Today we will continue exploring the Danger and the Mad Science of Paleo diet. Make sure to read Part 1. Before we do, however, I would like to address what seemed to be a MAJOR issue with my introduction to the first part.
While I was expecting hail and brimstone from the Paleo proponents, was I wrong! I got whiplashed for stating that I do not believe in evolution. My, oh, my! So, let me tell you a little story before you dive into Part 2 and quickly become turned off by it, and trust me, if you got turned off by my statement, this might send you into another fit of rage ;).
I Stand My Ground and Won’t be Bullied
I grew up in a Communist country (former USSR). The country, once it became Communist, denounced all religion–atheism was the only accepted “religion” (yes, I my eyes, it takes even more faith to believe in it, than believe what I do) and approved way of living. Evolution was the only approved “science” in the country, and those who dared to disagree were punished–some by death, some by imprisonment and even losing parental rights, since the government did not want the parents to “brainwash” their children to believe in God. My father happened to be one of those who spent time in prison and later was sent to Siberia into exile. My mother, with kids and elderly parents in tow, when she was allowed, followed him into the depth of the icy land. Even in exile, away from most people and civilization, they were harassed by spies and frequent interrogations, to make sure they had no contraband (Bibles and hymnals) in their house. They held onto each other, they held onto God, their faith in him, and live or die, their RIGHT to believe what they knew to be true, and not be ashamed of it.
They raised us, their kids, including me, to have the same unwavering principles. They taught us not to give up on what we hold true to please men (humanity), their opinions or to even to save our lives. I was raised to be a tough cookie. I suffered persecution at a tender age of 8 from my school teachers and classmates. You cannot bully me easily.
When my parents had a chance to leave our homeland, in hopes of finding a better life for their kids, and, most importantly, freedom to practice their faith without being bullied, imprisoned or killed, they took it and brought our family to the US, a country which claims to have been built on religious freedoms. Interestingly, the longer I live in the US, the more I find that there is freedom to do almost everything else, but freedom to have faith in God and his word (the Bible)… well, it is simple so archaic and out of style, only the “uneducated”, the “ignorant”… people like me, would practice it, and just because of that faith, we could not possibly be “credible” sources for any scientific research. So, yes, there is freedom, but sounds like freedom FROM religion (although I simply call mine FAITH).
I am sorry, folks, that I am so out of style, but if history serves me right, most scientists only 100-150 years ago were Christians, and did believe in creation as opposed to evolution, yet, they were the building blocks of modern science. Most universities started as Christian colleges, although now they are not.
So, see, your mean spirited, arrogant, bullying remarks, although irritating and inconsiderate, have no ill effect on me–they roll off my back like water rolls off a goose’s feathers. This blog is who I am and to hide a part of me just to gain more readership would be nothing more than being dishonest and a lie–that is not who I am, even if I lose a few readers. If I swayed with every opinion out there, then I probably would have never married my husband, since some still would consider our marriage an abomination!
Interestingly, when I first began to practice vegan lifestyle and blogged about it, it was the Christian community who rejected me, with the same fervor. I stuck it out. I might have grown on them ;). I reached out to readers who needed to hear my message. Now there is a turnaround and more and more believers see true benefits of plant based living and become readers of this blog. Who knew that only a few years later some in the secular community would put me through another ringer due to my convictions.
One more thing, I personally do not agree with the theory of evolution, but have learned, in spite of it, to read through research and articles done by those who claim it, and glean what I need from them, without throwing out the proverbial “baby with the bath water”. It’s a sign of maturity and feeling secure in my own faith and beliefs. If my statement deters someone from reading this series, oh, well, I feel for them (you) and not for myself. In large, however, I think that MOST people are more open minded than that, and would not consider me a “quack”, as one of the comments stated. Take it or leave it, dearies! This is me. If you want to, please stick around, but do me a favor and shake the religious bigotry off your feet (typing fingers) before commenting, check yourself, or feel free to click off.
This part will take you about 10 minutes to read.
Tandi Hartle received her Bachelors degree in Natural Health Science from the University of Natural Medicine and then went on to get a certificate in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University. Tandi has also received certificates in Nutritional Herbology, Aromatherapy, and Raw Culinary Arts. She is the author of “America’s Health Crisis” and her work has been published in Natural News. She is a highly sought after lecturer and speaker and has presented for Utah Valley University, New Mexico Midwives Association, Balance Wellness Center, and Vitality Natural Foods. Her research is focused on how plant based foods affect the physiological aspects of healing.
We are Starchivores
I will state here that I am not a believer in evolution, as in I do not believe humans “evolved” from apes. However, physiologically we are similar and therefore looking at the dietary patterns of apes in that regard does give us a good insight into what our diet should look like.
