Do Statins Cause Motor Neuron Diseases, Such as ALS?

A study report­ed in April 2018 has made the news because it sug­gests that tak­ing a statin drug might increase your risk of get­ting a motor neu­ron dis­ease.  Statin drugs are used to reduce the amount of cho­les­terol in your blood, to pre­vent heart attacks and strokes. Motor neu­ron dis­eases include amy­otroph­ic lat­er­al scle­ro­sis (ALS).  ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s dis­ease, because that famous base­ball play­er had it. Physi­cist Stephen Hawk­ing also had a form of ALS. Motor neu­ron dis­eases are a big deal, but so are heart attacks and strokes. So should you wor­ry about this study? I don’t wor­ry about it, for the fol­low­ing rea­sons:

  • If you eat a healthy diet, you almost cer­tain­ly won’t need pills to low­er your cho­les­terol. So you could avoid even the the­o­ret­i­cal risks of the side effects of the pills.
  • Even if the statins do increase your risk of com­ing down with a motor neu­ron dis­ease, the motor neu­ron dis­eases were rare to start with and are still rare, even though so many peo­ple are tak­ing statins.
    Con­tin­ue read­ing “Do Statins Cause Motor Neu­ron Dis­eases, Such as ALS?”

Acne Results from High-Fat, High-Protein Diets

Many peo­ple think that acne is a nat­ur­al result of being a teenag­er. Yet the teenagers in many parts of the world are remark­ably free of acne. The low rate of acne in those pop­u­la­tions is not due to their genes. It is due to their low-fat, heav­i­ly plant-based diet. When peo­ple from those coun­tries grow up in the Unit­ed States, they gen­er­al­ly eat a typ­i­cal Amer­i­can diet which is rich in fat and ani­mal-source foods. As a result, they too tend to get acne in their teenage years.

The rich, fat­ty, Amer­i­can-style diet increas­es your risk of acne. It sup­plies a lot of fat, which can make your skin oily. It also con­tains lots of ani­mal-source foods, which can lead to an over­load of two types of hor­mones: male sex hor­mones (andro­gens) and a growth hor­mone called insulin-like growth fac­tor 1 (IGF-1). These two hor­mones work togeth­er to cause acne. That’s why acne tends to start when chil­dren go through puber­ty.

Types of acne pimples
The stan­dard Amer­i­can diet caus­es acne by caus­ing the skin to pro­duce too much oil and the skin cells to divide too fast. As a result, the pores can get blocked, which may lead to infec­tion.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Acne Results from High-Fat, High-Pro­tein Diets”

The Blood Type Diet Is Nonsense. Everyone Should Eat Plants!

In 1996, a man named “Dr.” Peter J. D’Adamo pub­lished Eat Right For Your Type. This book pro­mot­ed the “blood type diet.” It claimed that your diet should be based on your ABO blood type (type A, B, AB, or O). The ABO sys­tem of blood typ­ing is impor­tant in blood trans­fu­sion. Get­ting a trans­fu­sion of the wrong type of blood can kill you. How­ev­er, there is no sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence that your blood type has any­thing to do with how your body reacts to food. Peo­ple of any blood type thrive on a low-fat, plant-based diet.

The things that D’Adamo says about the nat­ur­al his­to­ry of the dif­fer­ent blood types are wrong. So are the things he says about the effects of blood type on the body. Worst of all, D’Adamo gives par­tic­u­lar­ly bad dietary advice to the peo­ple with the most com­mon blood type. I sus­pect that his book has been so pop­u­lar because he has been telling a lot of peo­ple exact­ly what they want to hear. He has been telling the peo­ple with the most com­mon blood type that they need to eat a lot of fat­ty meat.

The Blood Type Diet theory

D’Adamo claims that type O was the orig­i­nal blood type of cave­men. Sup­pos­ed­ly, mod­ern-day peo­ple with type O blood should there­fore avoid eat­ing grains, espe­cial­ly wheat. Instead, they should sup­pos­ed­ly eat a meat-based diet. D’Adamo also claims that type A blood result­ed from the rise of agri­cul­ture. It sup­pos­ed­ly allows peo­ple to eat a high-car­bo­hy­drate diet. He argues that peo­ple with type A blood can there­fore eat a Mediter­ranean style diet based on grains and veg­eta­bles.

D’Adamo claims that type B arose in Asia, among Mon­go­lian herds­men. Thus, he argues that peo­ple with type B blood should eat a lot of cul­tured dairy prod­ucts. D’Adamo argues that peo­ple with type AB blood should eat a mixed diet. How­ev­er, he thinks that they should avoid eat­ing starch­es and pro­teins in the same meal.

D’Adamo also sells a broad range of prod­ucts. D’Adamo sells kits for test­ing your blood and sali­va. He sells a broad range of foods, teas, and dietary sup­ple­ments. He also sells skin care prod­ucts. Of course he does! The fact that he has such an exten­sive prod­uct line is a bad sign. Every sin­gle nutri­tion text­book I have ever read says that we should get our nutri­ents from food, not pills. Be wary of tak­ing any nutri­tion­al advice from some­one who sells sup­ple­ments!

But gorillas have type B blood!

Of course, D’Adamo is total­ly wrong about the his­to­ry of blood types. You can find types A and B in mon­keys and apes. All of the African and Asian pri­mates have some ver­sion of the ABO blood types. Mod­ern-day goril­las usu­al­ly have some­thing sim­i­lar to human type B. A few have some­thing like human type O, but none have human type A. Mod­ern-day baboons and orang­utans have a ver­sion of type A. Most chim­panzees also have a ver­sion of type A, but a few have some­thing sim­i­lar to human type O.  There is a lot of debate about this top­ic. How­ev­er, the con­sen­sus is that the ances­tral blood type was type A and that type B may have evolved sep­a­rate­ly sev­er­al times. The human AB blood type is just the result of some­one inher­it­ing the type A gene from one par­ent and the type B gene from the oth­er.

Why is type O so com­mon in mod­ern humans? Sci­en­tists are still not sure. One the­o­ry is that hav­ing type O blood makes you more like­ly to sur­vive a case of fal­ci­parum malar­ia, which is the worst form of malar­ia.

D’Adamo insists that peo­ple with type O blood should eat a meat-based Paleo-style diet. He insists that only peo­ple with type A blood should eat a veg­e­tar­i­an or veg­an diet. Yet there is no evi­dence that any­one would have bet­ter gen­er­al health on a Paleo-style diet. Extreme­ly low-carb (keto­genic) diets are some­times used as a treat­ment for severe epilep­sy in chil­dren. These diets work by mim­ic­k­ing the effect of fast­ing, but with­out caus­ing the per­son to starve.  How­ev­er, these low-carb diets are not good for the child’s gen­er­al health. In fact, they can stunt the child’s growth. The keto­genic diet can even cause severe side-effects, such as pan­cre­ati­tis.

