Monthly Archives: November 2005

Why is Red Meat Not Good for Us: When We Evolved from Meat Eating Hunter Gatherers?

Why is Red Meat Not Good for Us: When We Evolved from Meat Eating Hunter Gatherers?

Competency #5 What to EAT

Reference:  “The Way to Eat” by David Katz

Red meat is full of saturated fats.  They are correlated with creating vascular disease.  Saturated fats are only half as bad as trans fats, but they clearly get an F for nutritional value.  So, didn’t Paleolithic man have heart attacks? Well, no, probably not.  From a variety of sources, we know that hunter-gatherers living around the world virtually never get diabetes, or vascular disease.

This is an important nuance to understand.  Here is the difference.  Modern cattle and hogs are fed grain.  Good beef is about 27% fat content.  That’s the farmers goal.  Maximum weight gain in minimum time.  Interestingly enough, if you are a hunter and have had a successful deer hunt this season (ends today: which prompts this email) you are eating meat with about 4% fat in it.  Deer feed on green grass and other fresh vegetation (mostly from your garden).  Their body fat is actually mostly PUFAs (omega fatty acids).  Those are the fats that are good for you.   Paleolithic man chased down and ate 70% of his/her calories from wild game, fish or shellfish.  We evolved over millions of years accommodating to eating a pretty high protein diet that had omega fatty acids as the primary fat.  That became a healthy fat to eat.  Our bodies need it.  At the 4% mark.

Now, in the last 200 years we invented industrial agriculture and feed our cattle grain.  Just 100 years ago, our farmer fore bearers let their cattle graze in the pasture.  Now they get corn from a bin.  The fat they gain is made internally because they are fed more calories than they need, or even that they have to work for. (Sounds a lot like us)  Their fat tissue is composed of heavy saturated fats.  When we eat that fat, we have trouble with it because our bodies have never had a chance to get attuned to that type of fat.  It raises our inflammatory processes.  When we eat saturated fats the extra calories and the inflammation caused by saturated fats gives us a one-two whammy.   It’s just not the same as when we are starving and walking dozens of miles searching for our next meal.  Sorry, I forget, we don’t do that anymore.  We’ve replaced the 10 mile search for food with ten steps to the fridge…

This also explains the paradox of why ocean salmon are filled with omega fatty acids and farm salmon less so.  Ocean raised salmon eat little fish that feed on littler fish that feed on blue green algae.  Omega fatty acids are made by blue green algae and grass.  Ocean raised salmon have lots of omegas.  Farm raised get most of their calories from corn.  The protein is good for you.  The fat in the farmed fish doesn’t have quite the same makeup.

So, question:  Are grain fed chickens better food choices?  Yes, if you take off the skin where the fat is stored.  But guess what is in the fat of grain fed versus “free range” chickens.   You’re right: saturated fats are in the skin of all poultry.  Their breast meat is much lower in fat than mammal red meat.

For those of you who had a happy hunting season, congratulations on finding high quality protein with healthy fats in it.

Literature for the Week:  “The Way to Eat” by David Katz.  This book is as solid as Walter Willet’s.  If you liked Walter Willet and his “Eat Drink and Be Healthy” get a copy of “The Way to Eat” on your holiday gift list.  Your family can find a copy for you at all local bookstores.  (He is an ABC doctor commentator, Oprah magazine columnist).

WWW: What Will Work For Me:  I’m not a deer hunter.  I didn’t eat the skin off the turkey this year.  It was sad.  But until I walk to work each day, the choices I make mean I just can’t eat all the calories in the fatty red meat, or that chicken skin.

The Price of Inactivity

The Price of Inactivity

Competency #4  ACTIVITY

Reference: New England Journal of Medicine in 2002, Vol 346, p 393; Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 35: 1823. 2003

As we try to eat right, we are influenced by what we know to be “good food” and how it affects our metabolism.  Our bodies, like well-tuned engines, need to be given the right fuel and need to have something to do with that fuel.   Like a car that sits in a garage on idle, our bodies need to get workouts to be optimally healthy.  As we settle in for our lovely Thanksgiving dinners, here are two reasons you should go for a walk sometime this weekend too.

1.  Diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes is what we get when we are a bit overweight with more in the middle, a bit of high triglycerides and hypertension on the side.  We call that the “metabolic” syndrome.  At the cellular level, we know that we are inducing inflammation with that state.  But rather than call it the “metabolic syndrome”, perhaps we should call it the “couch potato syndrome” or the “inactivity syndrome”.

We now know that insulin sensitivity is directly and immediately affected by exercise.  As you start to move, you have the immediate effect of your cells becoming more sensitive to insulin’s effects.  Your sugar comes down, right away!  In a study from 2003 in JAMA from the Harvard School of Public Health looking at 50,000 nurses: every 2 hours a day of watching TV turns into a 14% increase in getting diabetes.  Every 2 hours of work a day sitting at a desk adds a 7% risk.  Every hour of brisk walking a day reduces your diabetes risk by 34%.