Keep in mind, there is one significant difference between humans and apes that is critical in understanding our dietary differences. An article published in Nature Genetics detailed these differences. Apes cannot digest starches, but humans digest starches very easily and, in fact our, saliva is perfectly designed to do so. Apes have only two copies of the amylase gene and therefore cannot digest starches; they must get their energy from simple carbohydrates in fruit. In contrast, humans have between 6 and 16 copies of the amylase gene and have amylase, the complex carbohydrate digesting enzyme in our saliva and digestive tract. We are completely designed to digest complex carbohydrates… we have amylase right in our saliva! It is interesting that so many nutrition books fail to even detail our physiology properly and tell us to avoid carbohydrates.
In reality, most highly respected anthropologists such as Nathanial Dominy, PhD from Dartmouth College explain: “That’s a myth. Hunter-gatherers, get the majority of their calories from plant foods… meat is just too unpredictable.”
Dr. Dominy goes on to explain that through his entire career as a biological anthropologist evidence suggests: “Humans might be more appropriately described as ‘starchivores’.” This claim is supported by our physiology including the fact that we have starch digesting enzymes in our saliva, along with our long, sacculated digestive tract, opposable thumbs, very dull canine teeth, molars for grinding etc.
To add another voice to this, aside from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Dr. Dominy of Dartmouth, researchers from the University of California Santa Ana have also made a statement supporting the argument that the human diet should be and was predominantly plant based.
“According to researchers from the University of California Santa Ana, even when we look at most modern hunter gatherers meat is a minimal part of their diet.”3
At the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences presented in 2011 researchers concluded: “Here we report direct evidence for Neanderthal consumption of a variety of plant foods, in the form of phytoliths and starch grains recovered from dental calculus of Neanderthal skeletons from Shanidar Cave, Iraq, and Spy Cave, Belgium… Our results indicate that in both warm eastern Mediterranean and cold northwestern European climates, and across their latitudinal range, Neanderthals made use of the diverse plant foods available in their local environment and transformed them into more easily digestible foodstuffs in part through cooking them, suggesting an overall sophistication in Neanderthal dietary regimes.”4
It is important to realize that a large body of current evidence suggests that most populations of the world, no matter what timeframe they are from, have subsisted on a predominantly plant-based diet that included whole grains and legumes. There have been small, isolated populations that have existed on high meat based diets, but these were never large, long-lived, or successful populations.
Do High Meat Eating Societies Thrive?
We have two modern examples of populations that exist on a high-meat centered diet that is not based upon factory farming practices and we still see the worst longevity in the modern world among these populations. The first example is the Inuit Eskimos, which have very limited access to fruits and vegetables because of the extreme climate they live in. They are used as a “model” people for low-carb diet promoters but what they fail to tell you is that the Inuit Eskimos have the worst longevity statistics in North America and die about 10 years younger than the average Canadian and have a higher rate of cancer as well.5
Not only do the Inuit’s have a short lifespan, they also suffer from osteoporosis far greater than white populations. According to an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “After age 40 the Eskimos of both sexes had a deficit from 10 to 15% relative to white standards. Aging bone loss, which occurs in many populations has an earlier onset and greater intensity in the Eskimos.” The article goes on to implicate the nutritional factors of high protein, high nitrogen, and high phosphorus intake.6
The Inuit Eskimos eat to survive, not to thrive. They live in extremely undesirable conditions and, of course, they make do with what they have but I would not consider their diet, nor their living conditions anything close to ideal.
The next example of a high meat eating society is the Maasai population in Kenya. They eat a diet high in wild hunted meats, eat organs, and drink animal blood, which, for the most part, is exactly what the Paleo promoters preach to their unsuspecting followers. How do the Maasai stack up in longevity?
Well we said that the Inuit have the worst longevity in North America. The Maasai have the worst life expectancy in the Modern World! Life expectancy is 45 years for women and 42 years of age for men. The average life expectancy for all of Kenya is 62.5 (!), so this isn’t just because of high rates of infectious disease or infant mortality because of where they live compared to industrialized nations, because the life expectancy on average for their country of origin is much higher.
Many cite Weston A. Price and his visit to the Maasai, but one must realize he had no way of truly assessing health other than dental health and appearance. No blood tests or medical tests were conducted! Price was a dentist not a medical doctor and had no training to evaluate heart disease, osteoporosis, inflammation or any other health condition that may result from their high meat diet. While Weston A. Price did contribute to the understanding that processed foods are not healthy, his evaluations just do not hold up in quality to current research protocols.
The Maasai DO develop atherosclerosis, they just don’t live long enough to die from it!