ND stands for “not a doctor”

D’Adamo is often called “doc­tor.” But he is not a med­ical doc­tor (MD). Nor does he have a doc­tor of phi­los­o­phy (PhD) or a doc­tor of sci­ence (DSc) degree. Instead he has a doc­tor of natur­o­path­ic med­i­cine (ND) degree from Bastyr Uni­ver­si­ty. Bastyr is a school for peo­ple who want to go into an alter­na­tive health trade, such as natur­opa­thy or acupunc­ture. D’Adamo has taught at some oth­er schools, but they are just oth­er natur­opa­thy schools. In the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, the schools of natur­opa­thy lost their abil­i­ty to grant MD degrees, because they refused to pro­vide a good enough sci­ence edu­ca­tion. Nev­er­the­less the natur­opaths have been fight­ing hard to get licen­sure to prac­tice as pri­ma­ry care providers. For infor­ma­tion about natur­opa­thy, see Natur­o­path­ic Diaries, the blog of ex-natur­opath Britt Marie Her­mes.

D’Adamo describes him­self as a researcher. How­ev­er, real researchers write arti­cles about their research. Those arti­cles then get pub­lished in sci­en­tif­ic and med­ical jour­nals. When I searched for P. J. D’Adamo in MEDLINE, I couldn’t find even one cita­tion. In oth­er words, D’Adamo has nev­er writ­ten even one arti­cle that any sci­en­tif­ic or med­ical jour­nal has seen fit to print. When I searched for his name in, I couldn’t find him list­ed as the main inves­ti­ga­tor of even one clin­i­cal study.

The real science of blood typing

The blood type diet is just an attempt to hijack the pres­tige of some real sci­en­tif­ic advance. The ABO blood typ­ing sys­tem was dis­cov­ered in 1900 by an Aus­tri­an immu­nol­o­gist named Karl Land­stein­er. Land­stein­er even­tu­al­ly won the Nobel Prize for this dis­cov­ery.

Your blood type is extreme­ly impor­tant if you need a blood trans­fu­sion. Even if you get blood that is well-matched to your own, you could suf­fer from fever and chills, as your immune sys­tem reacts to some unfa­mil­iar pro­teins from the donor. How­ev­er, if you get red blood cells of the wrong ABO blood type, your body may mis­take those red blood cells for a dan­ger­ous for­eign invad­er. As a result, your body’s anti­bod­ies could attack and kill those donat­ed red blood cells. In severe cas­es, the immune sys­tem will tear the for­eign red blood cells apart. This prob­lem, called an acute hemolyt­ic trans­fu­sion reac­tion, can kill you by caus­ing severe blood clot­ting.

The ABO sys­tem was the first set of blood types to be dis­cov­ered. Lat­er researchers revealed the Rh types (pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive). Peo­ple with AB-pos­i­tive blood (ABO type AB and Rh-pos­i­tive) can receive blood trans­fu­sions from prac­ti­cal­ly any­one. Peo­ple with O-neg­a­tive blood can donate to prac­ti­cal­ly any­one.

Blood typ­ing is also impor­tant in foren­sic med­i­cine. Before the days of DNA test­ing, it was often used to rule out sus­pects in cer­tain kinds of crimes. If you know that the per­pe­tra­tor had type A blood, you can rule out sus­pects with type O, B, or AB blood. In the days before DNA test­ing, blood typ­ing was impor­tant in pater­ni­ty cas­es. If a child has type A blood but his moth­er has type O blood, you know that the father must have had type A blood.

In oth­er words, blood typ­ing is extreme­ly impor­tant in trans­fu­sion med­i­cine and has been impor­tant in foren­sic med­i­cine. How­ev­er, there is no rea­son to believe that the dif­fer­ent blood types rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent stages in human evo­lu­tion. Nor is there any rea­son to believe that your blood type will let you pre­dict how you will react to a par­tic­u­lar diet. D’Adamo claims that a low-fat, veg­an diet should be reserved for peo­ple with type A blood. In real­i­ty, it’s the best diet for peo­ple with any blood type.

Pho­to by GreenFlames09

Do I Need Blood Pressure Medication?

What is hypertension?

Rough­ly one out of three adults in the Unit­ed States have hyper­ten­sion (high blood pres­sure). Only half of those with high blood pres­sure have it under con­trol. High blood pres­sure can be a seri­ous prob­lem. It can dam­age your blood ves­sels, par­tic­u­lar­ly in your kid­neys and your brain. Even­tu­al­ly, it can also dam­age the valves in your heart. Preg­nant women are prone to a form of high blood pres­sure called preeclamp­sia, which is dan­ger­ous to the woman and her baby. For these rea­sons, mil­lions of peo­ple are tak­ing med­ica­tions to con­trol their blood pres­sure.

How­ev­er,  med­ica­tion is not nec­es­sar­i­ly the best way to con­trol blood pres­sure. Yes, it can reduce the blood pres­sure. But it does not cure the vas­cu­lar resis­tance that the heart is try­ing to solve by beat­ing so hard. The best way to solve the blood pres­sure prob­lem is to relieve this resis­tance by eat­ing a low-fat veg­an diet.

Blood pres­sure results from the force exert­ed by the heart as it beats. Blood pres­sure is mea­sured in mil­lime­ters of mer­cury (mm Hg) because blood pres­sure was orig­i­nal­ly mea­sured with a tube that con­tained mer­cury, which is a liq­uid met­al. The high­er the pres­sure, the high­er the col­umn of mer­cury in the tube would be. A blood pres­sure mea­sure­ment con­sists of two num­bers: the sys­tolic and dias­tolic pres­sure. The sys­tolic pres­sure rep­re­sents the pres­sure that is exert­ed when the heart con­tracts and push­es the blood into the arter­ies. The dias­tolic pres­sure rep­re­sents the pres­sure when the heart is relax­ing and refill­ing between beats.

Hypertension is a sign of bad circulation

To under­stand blood pres­sure, you need to under­stand that the heart is try­ing to keep enough blood flow­ing through the blood ves­sels to serve the body’s needs. Hyper­ten­sion (high blood pres­sure) is a sign that the heart is strug­gling to over­come high resis­tance in the cir­cu­la­to­ry sys­tem. In oth­er words, the heart is beat­ing real­ly hard to try to push blood through tight, clogged blood ves­sels. You can use med­ica­tion that can reduce your blood pres­sure. How­ev­er, the blood pres­sure med­ica­tion does not solve the prob­lem of tight, clogged blood ves­sels.  For­tu­nate­ly, you can often solve the cir­cu­la­to­ry prob­lems through a change in diet.