In the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002, (Vol 346, p 393), pre-diabetics with blood glucoses in the high but not quite diabetic range who exercised for 2.5 hours a week and lost 7% of their weight had their future risk of developing diabetes drop by 58%.

2.  Reduce Risk of CANCER by exercise.  The data is in.  Colon cancer, down by 40%, breast cancer, down by 20% with 60 minutes of aerobic activity a day.  Those are two common cancers so it’s possible to get the research on them.  But that data is in:  (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 35: 1823. 2003)

Winter is a great time to walk.  The air is invigorating.  The garden is asleep.  The TV is full of empty promise.  Get out there and walk.

WWW: What Will Work for me?  Walking, any time counts.  I’m trying to bundle up and get outdoors.  My family has always used the language, “Have to get some air!”.  It’s not just the air.  It’s the muscles and the exercise.  Two and a half hours a week is pretty easy.  That’s just 15 minutes, twice a day, just five days of the week.

Grapefruit Juice and Medications

Grapefruit Juice and Medications (Viagra Catches your Attention!)

Competency #14  SUPERFOODS

Reference:Web MD and Grapefruit Juice

It’s getting to be grapefruit season.  I just ordered a case in a fund raiser at church.  20% of Americans drink grapefruit juice regularly.  You may have heard that it affects medications, but never knew how or why.

First of all, grapefruit is a nutritional star.  It has tons of Vit C and potassium.  And remember, increasing your intake of potassium from food sources is strongly correlated with lowering your blood pressure.  So as a food, grapefruit scores high with many organizations like the American Heart Association.

There has been some study on just which of the hundreds of trace elements in grapefruit juice get you in trouble.  The leading candidate is something called “furanocoumarin”.   What it does is tricky.  It BLOCKS an enzyme (CYP3A4) in your intestine that slows or reduces the absorption of some drugs.  This will allow the drug to get into your system faster and for a long period of time.  It only takes a single glass of grapefruit juice to boost drug absorption as much as 45% and still have a 33% effect 24 hours later.  That’s pretty potent stuff.

Here are the drug families that are affected.  Calcium channel blockers, statins, benzodiazepines, and some neurological drugs like BuSpar, Zoloft and Tegretol.  If you are on any of those drugs, you can Google on Web MD and ask the question what to do with grapefruit juice and your drug.  You may want more statin effect as it may be a way to boost the effectiveness of your statin.  But then, you should take grapefruit juice regularly and have your lipid response checked.  Considering that there have been recent suggestions that more aggressive statin use is in order, you may get the effect without having to pay for a higher dose.  Talk to your doctor about this.

As a final note, Viagra is substantially boosted by drinking grapefruit juice which blocks the CYP3A4 enzyme in the gut.  Drinking grapefruit juice with Viagra may compound the effects of Viagra: both good and bad.  It may slow a man’s heart rate and drop his blood pressure more than expected.   And as they say on the TV adds for a competitor of Viagra, “If it lasts more than four hours, seek medical attention”.

WWW: What Will Work for Me.  I love grapefruits.  They take work to fix which is a problem when I’m in a hurry.  If I can get over that threshold of cutting them up, they are part of that midwinter delicious fruit that we should all embrace.  It’s such a loving thing to have a grapefruit prepared for you.  Think of returning the favor… to yourself and your loved ones living with you.


ORAC Score : Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity

ORAC Score : Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity

Competency # 14  SUPERFOODS

Reference: Tufts School of Nutrition

It’s summer and time to feast on fruit, and for more than just the taste.  Fruits and vegetables have abundant antioxidants in them.  These antioxidants help protect the fruit from the oxidizing effect of photosynthesis.  They also work in our bodies to cut down on oxidizing processes that are at the basis of much of inflammation.

ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity.  The folks at Tufts School of Nutrition have developed it as a tool to measure the amount that any given food can neutralize free radicals in your body.  There is lots of research correlating the oxidative environment in your body to coronary artery disease as well as Alzheimer’s.  The Tufts recommendation is that you should aim to eat about 3500 ORAC points a day.

Why the big deal about ORAC points and juices?  Two weeks ago, all the news channels carried a story about how you can cut your risks of Alzheimer’s by as much as 74% by drinking 4 servings of fruit and veggie juice a week.   The study that showed this benefit came from the Kame Project, a long-term study of more than 1,800 Japanese-Americans in the Seattle area. When the study started in 1992-1994, no participants had dementia. On average, the participants were about 71 years old.

At the beginning of the study, participants completed surveys about the foods and drinks they typically consumed. Smoking, alcohol, daily calories, physical activity, body mass index (BMI), vitamin supplements, and other health problems (such as diabetes and cancer) were also noted.

Food Survey Results

The group was followed through 2001. During that time, 81 cases of probable Alzheimer’s disease were diagnosed in participants who had completed the food surveys.

