Down the Rabbit Hole: When Phytate Becomes a Nutrient

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What I outline below I found almost humorous. Really, I laughed out loud when I read it. One of the most sacred tenets of Paleo is that of phytate, or phytic acid. It's a Very. Bad. Thing. Primarily found in higher concentrations in cereal grains, it binds to important minerals in our food, such that we don't absorb them and that's obviously problematic. So the story goes, anyway...

But I've always wondered—in line with the idea that the dose makes the poison—is it really an issue of things like cereal grain consumption per se, or that humans like to make cheaper foods so-called dietary staples that tend to push out lots and lots of nutrient dense, more expensive animal sources of food? And considering things like hormesis—stressors—are smallish amounts of so-called toxins better than none at all ever? We're just begining to discover, after all, that helicopter parenting in terms of creating sterile environments—in scales that would shame the local hospital O.R.—leads to compromised immune systems, since the bacteria in the gut constitute 70% of immune function. And just how do they get in there? Just like most other things, it needs exercise, including even the pathogenic ones at some small level. Use it or lose it.

Back to phytate, what if you have a healthy gut, along with the right flora present? Hot off the presses:

Communication is vital to any successful relationship. Researchers from the Institute of Food Research and the University of East Anglia have discovered how the beneficial bacteria in our guts communicate with our own cells.

This is a key step in understanding how our bodies maintain a close relationship with the population of gut bacteria that plays crucial roles in maintaining our health, fighting infection and digesting our food.

A study, published in the journal Cell Reports, shows that the gut bacteria produce an enzyme that modifies signalling in cells lining the gut. The enzyme also has another role in breaking down food components.

"Our study provides a breakthrough in understanding how bacteria communicate across different kingdoms to influence our own cells' behaviour, as well as how we digest our food," said Dr Regis Stentz from the IFR, which is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

We all rely on trillions of bacteria in our gut to break down certain components of our diet. One example is phytate, the form phosphorus takes in cereals and vegetables. Broken down phytate is a source of vital nutrients, but in its undigested form it has detrimental properties. It binds to important minerals preventing them being taken up by the body, causing conditions like anaemia, especially in developing countries. Phytate also leads to excess phosphorus leaching into the soil from farm animal waste, and feed supplements are used to minimise this.

But despite the importance of phytate, we know very little about how it is broken down in our gut. To address this Dr Stentz and colleagues screened the genomes of hundreds of different species of gut bacteria. They found, in one of the most prominent gut bacteria species, an enzyme able to break down phytate. In collaboration with Norwich Research Park colleagues at the University of East Anglia, they crystallised this enzyme and solved its 3D structure. They then went on to characterise the enzyme, showing it was highly effective at processing phytate into the nutrients the body needs.

The bacteria package the enzyme in small 'cages', called outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) which allow phytate in for nutrient processing but prevent it being destroyed by our own protein-degrading enzymes. This releases nutrients, specifically phosphates and inositol, which can be absorbed by our own bodies, as well as the bacteria. [emphasis added]

Well, is this not the problem inherent in always only looking at 10% of us (human cells) and not the other 90% (gut flora cells)? What may well be an "anti-nutrient" to us might be a nutrient to them, and they can, in-turn, make it nutritious or beneficial to us. In any complex problem, there's typically both addition and subtraction, the net result being derived from integrating both. The essence of bias, essentially, is to prefer one over the other.

So what's next? Lectins, saponins, polyphenols, etc? I hope Dr. Loren Cordain can weather the storm. He's sure got his panties in quite a bunch over Chris Kresser's appearance on Dr. Oz (Pt 1, Pt 2, Pt 3) where he had the audacity to invoke dairy and legumes as potentially beneficial for some in a sentence with the word Paleo in it. Chris has had good success with his NYT Bestselling book, Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life. (I've always got the impression that Cordain kinda thinks he owns the term in a dietary context, behaving as though he's protecting his property.)

In the space of a week, Cordain has penned two blog posts, the first being the conventional Paleo® screed against legumes and the 2nd, dairy. None too happy with Chris. From the 2nd post.