Poiseuille’s Law

Blood is a flu­id. Like oth­er flu­ids, it fol­lows the basic rules of physics, includ­ing a rela­tion­ship called Poiseuille’s [pwah-zweez]) Law . Poiseuille’s Law is a math­e­mat­i­cal equa­tion that describes the rela­tion­ship between the rate of flow of a flu­id through a tube and the radius of the tube, the length of the tube, the vis­cos­i­ty (resis­tance to flow) of the liq­uid, and the drop in pres­sure from the begin­ning to the end of the tube. This rela­tion­ship is usu­al­ly shown as fol­lows:

Pres­sure drop = (8 × vis­cos­i­ty × length × flow rate) / (π × radius4)

You can also express Poiseuille’s Law as fol­lows:

Flow rate = (π × radius4 × pres­sure drop)/(8 × vis­cos­i­ty × length)

From this equa­tion, you can make some impor­tant pre­dic­tions:

  • If you dou­ble the pres­sure, but keep every­thing else the same, you would dou­ble the flow. That’s why the heart beats hard­er to increase blood flow.
  • If you dou­ble the vis­cos­i­ty of the blood (i.e., make the blood twice as thick) but keep every­thing else the same, you would cut blood flow in half.
  • If you dou­ble the length of the blood ves­sels (which hap­pens if the per­son gains a lot of weight) but keep every­thing else the same, you would cut the blood flow in half.
  • If you dou­ble the radius of the blood ves­sel, but keep every­thing else the same, you would increase the flow by 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 = 16-fold! Like­wise, if you decreased the radius of the blood ves­sel by half, you would decrease the flow by 93.75%!

How diet causes hypertension

Once you under­stand these rela­tion­ships, you can see why peo­ple get high blood pres­sure. If you eat a fat­ty diet, you will like­ly gain some weight and make your blood a bit thick­er. As a result, your heart will have to beat a lit­tle bit hard­er to keep your blood flow­ing. How­ev­er, a fat­ty diet also clogs your arter­ies. Also, even a sin­gle fat­ty meal can make your blood ves­sels con­strict. As a result, your heart will have to beat a lot hard­er to keep blood flow­ing. The weight gain and the thick­en­ing of the blood will make your blood pres­sure go up a lit­tle, while clogged arter­ies and vaso­con­stric­tion will make it go up a lot!

You can take med­ica­tion to make your blood pres­sure go down, but this med­ica­tion will not solve the under­ly­ing prob­lem of poor cir­cu­la­tion. To solve your cir­cu­la­to­ry prob­lem, you need to keep your blood flu­id and keep your arter­ies clean and flex­i­ble. The best way to do that is to eat a low-fat veg­an diet. This kind of diet works so fast to reduce blood pres­sure that many peo­ple can imme­di­ate­ly stop tak­ing their blood pres­sure med­ica­tion.

Pre-eclampsia is a form of hypertension in late pregnancy

The high blood pres­sure that occurs in late preg­nan­cy (pre-eclamp­sia) is a dif­fer­ent prob­lem. It results from a short­age of pro­tein in the blood plas­ma. This prob­lem occurs if the woman is not get­ting enough to eat or if she is eat­ing way too much fat. Either way, she will end up con­vert­ing too much of her plas­ma pro­teins to sug­ar. As a result, she will not have enough plas­ma pro­tein to hold enough flu­id inside her blood ves­sels to sup­port a healthy preg­nan­cy.

To try to cor­rect this prob­lem of low blood vol­ume, the kid­neys will release renin, which will acti­vate the renin-angiotensin-aldos­terone sys­tem. The angiotensin will make the arter­ies con­strict. The aldos­terone will make the woman retain salt and water. But since she does not have enough pro­tein in her blood to keep that extra flu­id inside her blood ves­sels, it will leak out into her tis­sue. As a result, she will have dan­ger­ous­ly high blood pres­sure as well as swelling.

The sur­pris­ing solu­tion to pre-eclamp­sia is to eat a lot of starch and very lit­tle fat. Women who eat a lot of car­bo­hy­drate will con­vert very lit­tle pro­tein to sug­ar. As a result, they will have nor­mal blood pres­sure as well as sta­ble blood sug­ar lev­els. I explain this prob­lem in Where Do Goril­las Get Their Pro­tein?

Science journal spreads false rumors about vegan diet

As I explain in Where Do Goril­las Get Their Pro­tein?,  a low-fat veg­an diet is good for peo­ple and good for the envi­ron­ment.  How­ev­er, an arti­cle in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences (PNAS) dis­agrees. It claims that veg­an diets would be a dis­as­ter for pub­lic health. Yet the authors are not experts on human nutri­tion or pub­lic health. Instead, they are experts on how to feed live­stock. Their did not base their con­clu­sions on any stud­ies of veg­an human beings. They even freely admit that plant-based diets have sev­er­al impor­tant advan­tages:

  • A plant-based diet would increase the amount of food avail­able for human beings.
  • Veg­ans have to eat a huge amount of food to keep from los­ing weight  [That’s why they tend to be thin and free of type 2 dia­betes ]
  • The 2015 Dietary Guide­lines Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee sup­port­ed plant-based diets. They not­ed that plant-based diets would improve health and make our food sup­ply more sus­tain­able.

False claims about vegan diet

The PNAS arti­cle claims that the veg­an diets would be defi­cient in sev­er­al impor­tant nutri­ents. Yet the authors did not show that veg­ans were get­ting sick. Instead, they just wrote, “How­ev­er, with­out ani­mal-derived foods, domes­tic sup­plies of Ca [cal­ci­um]; arachi­don­ic, eicos­apen­taenoic, and docosa­hexaenoic fat­ty acids; and vit­a­mins A and B12 were insuf­fi­cient to meet the require­ments of the US pop­u­la­tion.” That claim is absolute­ly ridicu­lous, for the fol­low­ing rea­sons:

    • You do need to get some cal­ci­um from your diet. How­ev­er, nobody gets sick from eat­ing low-cal­ci­um diets. Some prob­lems with cal­ci­um bal­ance  result from a lack of vit­a­min D (sun­shine defi­cien­cy). Oth­ers result from high-pro­tein, high-cal­ci­um diets.
    • You don’t need to get arachi­don­ic acid, eicos­apen­taenoic acid, or docosa­hexaenoic acid from your food. We do not need to get small amounts of two essen­tial fat­ty acids from our diet. How­ev­er, we can eas­i­ly get enough of both from prac­ti­cal­ly any plant-based diet.
    • Human beings can eas­i­ly get vit­a­min A from orange, yel­low, or dark-green fruit and veg­eta­bles.
    • Vit­a­min B12 is the only true vit­a­min that is lack­ing from plant-based diets. Vit­a­min B12 is made by bac­te­ria, not by ani­mals. You can get it from a cheap sup­ple­ment.
    • The arti­cle also warns about vit­a­min D defi­cien­cy. Yet vit­a­min D is not a true vit­a­min. You can make your own vit­a­min D if you go out­side in the sun­shine.  You don’t need to get “the sun­shine vit­a­min” from your food.