The reality is modern autopsy studies on Maasai men have actually shown atherosclerosis, they do not escape the damaging effects of their high meat diets, even though they eat wild game, but researchers say that their highly active lifestyle may offer some protection from the atherosclerosis that they do develop. Many low carb diet promoters wrongly assume that because they have a lower heart attack rate than the Western world that they don’t develop cardiovascular disease, this however is not true, they DO develop atherosclerosis! It is very uncommon for an individual in the U.S. under the age of 45 to die from heart disease, the Maasai simply don’t live long enough to have the same statistics as those in industrialized nations, and as researchers pointed out, their extreme workload and physical activity provides some benefit (realize this isn’t just an hour at the gym every morning either).7
I will never understand why people romanticize a strongly violent, savage, patriarchal society that promotes violence against young girls in the form of ritualistic female circumcision, drinks animal blood, and lives a very poverty stricken life. They are one of the most impoverished people in Kenya with an extremely short life span and struggle with heavy workloads that may protect their health to some degree, but I can’t imagine any American actually desiring to eat or live in the way that these people do. How does this violent little culture has become a romanticized model for dietary lifestyles? I personally have no desire to move backward to violent, savage living conditions. We need to move forward and live according to a higher level consciousness.8,9
Is the Paleo diet really good at managing blood sugar levels of Type II diabetics?
There seems to be a claim that the Paleo diet is good at managing blood sugar levels. Does that mean it is a “cure” or “treatment” for diabetes? No! The reason the Paleo diet does so well at balancing blood sugar is that it deals with the symptoms, not the cause. We are physiologically designed to digest, assimilate, and use carbohydrates. When the body become sick and unable to digest carbohydrates, do we just remove the carbohydrates and say, “You are cured!”? That is like saying I can cure you of a peanut allergy by telling you “Don’t eat peanuts!” That isn’t a cure at all. Neither is a low-carb or Paleo diet for diabetes.
In the New England Journal of Medicine, Yale University researchers tested young adults whose grandparents were diabetic. Some of these young adults already had insulin resistance as well as higher levels of intra-myocellular lipids within the muscle cells. When intra-myocellular lipids accumulate within the cell this interferes with insulin’s intracellular signaling process preventing insulin from attaching to a receptor site allowing glucose into the cell causing high circulating blood glucose levels.10 Intra-myocellular lipids begin to build up in muscle cells due to a diet too high in fat. These fats inhibit the insulin receptor on the cell from binding with insulin and allowing glucose into the cell, resulting in insulin resistance. Several studies have shown that when a low-fat diet comprised of only whole food fats is adopted these intra-myocellular lipids clear from the cells and the insulin receptors become sensitive to insulin again.
Researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge studied 10 young men who were in their 20′s, were healthy and of normal weight. They put these men on a high fat diet comprising 50% of its calories from fat and after only 3 days on the diet these men had built up significantly more intramyocellular lipids. These lipids build up very rapidly, but with the right diet, they can also decrease rapidly.11
We say that eating carbs like those found in donuts, potato chips, cookies, cakes, pastry’s etc., makes us fat and causes diabetes; but did you know that ALL of these foods are actually FAT dominant foods?
They are either fried in fat or contain the majority of their calories in the form of butter or oils! They are not carbs! This is the big mistake that people make when implicating carbs in diabetes and weight gain. Fat is 9 calories per gram, where carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram, so adding a stick or two of butter in cookies or pastries or frying in oil actually adds more calories from fat than from carbohydrate and this is where we run into problems. It is when we isolate fat from its whole food such as olive oil from olives, sunflower oil from sunflower seeds etc., concentrating it into pure fat and adding it to sugar that we really run into problems. This is NOT the same thing as consuming brown rice or fruit!
What happens when a diabetic goes on a low-carb or paleo style diet?
They become more diabetic!
They remove or severely restrict carbohydrates forcing the body to utilize fat stores for fuel and their blood sugar stabilizes and they get really excited. All seems to be going perfectly, and then the temptations and cravings start to set in—those mashed potatoes look really good, cookies, cake or maybe even just some fruit. They eventually give in and, let’s say they just ate some brown rice, what happens? Their blood sugar spikes sky high, they feel horrible and then they say, “The low carb diet was working and carbohydrates are bad for me.” Not so fast!
Now that they have been eating a high-protein, high fat diet their body is even less able to handle carbohydrates than it was before. Why? Because intramyocellular lipids continue to increase on this high fat diet and so now their blood sugar levels are even more unstable when consuming carbohydrates. They didn’t “cure” their diabetes! They made it worse!
Want to test this out? Ask any diabetic who has gone on a low carb diet what started to happen when they ate a carbohydrate food after being on a low carb diet for a while. They will tell you their blood sugar levels sky rocketed worse than ever before. EXACTLY! It happens every time.
If we are physiologically designed to consume carbohydrates, as our saliva and physiology show that we are, a healthy human being should be able to consume them without negative effects. In order to be healthy we need to find a way to carbs without negative effects, then we can consider that being cured. Merely removing carbohydrates is not the answer. The Paleo answer to diabetes is not a cure; it is a band aid that will not hold up over a lifetime of diabetes!
Stay tuned for the conclusion of this series in the next post, as Tandi debunks the false promises of the Paleo diet.
5. Iburg KM, Bronnum-Hansen H, Bjerregaard P. Health expectancy in Greenland. Scand J Public Health 2001;29(1):5-12. Choinere R. Mortality among the Baffin Inuit in the mid-80s. Arctive Med Res 1992;51 (2):87-93.
11. Dr. Barnard, Reversing Diabetes Pg. 25