I note that Chris Kresser has recently become quite a spokesperson for contemporary Paleo Diets, as he recently appeared on the Dr. Oz TV program, espousing the dietary benefits of both dairy products and legumes in contemporary Paleo diets. A brief check of Chris’s scientific publication record on PubMed for “Paleo Diets,” or any other topic for that matter, comes up with absolutely zilch — zero ! — nothing ! – no publications whatsoever! This evidence (or lack thereof) lends little credibility to Chris’s claims as an expert in diet, nutrition or anthropology — much less Paleo Diets. He has simply never put forth his ideas in peer review, scientific journals. Nevertheless, the presence of scientific publications or advanced degrees don’t always guarantee expert advice; rather good ideas and rationale thought, supported by solid data frequently do. Chris’s advice that legumes and dairy are indeed “Paleo” foods that should be regularly consumed in contemporary diets mimicking the nutritional characteristics of our pre-agricultural, hunter gatherer ancestors is ill founded at best.

Always funny when someone puts out an ad hominem appeal to authority and then just kinda backs off in the very same paragraph. Trial balloon, I guess. See how it floats.

I wonder if anyone has ever pointed out to Dr. Cordain (exercise physiology, is it?) that he's never actually treated a patient in a clinical setting—that I'm aware of—getting continuous feedback on what works for that individual vs. what doesn't. Once you integrate the gut biome of 100 trillion cells in 500-1,000 species—10 times the cells in our body and 30 times the DNA—you begin to realize how we're all snowflakes.

Wish it were as simple as Dr. Cordain simply prebublishing the verbatim screeds he published or wrote about over 10 years ago.

Update: Chris has penned a post all about legumes and why they are an OK choice for those who tolerate them well, properly prepared. Lots of references.

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Comments

  1. W-O-W. I’m not sure if I’m reading this right, and if my question is irrelevant, please ignore it and I will continue playing in my own green turtle sandbox by myself…Could this have anything to do with the way we process grains in this country? As in…are we hybridizing out our ability to digest grain, because of the processing? The reason I ask is that if I even look at wheat here, my hands swell and hurt, and if I eat it I will be off for at least two days. However, I ate and drank my way through Paris for two weeks last October, with no ill effects whatsoever. I ate brioche every morning and had baguette with every meal. Alcohol didn’t affect me as much. I was never ever bloated and never had brain fog. I wondered at the time if they left something in the grain that we don’t…similar to the way raw milk has the enzymes (?) it needs to digest itself and we should just leave it well enough alone. Maybe its the same with grains and we just over process and add shit that shouldn’t be there so that we can’t digest it.

    • If only we could leave well enough alone. Pre-Big Ag, Pre-processed, Pre-Chem, Pre Clark Griswald cereal varnish. I’m starting to call my WOE, The Circa 1900 Diet.

    • Alie:

      Tiens…

      It’s a great question, et si vous ne le saviez pas, je vivais en France, Toulon, dans les années 1990 et naturellement suis descendu à près de mon poids de lycée de manger beaucoup de croissants et baguettes.

      Yea, I don’t get it. Perhaps they use different flour but I can tell you that the French don’t eat much of the pain rustique. They eat baked goods made from white flour.

      However, it is not a staple for them. It’s an accompaniment (except for petit déjeuner which is a very low-cal meal anyway—the largest calories probably coming from the warm whole milk in their café au lait, or maybe le miel so many put on their bread (souvent avec du beurre).

      The French eat, habituellement, the highest quality, most nutrient dense good food on average of any people I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been a ton of places. Only some of the south Asian countries rival in terms of food importance (and then again, the French were there and their influence is still very solid in Vietnamese cuisine, and even sandwiches). Some of the best places to get a decent baguette locally are the Vietnamese sandwich shops.

      I think it’s dose and frequency related, all of it. And if so, then Paleo is going to have to adapt to that.

    • I lived in Paris for 6 years and while my weight went the wrong way, I experienced, for the first time, life without heartburn. Never got it in France, trips back home to the States, boom heartburn. I reckoned it was the lack of preservatives and additives in the food as well as the minimal amount of fried foods in France. Not sure what it was, but fresh baguettes had less than 24 hours before they became weaponized, which I found shocking as I was accustomed to bread that would stay fresh for a week or more. So not only did the bread in France taste better , it was better for you. haha

    • DuckDodgers says:

      The baking really is different over there. The French take pride in the old-world baking practices:

      From The New York Times:

      …Artisanal practices like lengthy sourdough fermentation and wood oven baking… The “tradition,” as it is called, is more expensive than the ordinary baguette, which uses additives, a fast-rising process and mechanization, and accounts for about 75 percent of the country’s bread sales.