Concern for industry, not for human health

The PNAS arti­cle warns us that a shift to a veg­an diet would cause big changes to the econ­o­my. These changes would be dis­as­trous for the live­stock indus­try. (The authors of the PNAS arti­cle have devot­ed their careers to serv­ing the live­stock indus­try. They have not stud­ied human health. That is why they know so lit­tle about human nutri­tion.)

A switch to a veg­an diet would also be a dis­as­ter for the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try. Many peo­ple who shift to a low-fat, plant-based diet can stop tak­ing most or all of their pre­scrip­tion med­ica­tions. These changes would be good for pub­lic health, though bad for indus­try.

PNAS is a pres­ti­gious jour­nal. Yet like oth­er pres­ti­gious jour­nals, it some­times pub­lish­es arti­cles that are non­sense. Like­wise, PNAS prob­a­bly also rejects some good arti­cles for stu­pid rea­sons. I have worked for peer-reviewed jour­nals. I have also sub­mit­ted arti­cles to oth­er peer-reviewed jour­nals. Thus, I have seen the prob­lem from both sides, as I explain here. The edi­tors of PNAS failed to send their arti­cle to a gen­uine expert in human nutri­tion. As a result, they end­ed up spread­ing live­stock indus­try pro­pa­gan­da.

Is Coconut Oil Good for You?

Late­ly, food fad­dists have been claim­ing that coconut oil is a health food. They claim that it will help you lose weight. In real­i­ty, coconut oil is as fat­ten­ing as any oth­er fat. Some peo­ple even claim that coconut oil can cure Alzheimer’s dis­ease. In real­i­ty, coconut oil can pro­mote ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis, which is an impor­tant cause of vas­cu­lar demen­tia. Also, fats of any kind tend to make your body less sen­si­tive to insulin. For this rea­son, eat­ing coconut oil would prob­a­bly make type 2 dia­betes worse. Coconut oil could even make Alzheimer’s dis­ease worse. Alzheimer’s dis­ease seems to be relat­ed to insulin resis­tance in the brain.

So why are peo­ple pro­mot­ing coconut oil for brain health? They know that coconut oil is part of a diet for chil­dren with epilep­sy. How­ev­er, they do not under­stand why this diet is used.

What is epilepsy?

Epilep­sy is a con­di­tion in which peo­ple suf­fer from seizures. A seizure is an elec­tri­cal storm with­in the brain. In ancient times, epilep­sy was called “the falling sick­ness” because it can make you pass out. How­ev­er, “par­tial” seizures may sim­ply cause altered men­tal states or uncon­trolled move­ments of the body. Many ancient peo­ple thought that epilep­sy was caused by evil spir­its. How­ev­er, the ancient Greek physi­cian Hip­pocrates explained that epilep­sy was an ordi­nary phys­i­cal dis­ease, with phys­i­cal caus­es. The ancients knew that epilep­tics had few­er seizures while they were fast­ing. Of course, you can­not fast for­ev­er. You have to eat some­thing even­tu­al­ly, or you will starve to death. Once the epilep­tic per­son start­ed eat­ing again, the seizures would start up again.

By the 1920s, physi­cians were look­ing for a way to mim­ic some of the effects of fast­ing, with­out starv­ing the patient to death. They knew that fast­ing caus­es keto­sis, which is the buildup of chem­i­cals called ketone bod­ies in the blood­stream. But they knew that you could also get keto­sis from eat­ing an extreme­ly low-car­bo­hy­drate diet. For rea­sons that are still unclear, keto­sis sup­press­es seizures in many peo­ple with epilep­sy. For this rea­son, an extreme­ly high-fat, low-car­bo­hy­drate “keto­genic” diet has been used since the ear­ly 1920s for the man­age­ment of treat­ment-resis­tant epilep­sy in chil­dren.

What causes ketosis?

Why does an extreme­ly low-carb diet cause keto­sis? Even in the 1920s, it was obvi­ous that keto­sis meant that the liv­er was mak­ing huge amounts of sug­ar. The excess sug­ar in a dia­bet­ic person’s blood­stream did not result from eat­ing a high-car­bo­hy­drate diet. Instead, much of it was made out of pro­tein from the food and from the body’s tis­sues. If there is no insulin in the blood, the alpha cells in the pan­creas assume that the blood sug­ar lev­el must be low. As a result, the alpha cells will make huge amounts of a hor­mone called glucagon. Glucagon tells the liv­er to make glu­cose. Nor­mal­ly, this brings blood sug­ar lev­els back up to nor­mal. An over­dose of insulin kills peo­ple by pre­vent­ing their pan­creas from releas­ing glucagon. That’s why glucagon is used as an anti­dote to insulin over­dose.

The liv­er makes a lot of glu­cose out of a starch called glyco­gen. How­ev­er, the liv­er can also make glu­cose out of non­car­bo­hy­drates. In par­tic­u­lar, it can make sug­ar out of some amino acids (the build­ing blocks of pro­tein). When the liv­er is mak­ing a lot of glu­cose, it may also start to use up a sub­stance called oxaloac­etate. How­ev­er, it needs that mate­r­i­al for burn­ing fats effi­cient­ly. So if the liv­er is mak­ing sug­ar real­ly fast, the body can­not burn fats well. As a result, the liv­er pro­duces more ketone bod­ies as waste prod­ucts. Keto­sis means that these ketone bod­ies are build­ing up in the blood­stream.

Is ketosis good or bad?

If you are fast­ing, a lit­tle bit of keto­sis is a good thing. Your brain can use some ketone bod­ies as an alter­na­tive fuel source. But the severe keto­sis caused by untreat­ed type 1 dia­betes is a life-threat­en­ing emer­gency. Dia­bet­ic ketoaci­do­sis is a com­bi­na­tion of severe keto­sis, high blood sug­ar, dehy­dra­tion, and elec­trolyte imbal­ances.