The most frequent juice drinkers were the least likely to have developed Alzheimer’s. Those who reported drinking fruit or vegetable juices at least three times per week were 73% less likely to have developed Alzheimer’s as those who drank juice less than once a week.

WWW: What will work for me?  The same type of results are being found with cherry juice and arthritis.  The flavonoids in cherry juice are as much as 10 times as potent anti-inflammatories as aspirin.  (Remember: aspirin is extract of willow bark).  Growing numbers of people have found that drinking 4-6 oz of TART cherry juice a day will cut your pain from arthritis.   Notably, my own spouse is drinking it and finding that her 2 year long chronic shin splints go away allowing her to walk her usual 6 mile hike 3 times a week.  Do you have a chronic ache and pain?  Tart cherry juice may work for you too.  There’s evidence!

Number 101 continued

Message: Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.  It’s all in the mix and the quantity.  Replace a baked carbohydrate product with a fruit or fruit juice each day and I’ll see you at age 92!

Interested in Blueberries, that’s next week.  We’ll talk about Alzheimer’s some more, if I can remember to.  In the meantime, here are some ORAC scores of different fruits.  Learn to think in ORAC scores.  Feast on all these fruits while they are cheap.  Sam’s Club has blueberries at $ 2 a pound.  I bought 10 pounds and put them in the freezer.  The season still has a few weeks to run.


ORAC Score

Tart Cherry Juice          12,800

Dried Tart Cherries      6,800

Prunes                         5,770

Blueberries                  2,400

Blackberries                 2,036

Frozen Tart Cherries      2,033

Canned Water-packed Tart Cherries   1,700

Strawberries                   1,540

Raspberries                     1,220

Plums                                949

Oranges                            750

Red Grapes                       739

Note:  This list was put out by the Cherry Growers Association.  You wouldn’t drink juice concentrate but the relative ORAC score is still valid.  Diluted down 4 times, it’s still great stuff.

Fructose: A Hidden Nutritional Poison

Fructose: A Hidden Nutritional Poison

Competency #11 SUGAR and Fructose

Reference:(New Reference:  Am J Clin Nutr 2007 86: 899-906)

At my hospital, we are compiling a list of “Nutritional Competencies” for each of us to personally know.  It’s not so long and hard to learn that list.  Learning to avoid Fructose is on that list.  We will give you the list when we have it finished.  It will be part of our guide to keep you informed.

Strong Words!  What is fructose?  Isn’t that a sugar from fruit?   Actually, pure fructose is from fruit, in its natural form.  Table sugar is a combination of two basic sugars, glucose and fructose.  We used to eat table sugar when we sweetened our food.  And we would get tiny amounts of fructose from fruit. Over the last 30 years, we have been gradually lured into eating more fructose.  Why?  It’s more stable than sucrose, it’s sweeter, it’s easier to transport, and it’s cheaper to make.  Soda companies make 1-2 pennies a can (or bottle) off of each can they can switch from sucrose, table sugar, to fructose.   What’s not to like? It’s cheaper, more stable, easy to transport, is sweeter and everything a food company wants.   As long as YOU don’t pay attention to the downsides.

The downside is on how your body functions with fructose instead of sucrose.  As we examine fructose, we first ask, how much is in our diet?  The answer, which caught my attention is that  9% of America’s calories come from fructose (about 51 pounds per person per year)!  Most of this comes from sweetened drinks, but ketchup and many other prepared foods as well.

1.  Fructose can only be metabolized in your liver, where it makes a short cut into fat molecules.  Your liver cells get overloaded with fat.  Your blood triglycerides go up drastically (as much as 32% in one study).   Sucrose backs up and takes a while to be metabolized.

2.  Fructose modulates the insulin receptor in cells, making you put out more insulin to handle the glucose in your blood.

3.  VLDLs also go up in your blood.  They are part of the bad fats in your blood.

4.  Fructose interacts with birth control pills to make a woman more insulin resistant.

5.  Fructose has been shown to cause a negative balance of micronutrients, mainly iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc

6.  25 subjects with irritable bowel disease had increased mal-absorption with fructose.

7.   Studies with rats fed either high fructose or high glucose diets along with mild copper deficiency (a common American nutritional issue) showed marked collagen defects with cirrhosis and congestive heart failure killing the rats.

Basic Conclusion:

Elevated blood fats are a high risk component for heart disease, our number one killer.  There appears to be a virtual linear relationship between fructose consumption and our increasing obesity.  It messes up micronutrients to boot.  It is a bad choice.

WWW: What Works for Me.  I’ve stopped drinking sugared sodas AND sugared fruit drinks and teas.  You should too.  Corn sweetener is the code word you should look for on processed foods.  If you want to be a sensible shopper, you ought to think about all sweetened drinks.   Pure fruit juice is fine.  You can handle the small amount of fructose in part because when you eat that much fruit or juice, you are getting all the other micronutrients, vitamins and fiber.