      “The methods for making the two breads are not at all the same,” said Philippe Levin, a baker in Paris’s Ninth Arrondissement on the Right Bank with 25 years in the business. “The secret to making a good tradition is time, time, time. Fermentation is very, very slow. The aromas, the sugar have to emerge. It takes a good three and a half, four hours from start to finish.”

    • Richard,

      I didn’t know you lived in France, and thank goodness for google translate. I wouldn’t have expected to gain weight when I was there, since we did a shit ton of walking, but I would absolutely have expected to have some kind of heartburn, gerd, or whatever you want to call it. Nothing. And, being a light weight in regards to alcohol, to my embarrassment, I would have thought I would be drunk all the time. Also not the case (except the last evening, but that is for another time). I’m not equating eating bread with drinking alcohol, but for those two things, I noticed a difference while in Paris.

      It could very well be preparation. Before paleo, I made bread almost every other day. I noticed that sourdough bread, made properly over several days, did not stick to the counter when I was kneading it, and used to comment that it was an indication that it was probably better, although I did not have the knowledge of grains that I have now. However, the food in France, specifically the bread, I would wager a guess is better due to a number of factors, not just preparation. I don’t think they cut the same agricultural corners we do. I wasn’t just eating the bread, but brioche, croissants, and pastries every day. Come to think of it, I never had a problem with bread in Canada either. It was only moving here that has been a problem. Hmm…research and wine on the menu for tonight.

      I recently heard that they are eating less baguette in France these days. It used to be three per person and now it is down to one. I wonder why.

    • “It used to be three per person and now it is down to one. I wonder why.”

      Well, two years there and never saw anything like that, including eating 3 meals per day with French people for days and weeks at a time at sea.

      People WAY overestimate the amount they eat. They eat the most for breakfast. Typically 1/3 – 1/2 baguette, split open, spread with unsalted butter and either some fruit preserve or honey, and then it’s dipped in a bowl sized cafe au lait, about 1/3 very strong coffee and the rest warm milk (plus 2-3 tsp sugar). That’s breakfast. For lunch & dinner, first off, there is no such thing as in America where there’s bread and butter before the meal. Butter is only served with cheese, after a meal. But typically, unless it’s some entree like charcuterie that’s spread on bread, really far less than you expect is actually eaten.

      And the tend to only do sandwiches when out & about. No such thing as a sandwich for lunch at the table.

      I’ll bet they average French person eats far less bread and other flour derived good than the average American. They don’t drink diet sodas, either. Full sugar. They just don’t even drink one per day, on average. When I was there in the early 90s, they still commonly had the classic 8oz glass Coke bottles.

      Dose makes the poison.

    • gabriella kadar says:

      Ah, but there is wine. Civilized, like.

    • Very good wine. And cognac. And mulled wine when its cold.

      I’m beginning to understand this “dose makes the poison” thing. I can hear my father-in-law saying, Oh a little bit won’t hurt, it will be good for him. He was from Holland and grew up on a farm. I wonder if there is wisdom there that we have lost and now are trying to regain.

      Also, it may all come back to the gut, and traditional eating, and not being insulated from “germs.” One example that comes to mind is that my son started having allergic reactions to cats when he was around age nine. Fast forward ten years and he heard somewhere that if one is exposed to a kitten daily as it grows then the allergy can be overcome. His girlfriend at the time happened to get a kitten and he rubbed that thing on his face every single day and held it and played with it. Lo and behold, no more “allergy” after the first few days.

      Another example is The Hubs and celery. When we started eating paleo, we of course, ate large amounts of uncured bacon, as is the current custom. He would get these weird feelings every day which he described as “wonky.” Awesome. Really helpful there, dude. Anyways, me, being the consummate frugal paleo, kept saving bacon grease and reusing it to cook other things. The Hubs then started taking carrots and celery to work for lunch, and started having to come home after lunch due to wonkiness. Well, we finally started linking the two and read labels and found out uncured bacon generally has celery powder in it, as does most other uncured meat. A little more research and found out celery allergy is very common in Europe, and both his parents are Dutch, emigrating to N. America as teenagers. We had never noticed before because I hate celery with a white hot passion and never bought it. I would think that he is stuck with this particular allergy, since it is hereditary, whereas my son with the cats was able to overcome a fairly new sensitivity by reintroducing it slowly. Could the same be true with other things? And could it be linked to gut health and what is allowed to develop over time…traditional foods, prepared in such a way to be healthier, and ways of eating that we have lost.