You can get keto­sis from fast­ing. How­ev­er, you can also get it from an extreme­ly low-car­bo­hy­drate diet. Thus, chil­dren with severe epilep­sy are some­times fed an extreme­ly low-car­bo­hy­drate (keto­genic) diet. This keto­genic diet has some impor­tant draw­backs. It stunt children’s growth. It can also lead to some severe side effects, includ­ing inflam­ma­tion of the pan­creas. Also, chil­dren often hate the diet. The food is yucky, and their choic­es are lim­it­ed. Eat­ing even a lit­tle bit of car­bo­hy­drate stops the keto­sis. For this rea­son, it is hard to get chil­dren to stick to the diet well enough to get ben­e­fits.

Medium-chain triglycerides

Most of the fat in our food con­sists of triglyc­erides that con­tain long-chain fat­ty acids. How­ev­er, short- and medi­um-chain fat­ty acids are bet­ter at pro­duc­ing keto­sis. The short­er-chain fat­ty acids go straight to the liv­er from the intes­tine. The longer fat­ty acids go through a dif­fer­ent path­way, which does not go through the liv­er before it reach­es the gen­er­al cir­cu­la­tion. Coconut oil is a rel­a­tive­ly rich source of medi­um-chain fat­ty acids. So if you add coconut oil to the keto­genic diet, you can let the child eat a lit­tle bit of car­bo­hy­drate and a bit more pro­tein.

Alzheimer’s disease

Since coconut oil is so good at gen­er­at­ing ketone bod­ies, there has been some inter­est in it for patients with Alzheimer’s dis­ease. In Alzheimer’s dis­ease, the brain is hav­ing trou­ble with using glu­cose for ener­gy. For this rea­son, some researchers sus­pect that hav­ing more ketone bod­ies in the blood­stream would help. Yet this the­o­ry remains unproven.

Soci­eties that eat high-carb, low-fat diets have low­er rates of Alzheimer’s dis­ease. I explain this fact in my book  Thin Dia­betes, Fat Dia­betes: Pre­vent Type 1, Cure Type 2.

Epilepsy in children

The keto­genic diet is use­ful in cas­es of child­hood epilep­sy that do not respond to any oth­er treat­ment. How­ev­er, it is not a health-pro­mot­ing diet for the gen­er­al pub­lic. No soci­ety on earth has ever sub­sist­ed on a keto­genic diet. Even Inu­it (Eski­mo) peo­ple, who lived on fat­ty meats and fish dur­ing the win­ter, did not go into keto­sis unless they were fast­ing. Also, high-fat, low-car­bo­hy­drate diets lead to rapid aging and ear­ly death, even if they do not pro­duce keto­sis.

A keto­genic diet may be good for some chil­dren with epilep­sy. How­ev­er, it is not a healthy diet. Thus, it would be bad for peo­ple who do not have epilep­sy. If you don’t have epilep­sy, you would be bet­ter off eat­ing a low-fat, high-car­bo­hy­drate diet of starch­es and veg­eta­bles.

Coconut vs coconut oil

The soci­eties that eat lots of coconut tend to have low rates of heart dis­ease. How­ev­er, their over­all intake of fat and cho­les­terol is low. Most of their calo­ries come from car­bo­hy­drates (starch­es and sug­ars). Rice and starchy veg­eta­bles (such as sweet pota­toes and poi) make up the bulk of their diet. Since these peo­ple live in the trop­ics, they also eat a lot of fruit and veg­eta­bles. Some Poly­ne­sians eat a lot of coconut. How­ev­er, they main­ly eat whole coconut, rather than coconut oil. The fiber in the coconut helps to low­er their cho­les­terol. Fiber binds to cho­les­terol in the intes­tine. Thus, fiber can car­ry the cho­les­terol out of the body.

If you want to lose weight and pro­tect your heart and brain, don’t eat coconut oil. Instead, remove oils and ani­mal-source foods from your diet. The pop­u­la­tions that eat a low-fat, plant-based diet have the best chance at a long and healthy life.

What Does Ketosis Mean?

Keto­sis does not mean that you are los­ing weight. It real­ly just means that your liv­er is turn­ing a lot of pro­tein and oth­er non­car­bo­hy­drates to sug­ar. Today, many peo­ple on the Inter­net are urg­ing peo­ple to eat a “keto” diet. A keto diet is so high in fat and so low in car­bo­hy­drates that it caus­es peo­ple to go into a state of keto­sis. Keto­sis means that “ketone bod­ies” have built up in the blood­stream. Ketone bod­ies are chem­i­cals that are pro­duced by an alter­na­tive method of burn­ing fat.

The real Paleo diet was not keto

Many peo­ple claim that the keto diet is the nat­ur­al diet that peo­ple ate dur­ing the ear­ly stone age (Pale­olith­ic era). How­ev­er, most peo­ple in the stone age would have eat­en a heav­i­ly plant-based diet. They would have got­ten a lot of their calo­ries from starchy plant mate­r­i­al, such as roots and tubers. In fact, anthro­pol­o­gists have been find­ing starch grains in the tar­tar of the teeth of Pale­olith­ic skele­tons.

It is easy and safe to dig up roots and tubers. In con­trast, it is hard and dan­ger­ous to kill big ani­mals. Also, you can dig up a lot of roots and tubers in the time it takes to catch a fish. As a result, stone age peo­ple would have got­ten more than enough car­bo­hy­drate to keep them from going into keto­sis.

Even the Inuit did not eat a keto diet

Even the Inuit’s (Eski­mos’) tra­di­tion­al win­ter diet of fat­ty meats and fish did not pro­duce keto­sis. Stud­ies done in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry found that the Inu­it did not get keto­sis unless they were fast­ing. The Inu­it were eat­ing raw meat. Some of their meat was fresh-killed. The rest had frozen imme­di­ate­ly after being killed. Unlike the meat you would buy at a super­mar­ket, this fresh or rapid­ly frozen meat still con­tained a starch called glyco­gen. The Inu­it also used a method of meat preser­va­tion that con­vert­ed some pro­tein to sug­ar. As a result, the Inuit’s tra­di­tion­al diet con­tained a sur­pris­ing­ly large amount of car­bo­hy­drate: enough to keep peo­ple out of keto­sis.

Low-carb diets cause rapid aging, early death

It is good that the Inu­it diet did not cause keto­sis. The Inu­it already had extreme­ly high rates of osteo­poro­sis, because of the meta­bol­ic aci­do­sis caused by their high-pro­tein diet. Adding even more acid, in the form of ketone bod­ies, would have made this prob­lem even worse. Eat­ing a lot of cal­ci­um, in the form of fish bones, did not solve this prob­lem. In fact, high-cal­ci­um diets actu­al­ly increase your risk for osteo­poro­sis.

