet, an LC diet decreased plasma total saturated fat and palmitoleate and increased arachidonate.”

Interestingly, these particular two studies demonstrate that obesity by itself is not necessarily the problem. Rather, it is a symptom of the problem. Obesity can even be an attempt by the body to compensate in preventing something even worse (Coping Mechanisms of Health). The fundamental problem is the metabolic syndrome itself and the insulin resistance behind it, and any diet that doesn’t directly deal with that will be ineffective. Only some variation of a low-carb diet can accomplish that end.

It’s time to rethink dietary recommendations and guidelines. There are signs this is already happening. The public is already turning toward low-carb diets (Low-Carb Diets On The Rise). And slowly but surely the official position is shifting in this direction (Obese Military?, Weight Watchers’ Paleo Diet, American Diabetes Association Changes Its Tune, Official Guidelines For Low-Carb Diet, & Slow, Quiet, and Reluctant Changes to Official Dietary Guidelines). The evidence keeps accumulating. These recent two studies add to the growing pile. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore the obvious.

* * *

A randomized controlled-feeding trial based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans on cardiometabolic health indexes
by Sridevi Krishnan et al

To our knowledge, this is the first controlled-feeding trial to test the effect of a food-based dietary pattern following recommendations of the DGA [2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans]. We measured cardiometabolic disease risk factors in an at-risk female cohort, while maintaining body weight, with the use of foods that are accessible and acceptable to the consumer. The higher quality of the DGA diet relative to the TAD [typical American diet] was confirmed by HEI scores of 98 and 62, respectively. We found that, in the absence of weight loss, consuming a diet based on recommendations of the DGA did not change glucose homeostasis or fasting lipids in our cohort. The 2015 DGA Advisory Committee report concluded that there was moderate evidence for reduction in type 2 diabetes risk associated with nutrient-dense diets (2); however, the results from our short-term intervention trial did not align with this evidence. By design, the intervention did not lead to significant weight loss, and because changes in body weight and body fat can play a role in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes (31), this may also explain why improvements in blood sugar control were not observed despite the improvement in diet quality.

Supplements and Diets for Heart Health Show Limited Proof of Benefit
by Anahad O’Connor

When Dr. Khan and his co-authors looked at various diets recommended for cardiovascular prevention, they found a similar lack of solid evidence.

That was certainly the case for low-fat diets, which health authorities have recommended for decades as a way to lower cholesterol and heart disease risk. Dr. Khan and his colleagues found that the most rigorous randomized trials provided no evidence that eating less fat, including saturated fat, had an impact on mortality or cardiovascular outcomes. Low-fat diets have largely fallen out of favor among health authorities in recent years, though the federal government’s dietary guidelines still encourage people to limit their intake of foods rich in saturated fat, such as butter, meat and cheese.

One diet that remains highly touted by health authorities is the Mediterranean diet, with its abundance of whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables and olive oil. While clinical trials have found that it reduces cardiovascular risk, some of the major ones have been flawed, and experts who have scrutinized the evidence for the diet have urged caution.

One of the largest and most publicized Mediterranean diet trials, called Predimed and published in 2013, found that it reduced heart attacks and strokes. But last year it was retracted because of methodological problems. The Predimed authors published a new analysis of their data, claiming their conclusions had not changed. But other Mediterranean diet trials have been embroiled in similar controversies. After analyzing data from all the relevant trials, Dr. Khan and his colleagues found that “the totality of evidence did not favor the Mediterranean diet for cardiovascular outcomes.”

“It’s not favorable or harmful,” he added. “It’s just a neutral diet from a cardiovascular perspective.”

The one dietary intervention that seemed to have the most support from randomized trials was lowering salt intake, though the researchers graded the evidence only as having “moderate certainty.” And there was nuance. Low-salt diets reduced mortality from all causes only in people with normal blood pressure. Among people with hypertension, lowering salt intake reduced deaths from heart disease but not from other causes.

Dr. Topol said that in his own clinic he sees a wide range of responses to salt intake. Some people are very sensitive to salt: A small increase in salty foods can have a pronounced effect on their blood pressure. But others can eat salt-laden meals and their blood pressure will hardly budge.

Dr. Topol said he finds diet studies hard to interpret because they rarely take into account the unique way that different people can have markedly different responses to dietary changes, whether it is cutting back on salt or avoiding fat or carbohydrates.

“The problem we have here is that all these studies essentially treat all people as one,” he said. “I think that all these things are going to turn out to be quite heterogeneous. Maybe salt restriction really is beneficial for some, but we haven’t defined the people yet that would drive that.”