      So…do what this info what you will. It may not all be on topic, but is interesting in terms of dose, and what we are exposed to.

    • Sorry to focus on this, I really liked your whole post, but I just can’t stop grinning at the idea of curing oneself of anything by rubbing a kitten on your face daily. This treatment should be prescribed for all illness.

    • Oh man, that made me laugh so hard!

      Patient: “Doc, I’m not feeling so good.”

      Dr: “Ok, Ima write you a prescription. Which PetSmart is most convenient for you?”

    • Wenchypoo says:

      “Take this prescription and get it filled at your local animal shelter.”

  2. ChocoTaco369 says:

    Wait a minute, Richard. Could it be that much of the paleo crowd is more interested in bragging about how awesome their diet is than actually developing an awesome diet?

    What if I told you that nearly all of “modern disease” is caused by a damaged gut and the wrong balance of SFA:MUFA:PUFA in human tissues?

    • I’m like, at this point—and I’m not blogging even 10% of what’s going in the book—that the gut biome is simply the new frontier.

      Time is ripe. With DNA sequencing we’re able to learn and somewhat understand so very much more, and there’s a lot more DNA to analyze and unpack in gut biome than humans.

      I don’t want to jump the gun and draw conclusions, except to conclude that “more study is required.” For once, absolutely. :)

    • Our ability to sequence is exploding with the next gen sequencing technology that is coming out (and creating a growing need for big data specialists, as the raw information available is exploding).

      The example (from the bio lab working gf) of recent costs: Use the “old” sequencer to look at 800 base pairs on one strand of DNA for roughly $8. Use the “next gen” sequencer to look at 300 base pairs on 180 million strands for roughly $2,500.

    • Wenchypoo says:

      This just came out today in Google news about a DNA editor made from bacteria: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/04/health/a-powerful-new-way-to-edit-dna.html?_r=0

  3. Yes, I am a snowflake and for the sake if my health I can’t afford to be dogmatic about ANYTHING. Basic guidelines that make sense are good but we all need to N=1 the shit out of our own bodies. My answer ain’t your answer. Vice versa….I get weary of the egos…

  4. Let me jump to Cordain’s defense here, if only a little bit. I’ve lamented openly on Twitter and Facebook about how lame the “Low Carb Paleo Strawman” is, and how all of the “post-paleo” folks continue to reference this point, the carb amount, as the supposed defining feature of the paleo diet.

    Never mind that the “Paleo Diet” isn’t low carb to begin with as Cordain wrote it, the second book was all about the paleo diet for athletes, with a significant amount of carbs.

    So in that sense, the Paleo diet as originally written was *never* a low carb diet; that got laid over it somewhere.

    Now to your point, this is something that DH Kiefer has noted as well, especially with gluten. That if you’re not actually Celiac, that some exposure on a regular basis (which you have to find out exactly how much and how often) will keep you from turning into a wreck should you be exposed. You might not feel great, but you’re not feeling terrible.

    It’s a bit like what Laird Hamilton said about his diet: “…If I get into a position where I have to eat an airplane meal or a Big Mac, I’m not going to love it, but it won’t put me into toxic shock. Instead of being like a high-performance car that is sensitive to any impurities in the fuel, I’m more like a diesel truck. If a little water gets in there, it’s still going to be okay.”

    • “That if you’re not actually Celiac, that some exposure on a regular basis ” – according to the anti-gluten guy Allesio Fasano for 100% of humans gluten increases zonulin production. Zonulin increases intestinal permaebility. Proteins travel trhough the gut wall and need to be eliminated by the immune system. This may lead to inflammation, autoimmunity and cancer.

    • That’s interesting, because he’s published a study that shows that increased intestinal permeability simply does not exist in non-celiac gluten-sensitive patients.

    • gabriella kadar says:

      Fassano claims that human beings cannot digest gluten. But that people with gluten intolerance have the same symptoms as celiacs but without damage to the microvilli. He claims that people get junction openings but that they close afterwards. ??

      All I know is gluten has the same effect on my bowel function as codeine. Stops movement. Gas buildup. Bloating. Gluten is an exorphin. So, like an endorphin, feel good on the brain, opiate effect. Hence, allegedly it’s addictive properties. 100% sourdough rye bread just doesn’t have that same ‘feel good’ effect. Rye is 8 grams gluten and sourdoughing reduces that significantly. How significantly? Don’t know.