Ketosis does not mean weight loss

Some “Paleo” advo­cates claim that keto­sis means that you are burn­ing fat and are there­fore los­ing weight. Some of them even claim that you can­not lose weight or burn fat unless you are in keto­sis, which is total non­sense. The Krebs cycle, which is the body’s nor­mal way of burn­ing fat, does not pro­duce ketone bod­ies. Hav­ing ketones in your urine does not even guar­an­tee that you are los­ing weight. To lose weight, even on a keto­genic diet, you must burn up more calo­ries than you take in. Even on a keto­genic diet, you can still gain weight. The burst of insulin that is released in response to eat­ing foods that con­tain pro­tein could dri­ve excess fat from the food into the fat cells.

Ketosis means that your liver is making a lot of sugar

The keto­sis does not mean that you are los­ing weight. It is sim­ply a sign that your liv­er is mak­ing sug­ar (glu­cose) out of pro­teins and oth­er non­car­bo­hy­drates. Your liv­er is work­ing so hard to make this glu­cose that it is using up one of the chem­i­cals that it needs for burn­ing fat com­plete­ly. As a result, some of the fat gets bro­ken down through an abnor­mal path­way that pro­duces ketone bod­ies.

Is ketosis harmful?

Dur­ing a fast, a lit­tle bit of keto­sis is good. Your brain can use a lit­tle bit of the ketone bod­ies as an alter­na­tive fuel. How­ev­er, the severe keto­sis that can occur in untreat­ed type 1 dia­betes is a life-threat­en­ing emer­gency. Before the dis­cov­ery of insulin, type 1 dia­betes always led to ketoaci­do­sis, coma, and death. Ketoaci­do­sis means that the keto­sis is so bad that it low­ers the blood pH. Dia­bet­ic ketoaci­do­sis is a com­bi­na­tion of high blood sug­ar, dehy­dra­tion, low blood pH, and an elec­trolyte imbal­ance. These prob­lems must be cor­rect­ed care­ful­ly, at the same time, in an inten­sive care unit.

In a healthy per­son, the ketone lev­els in the blood are usu­al­ly less than 1 mg/dL. Nor­mal­ly, the ketone body con­cen­tra­tion in urine is too low to show up on a test strip. You can boost your pro­duc­tion of ketone bod­ies by fast­ing or by eat­ing a low-car­bo­hy­drate diet. You can get into a state of keto­sis either way. How­ev­er, the effects of a fast are far dif­fer­ent from the effects of a low-car­bo­hy­drate diet. The Paleo advo­cates believe that eat­ing bacon and eggs—but no toast—would pro­duce the same effect as fast­ing. It is a fool­ish belief.

Sci­en­tists are only begin­ning to under­stand the poten­tial ben­e­fits of peri­od­ic fast­ing. Fast­ing is a sure-fire way to lose some weight. Fast­ing can also help to sup­press a run­away inflam­ma­to­ry response. A med­ical­ly super­vised water-only fast is also a use­ful first step in an elim­i­na­tion diet. The goal of an elim­i­na­tion diet is to iden­ti­fy which foods are mak­ing you sick.

Should you believe the Paleo hype?

Many peo­ple swear by the Paleo diet. They claim to have eat­en it for months or even years. They claim that it made them thin and healthy. Yet there is room for doubt. No soci­eties any­where on earth have eat­en a keto­genic diet. Also, the soci­eties with a high-fat, low-carb diet have rapid aging and a short life span. In con­trast, the peo­ple who eat a high-car­bo­hy­drate diet based on starch­es and veg­eta­bles can have long and healthy lives. The Chi­na-Cor­nell Oxford Project found that the less ani­mal-source food a pop­u­la­tion eats, the low­er its aver­age cho­les­terol lev­el is and the low­er its risk of death from chron­ic dis­ease is. Eat­ing even small amounts of ani­mal-source food is dan­ger­ous.

The side effects of the keto diet

A keto­genic diet can sup­press seizures in chil­dren with severe epilep­sy. Yet in those chil­dren, the diet can have side effects. It can cause dehy­dra­tion, con­sti­pa­tion, vom­it­ing, high cho­les­terol, and kid­ney stones. Some chil­dren have had severe side effects. These include heart rhythm prob­lems, inflam­ma­tion of the pan­creas, and loss of cal­ci­um from the bones. In short, a keto­genic diet is use­ful for man­ag­ing some rare but seri­ous dis­eases. How­ev­er, the keto diet s dan­ger­ous in the long run.

Dietary Protein, Not Sugar, Promotes the Growth of Cancer

Some researchers in Bel­gium just did an inter­est­ing study about how yeast cells use sug­ar. This study helps to explain why yeast cells mul­ti­ply rapid­ly when they have plen­ty of sug­ar. The results of their study could also explain why some can­cer cells also mul­ti­ply rapid­ly. How­ev­er, this study does not mean that sug­ars and starch­es in the diet are a prob­lem. In fact, high-car­bo­hy­drate diets actu­al­ly help to pro­tect against many can­cers. Rather, the study explains why can­cer cells with abnor­mal sug­ar metab­o­lism might behave like yeast cells.

Many Cancer Cells Have an Abnormal Metabolism

Since the 1920s, sci­en­tists have known that many can­cer cells don’t use oxy­gen to burn sug­ar, even when plen­ty of oxy­gen is avail­able. By the 1950s, it was clear that tumors that are most like­ly to use anaer­o­bic (no-oxy­gen) metab­o­lism tend to be the most aggres­sive. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the reporters who have been cov­er­ing this study for the pop­u­lar press do not under­stand what the study is about or what its results real­ly mean.

Many of the reporters have false­ly con­clud­ed that the study shows that some­thing in sug­ar is some­how caus­ing can­cer. As a result, they are urg­ing peo­ple to avoid eat­ing car­bo­hy­drates. But if peo­ple fol­low that advice, they would actu­al­ly increase their risk of ear­ly death. If peo­ple avoid car­bo­hy­drates, they will end up eat­ing more fat and more ani­mal pro­tein. High-fat diets increase your risk of heart attacks. Also, diets that are high in ani­mal pro­tein increase your risk of dying of can­cer.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Dietary Pro­tein, Not Sug­ar, Pro­motes the Growth of Can­cer”

Jane Brody’s Misleading Attack on What the Health

New York Times colum­nist Jane E. Brody has writ­ten a sil­ly attack on the doc­u­men­tary What the Health. Germany’s Iron Chan­cel­lor Otto von Bis­mar­ck sup­pos­ed­ly once quipped, “Nev­er believe any­thing in pol­i­tics until it has been offi­cial­ly denied.” Since the New York Times is regard­ed as the “News­pa­per of Record” in the Unit­ed States, we could amend this say­ing to “Nev­er believe any­thing in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics until it has been offi­cial­ly denied in the New York Times.”

Brody focused on one alarm­ing state­ment about the harm­ful effects of eat­ing eggs. She then con­clud­ed that the entire doc­u­men­tary was full of bad sci­ence. Some­how, she failed to men­tion the main mes­sage of the doc­u­men­tary, which is that the major health-focused non­prof­its are tak­ing mon­ey from the food indus­try. Not coin­ci­den­tal­ly, those non­prof­its are sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly fail­ing to warn peo­ple of the health risks posed by the foods that their spon­sors are sell­ing. What the Health even showed that these non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions have some­times been urg­ing peo­ple to eat the very foods that are known to con­tribute to the dis­ease that the non­prof­it is sup­pos­ed­ly try­ing to fight. If the New York Times were real­ly serv­ing as the “watch­dog press,” then it would have been sound­ing sim­i­lar warn­ings for many years. (I sound that warn­ing in my book Where Do Goril­las Get Their Pro­tein? What We Real­ly Know About Diet and Health.) Instead, the pub­lic had to wait for an inde­pen­dent doc­u­men­tary film­mak­er to artic­u­late this mes­sage, and for Net­flix to broad­cast it.

What the Health is report­ing on a sto­ry that the News­pa­per of Record pre­sum­ably finds “not fit to print.” Word about What the Health is spread­ing via social media. Since our News­pa­per of Record can no longer ignore the doc­u­men­tary, it is time for one of its colum­nists to tell us to “move along, there’s noth­ing to see here.” Brody claimed that sev­er­al of her “well-mean­ing, health con­scious young friends” (a descrip­tion that sim­ply drips with con­de­scen­sion) urged her to watch the doc­u­men­tary, but that she had to quit watch­ing it part­way through, sup­pos­ed­ly because the sci­ence report­ing was intol­er­a­bly bad. Yet sev­er­al of the peo­ple inter­viewed in the doc­u­men­tary are promi­nent sci­en­tists, while Brody is just a news­pa­per colum­nist.

The online ver­sion of Brody’s screed was enti­tled “Good Veg­an, Bad Veg­an.” The “bad veg­ans” are pre­sum­ably “those who dis­tort sci­ence.” Yet Brody her­self is guilty of that offense. The research real­ly does show that egg con­sump­tion, like cig­a­rette smok­ing, is cor­re­lat­ed with the buildup of plaque in the arter­ies. If the effect of eat­ing two eggs a day is equiv­a­lent to half of the effect of smok­ing a pack of cig­a­rettes a day, that would work out to a five cig­a­rettes per egg ratio, which is not unre­al­is­tic. The research also shows that eat­ing processed meats real­ly is asso­ci­at­ed with an increased risk of type 2 dia­betes. As a con­sumer of eggs and meat, Brody is pre­sum­ably unhap­py about those find­ings, but her unhap­pi­ness does not make those find­ings untrue.

Although Brody rails against bad sci­ence, she pro­mot­ed some of the worst of it in her col­umn. In par­tic­u­lar, she put forth the long-dis­cred­it­ed myth that plant pro­teins are incom­plete and that veg­ans must there­fore com­bine dif­fer­ent plant pro­teins in the same meal to get a com­plete pro­tein. In real­i­ty, nutri­tion sci­en­tists have known for more than 100 years that any prac­ti­cal plant-based diet would auto­mat­i­cal­ly pro­vide enough pro­tein for a human being, as long as the per­son ate enough food to get enough calo­ries. In the 1950s, William Cum­ming Rose showed that ordi­nary sta­ples, such as rice and pota­toes, pro­vide more than enough of all of the amino acids that are essen­tial in human nutri­tion. There has nev­er been any evi­dence that human beings need to com­bine dif­fer­ent plant-based foods to “com­ple­ment the pro­teins.” If Brody had read even an intro­duc­to­ry-lev­el text­book on nutri­tion, she would know this.

Brody con­cedes that “respon­si­ble, well-informed sources” already rec­om­mend a plant-based diet. Then she assures us, on the basis of no evi­dence what­so­ev­er, that a plant-based diet can be “fleshed out” with low-fat pro­tein sources from ani­mals. In con­trast, one of the major find­ings of the Chi­na-Cor­nell-Oxford project was that even a small amount of ani­mal-source food in the diet was asso­ci­at­ed with an increased risk of death from degen­er­a­tive dis­ease. There did not seem to be any safe lev­el of intake. T. Col­in Camp­bell, who is a nutri­tion­al bio­chemist and a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of Brody’s alma mater, Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty, was the lead author of the arti­cle that report­ed that find­ing. Brody has no excuse for being igno­rant of it. If Brody is will­ing to run the increased risk of ear­ly death that results from eat­ing foods from ani­mal sources, that is her choice. But as a jour­nal­ist, Brody has a pro­fes­sion­al and human­i­tar­i­an respon­si­bil­i­ty to tell peo­ple that the risk exists, so that they can make informed deci­sions.

Brody warns, “A veg­an diet laden with refined grains like white rice and bread; juices and sweet­ened drinks; cook­ies, chips and crack­ers; and dairy-free ice cream is hard­ly a health­ful way to eat.” Yet that is a straw-man argu­ment. Nobody inter­viewed in What the Health endors­es junk-food veg­an­ism. On the oth­er hand, Dr. Wal­ter Kemp­n­er of Duke Uni­ver­si­ty dis­cov­ered in the 1930s that he could save the lives of patients with malig­nant hyper­ten­sion by hav­ing them eat a diet of noth­ing but white rice, fruit, and sug­ar. Brody’s audi­ence deserves to know things like that.

Brody’s choice of title is telling. It alludes to Gary Taubes’ book Good Calo­ries, Bad Calo­ries. On July 7, 2002, the New York Times Mag­a­zine launched Gary Taubes’ career as a nutri­tion guru by run­ning his arti­cle “What if it’s all been a big fat lie?” That arti­cle claimed that the low-fat, high-car­bo­hy­drate diet that doc­tors had sup­pos­ed­ly been rec­om­mend­ing was real­ly the cause of our obe­si­ty epi­dem­ic. Like Brody, Taubes has no for­mal train­ing in nutri­tion or dietet­ics or epi­demi­ol­o­gy. Thus, like Brody, Taubes does not even rec­og­nize the mis­takes that he makes in his writ­ings about nutri­tion. Note that Taubes has been round­ly crit­i­cized by nutri­tion sci­en­tists for mis­rep­re­sent­ing their views by mak­ing it seem that they endorsed a low-car­bo­hy­drate diet.