      The immediate response of bread eaters to a person who low carbs and eats no bread (not low carbing anymore) “isn’t it boring?” I would ask them ‘Why isn’t eating bread for breakfast, lunch and supper boring?’ Bread has ‘kick’. It’s really telling that people can eat the same damn thing all day long and never get bored of it.

    • gabriella kadar says:

      GTR, you screwed me up with spelling……… Alessio Fasano.

      Interesting guy. Says that he went to medical school in Napoli, Italy: “ground zero for celiac disease”.

      Did you know that all children in Italy are tested for Celiac by age 5?

      But the problem is, you can have the genes and not get the disease until something triggers it. Fasano has a couple of elderly ladies in his clinic who converted to celiac at age 78. He doesn’t know why. Antibiotics he speculates. But why now? Didn’t these old girls ever get antibiotic exposure earlier in life?

  5. And I hit submit before I was finished.

    Essentially, these exposures are fortifying you at the gut level. Sure you’ll get some nutrients, but more importantly you have the bacteria capable of dealing with these exposures so you don’t get “toxic shock.”

    As my mother used to say, “Cool beans.”

  6. Shame how how dr. Oz didn’t let them talk about how SFA/animal fat is awesome, but I suppose that’s a bit much to ask.

    Cordain has had his time, it’s clear he’s stuck with the ideas he formed 30 years ago when he published his first paleo article, while groundbreaking at the time, it’s foolish for someone smart like him to ignore new evidence.

    • I just watched the three segments for the first time. It’s worse than I thought.

      Here’s Chris talking about using small amounts of full fat dairy, and he emphasizes that, and then up to 3 servings of legumes per week and Cordain goes nuts. Then, they curt to his Lieutenant Nell who lays out a perfectly strict lean meat and non-starchy vegetable code, and then allows 3 cheat meals per week: tacos, a big burger and fries, and a big piece of chocolate cake.

      So let me get this straight, using a little full far dairy daily and three servings of legumes weekly warrants Cordain’s tirade, and crickets for tacos, burger & fries and chocolate cake weekly.

    • gabriella kadar says:

      So basically, don’t eat things that arrive with a huge list of ingredients on a label? Except curry powder.

    • I was shocked to see Nell endorse eating chocolate cake. A long time ago I commented on her blog, asking her how to thicken a stew. She went on a tear, saying Paleo means not using thickeners and I should learn to enjoy a watery stew.

    • “A long time ago I commented on her blog, asking her how to thicken a stew. She went on a tear, saying Paleo means not using thickeners and I should learn to enjoy a watery stew.”

      A long time ago, like 2008 or 9, I went on her blog and have never been back, and I spent like 2 minutes there. I can tell when I’m dealing with a doctrinaire pretty quickly.

      She sure is pretty nice on the eyes, though. :) Still, have never once been back to whatever she has as a blog.

    • Wenchypoo says:

      Just like musicians of the 70’s, he’s riding those royalty checks.

  7. Damn good article Richard. It’s funny to me how often there’s a conflict between the nutritional content of food versus how that content changes during digestion. Like with Lectins, they are often reported as a problem with beans. But when you take a closer look, most beans are not eaten raw, and the cooking destroys them. So it’s not really accurate to include them as a consideration in a diet study when they just aren’t actually eaten that way. It surprises me to see very intelligent people like Cordain to fall back to the theoretical POV to try and outright dismiss someone else’s claim.

    Mark Sisson, who is very good at weighing the benefits against the detriments in different foods comes out positive for certain foods like nightshades and coffee. But it surprises me that he doesn’t hold the same standard for legumes. He has suggested to avoid them due to the carbohydrate and phytic acid, but I don’t know why this isn’t weighed against the potential gains such as fermentable fiber. Although I do think he more fairly judges the data than Cordain appears to.