Some of the peo­ple inter­viewed in What the Health are famous sci­en­tists who did land­mark research relat­ed to the effects of dietary choic­es on health. Brody is not a peer of the sci­en­tists inter­viewed in What the Health. Thus, she is not qual­i­fied to serve as a review­er for any of the jour­nals that pub­lished their sci­en­tif­ic work. Yet because of Brody’s plat­form at the New York Times, she has been able to encour­age a broad read­er­ship to “skip” watch­ing a doc­u­men­tary in which these sci­en­tists explain their find­ings to the pub­lic. The peo­ple who take her advice will miss the chance to hear a poten­tial­ly life-sav­ing mes­sage that they will nev­er read in the News­pa­per of Record. For­tu­nate­ly, they may hear about it through social media.

The Inuit (“Eskimo”) Diet Causes Rapid Aging, Early Death

Since the 1970s, there has been a lot of hype about the diet of the Inu­it, who were indige­nous peo­ple in Green­land as well as north­ern Cana­da and Alas­ka.  (The Inu­it were often called Eski­mos, but that name is con­sid­ered offen­sive. The cor­rect name is Inu­it. The sin­gu­lar form of the word is Inuk.) The Inu­it had man­aged to sur­vive in a hos­tile envi­ron­ment: one that was frozen and cov­ered in snow for many months out of the year. As a result, the Inuit’s tra­di­tion­al diet for most of the year con­sist­ed of meat and fish, often eat­en raw. Since the 1970s, many food fad­dists have been claim­ing that the Inuit’s diet some­how mag­i­cal­ly pro­tect­ed the Inu­it against coro­nary artery dis­ease. The goal of this pro­pa­gan­da is to encour­age peo­ple to eat meat and fish and to take fish oil cap­sules but to shun car­bo­hy­drates. Yet even the ear­li­est out­side observers of the Inu­it noticed some­thing odd about them. The young Inu­it seemed hale and hearty, but the Inu­it seemed to age quick­ly, and there were prac­ti­cal­ly no Inu­it old­er than 60 years. Stud­ies of mum­mi­fied and skele­tal remains of Inu­it who had died before the arrival of the Euro­peans con­firmed that the tra­di­tion­al Inu­it diet caused ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis and osteo­poro­sis.

The Inu­it have always had a remark­ably short life expectan­cy because they were at risk for both of the major cat­e­gories of caus­es of death: dis­eases of pover­ty and dis­eases of afflu­ence. The dis­eases of pover­ty are the things that tend to afflict the poor: star­va­tion, expo­sure, acci­dents, and gen­er­al lack of med­ical care and social sup­ports. The dis­eases of afflu­ence are the things that tend to afflict the rich: main­ly a diet that is high in fats and cho­les­terol. In trop­i­cal and tem­per­ate regions, only the rich could afford to eat meat and oth­er ani­mal-source foods on a reg­u­lar basis. But in the Arc­tic, meat was the only avail­able food for much of the year. Thus, the Inu­it were poor peo­ple eat­ing a rich diet. As a result, they aged rapid­ly and died young.

The Inuit’s tra­di­tion­al diet of fat­ty meats and fish can sus­tain a young per­son. Oth­er­wise, the Inu­it would not have suc­ceed­ed in set­tling in the Arc­tic region. How­ev­er, the Inu­it diet is bad for your health in the long run, for sev­er­al rea­sons:

  • Peo­ple can catch par­a­sitic dis­eases by eat­ing raw meat. (More than 12% of elder­ly Inu­it in Green­land had trichi­nosis).
  • The high fat and cho­les­terol con­tent of the Inu­it diet leads to clog­ging of the arter­ies.
  • A high-pro­tein diet increas­es the risk for liv­er and kid­ney dis­ease, as well as osteo­poro­sis.
  • Ani­mal-source food con­tains a con­cen­trat­ed dose of pol­lu­tants from the envi­ron­ment.

Advo­cates of a keto­genic diet often use the Inu­it diet as a mod­el. The goal of a keto­genic diet is to put some­one into a state of keto­sis. Keto­sis means that the per­son has an abnor­mal­ly large amount of keto acids in the blood. This con­di­tion nor­mal­ly hap­pens dur­ing fast­ing or when the per­son is eat­ing no car­bo­hy­drates. It can also result from insulin defi­cien­cy. Since the Inu­it were eat­ing prac­ti­cal­ly no plant mate­r­i­al for months at a time, many peo­ple assume that the Inu­it would have been in a state of keto­sis most of the time. Yet a study done in the 1920s showed that Inu­it who were eat­ing their tra­di­tion­al diet did not have keto­sis unless they are fast­ing. By the 1980s, the expla­na­tion was clear: the Inu­it were eat­ing far more car­bo­hy­drate than you might expect. The Inu­it were eat­ing a lot of raw meat that was fresh-killed or had been frozen imme­di­ate­ly after being killed. For this rea­son, the meat that the Inu­it were eat­ing con­tained far more glyco­gen (ani­mal starch) than you would find in meat that you buy at a butcher’s shop or gro­cery store. Also, the Inu­it had a way of pre­serv­ing a whole seal or bird car­cass under an intact whole skin with a thick lay­er of blub­ber. This method of preser­va­tion allowed some of the pro­tein in the meat to fer­ment into car­bo­hy­drate.

Back in the 1970s, some sci­en­tists from Den­mark wrote some arti­cles that claimed that the Inu­it of Green­land were being pro­tect­ed from coro­nary artery dis­ease by the large amounts of omega-3 fat­ty acids in their diet. In real­i­ty, the Inu­it have a high risk of coro­nary artery dis­ease. The ear­li­er research sim­ply under­es­ti­mat­ed the num­ber of fatal heart attacks because the caus­es of deaths among the Inu­it pop­u­la­tions were not being accu­rate­ly record­ed. In the 1970s, the Inu­it in Green­land sel­dom got med­ical atten­tion while they were alive, and they sel­dom under­went autop­sy after their death. So the true cause of death was sel­dom record­ed.

The Inuit’s diet is a mod­el for how Stone Age peo­ple can sur­vive in the Arc­tic. It is not a mod­el for how to live a long and healthy life when you have many food choic­es. The pop­u­la­tions that live the longest, health­i­est lives are those who have access to mod­ern med­ical care but eat a diet sim­i­lar to that of peas­ants in the tem­per­ate and trop­i­cal regions: a prac­ti­cal­ly veg­an diet based main­ly on starch­es and veg­eta­bles.

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