    Anyway, I’m still taking the middle road, so I’m still soaking my beans, and avoiding kidney and Fava beans for now. But I think this information is awesome. There is something very compelling about the basis for a lot of modern health problems to be due to a dysfunctional gut microbe composition and not based strictly on avoiding certain foods. Although there is some sort of poetic irony in that avoiding certain foods seems to be leading us to discover it. :)

  8. Kresser’s appearance on Oz is discussed in Robb Wolf’s latest podcast.
    http://robbwolf.com/2014/02/25/episode-214-guest-chris-kresser/

  9. DuckDodgers says:

    WAPF also recognizes the benefits of phytates, for detoxification, even though they usually recommend steps to reduce them most of the time:

    From: Weston A. Price Foundation: Plants Bite Back by Kaayla Daniel, PhD, CCN

    Interestingly enough, phytates do have benefits. Many alternative MDs and other health care practitioners recommend them for detoxification because of their ability to bind not only with needed minerals such as zinc and calcium, but also unwanted toxic metals such as cadmium and lead. To date, most of the research has centered on phytates as a chelators of excess iron. Unusable iron causes oxidizing, a form of “rusting” in the body. When phytates grab this iron and usher it out of the body, they serve as “antioxidants” against cancer, heart disease, diabetes and neurogenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS and Parkinson’s.[36-38] Keep in mind that toxic iron loads do not come from eating meat, which is rich in the absorbable, useful form known as heme iron, but from the non-heme iron in “enriched” flour, cereals, fortified soy foods, and most vitamin and mineral supplements. Synthetic, inorganic non-heme iron is poorly utilized and accumulates in the body, contributing to numerous diseases. Men begin accumulating non-heme forms of iron shortly after puberty. Women rarely start accumulating it until they stop menstruating.

    The best attitude to take regarding phytates is to recognize both their dangers and benefits, as is the tradition in some cultures. For example, Jewish people eat leavened bread (in which the phytates traditionally have been deactivated by soaking and fermentation methods) for most of the year, but eat unleavened bread (with phytate content intact) prior to Passover. This is a very healthy approach because detoxification can occur during the fasting period.

    Our editor remembers the dish served to her when she got sick during her stay as an exchange student in Iran. Most of the time her family ate white rice, but when she was sick, they prepared her a bowl of rough brown rice gruel. Presumably the phytic acid in the rice—and brown rice is very high in phytic acid—would attach to whatever nasty enterotoxins were lurking in the intestinal tract and take them out of the body. (She quickly recovered.)

  10. I’m assuming this process depends on a decent digestive system. Although improving, mine is in bad shape due to leaky gut from years of PPI abuse. As a result, I don’t do well with many grains, seeds, etc. I’m at the point where I can do a little ground flax seed (which does have phytates) with yogurt without too many problems. Maybe it’s the beneficial bacteria in the yogurt that helps. But after being gluten free for 3 years now, I can’t tolerate it at all. Off the table for me.

  11. “Chris’s advice that legumes and dairy are indeed “Paleo” foods that should be regularly consumed in contemporary diets”

    Really. Pretty sure that’s not what he said. How do these people get along? Robb’s friends with both CK and LC–I wonder what he thinks of this.

    • On Robb’s podcast, Chris said he personally doesn’t eat legumes. He said there a lot more nutritious foods to eat. He also explained that he was only allowed to talk about certain things on the Oz show and that he almost backed out.

    • Yeah, I heard it. I didn’t watch the Dr. Oz show, but “should be regularly consumed” sounds like almost certain word-twisting by Cordain. And I was curious about all the interpersonal dynamics, given that Robb’s been very open minded about stuff, and Cordain seems pretty jerky about Kresser. (and Cordain was Robb’s mentor). I suppose there are more important things to be curious about. :-p

  12. gabriella kadar says:

    Richard, what is Paleo?

    Archeologists in the past were more into bones and tools. They ruined digs by focusing on hard matter. The midden heaps were not a consideration. These days it’s all about midden heaps. And analyzing the calculus on teeth.

    Thing is, raw legumes are toxic. They need heat application. So it’s quite possible that people in areas where legumes could be collected as food sources did so. But dairy? You need herders for that. There are areas in the world with herder/hunter gatherers. Even now, there are people like that. Sami people, for example with the reindeer herds. It’s a loose association while at the same time, these people are hunting, fishing and gathering. Not Neolithic. Archeological evidence for herders goes back to about 4500 BCE. That’s not Paleolithic. It’s more geographic because at that time there were people in areas of the world where Neolithic was on the go. But in other areas it was not. Northern parts of North America were like this. But middle and southern parts of North America were Neolithic (corn, beans, squash). I can’t remember exactly now, but a huge percentage (over 60%) of the Huron Indian diet was corn.

    The animals human beings utilized depended on what was available. There are areas in the world where the resident animals were not amenable to domestication. Subsaharan Africa, for example, did not have animals like this. South America had limited species. North America, none. Eurasia had the pig, jungle fowl, horse, donkey, ox, sheep, goat, camel. Eurasia had a huge advantage over other parts of the world. I may be out of focus here and am missing a few bits and pieces.

    Just looking at what’s known at this time.

    If people can digest dairy, that’s great. If they do well with legumes, that’s great. But technically, based on geography and timeline, how do these fit in with Paleo? Just the whole Tigernut thing indicates that what has been considered Paleo is inadequate, poorly interpreted and inaccurate. Clearly there’s more to our species than can be absolutely categorized.

    • Gab:

      1. I’m not concerned with “what is Paleo.” Especially in the kind of weird way Cordain is, as if to say, “what is Christian doctrine?” I’m interested in nutritious whole foods that benefit people. We’re mammals, and there was no formula in the Paleo. It’s also not inconceivable to me that in some places, lactating ruminants might have been targeted as kills.

      2. I think the best point to make with legumes is that if they aren’t Paleo and thus unfit for human consumption even though we now know how to eat them, then neither are most nuts. So there’ inconsistency there.

    • gabriella kadar says:

      Exactly. That was my wibbley wobbley point. The human being and the human microbiome is far more complex and efficient than tunnel visionaries make it seem.

    • I was on the phone with someone earlier today talking about all this. I said that in my observation, everyone is trying to simplify, have a formula, a plan, a Bible, and then make money off it. I, on the other hand, seek to complicate the livin’ shit out of everything and demonstrate how wrong people can be in their certainty over years.

      http://youtu.be/pfmkRi_tr9c

    • DuckDodgers says:

      Gab,

      Isn’t that the genius of the microbiome? Reminds me of something Jaminet said on Kresser’s podcast about seaweed, as an example, awhile back:

      Paul Jaminet said:

      With things like the seaweed, it’s really more hit or miss, can you acquire the bacteria that are able to digest these things. And that can take years or decades. Even in Japan only like 30 or 40% of people have these bacteria that can digest these particular polysaccharides in the seaweed, and seaweed consumption is very common there. In America it’s nearly zero, and your best chance would be to eat some raw seaweed, from the ocean. So these bacteria live on these things in ocean and that would be your best chance to get those genes, and to eat that kind of seaweed regularly. But most people eat pretty well cooked seaweed and so Ayers does recommend eating locally grown organic food without washing it in order to get the bacteria that live on them. And that will help diversify your gut floras and that can definitely be beneficial. But it’s not a guaranteed cure and it might take a very long time to really get all of the bacteria that will help you digest something well.

      So, perhaps evolution of our digestion works quicker than we think, in terms of evolution, when the microbiome is considered. Where ever you live and whatever you ingest, the microbiome adapts over time so long as there is some ingestion of “dirty” raw foods.

  13. I saw Lieutenant Nell and didn’t hear anything else; guess my omnivorous eating of a bit of everything, and a lot of some things is keeping the libido in check
    :-)

  14. gabriella kadar says:

    But what I’d love to know is how did so many groups of people living in iodine deficient places have managed to breed so efficiently? (My 2013 version of The Jane Karlsson OCD, for personal reasons. I don’t get stuck on one thing for 30 years though.) There must have been a lot more going on in relation to trade and exchange than we know about. There’s evidence of trade in certain goods which have either left hard evidence or have left imprint evidence. But what about food sources of iodine? People must have been far more mobile than we give them credit. They walked. Didn’t have internal combustion engines but appeared to do quite well.

    There is some speculation that Neanderthals died out because they were squeezed into a niche that was so iodine poor they became cretins. http://www.nytimes.com/1998/12/01/science/neanderthal-or-cretin-a-debate-over-iodine.html

    The origin of chokers as a fashion statement for women of the upper class was to hide their goitres. 40% of school children in Toronto had goitres prior to iodization of salt. Maybe we moderns are really dumb because we didn’t have a food culture that included trade with people who provided those foods rich in iodine.

    Well, anyway, I’m off to bed soon. You people are in an entirely different time zone.

    • DuckDodgers says:

      Gab,

      Masterjohn mentioned one bio-hack that I remember:

      Chris Masterjohn said

      I have an anecdote that I think is pretty interesting to share from Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Weston Price’s book…He says: “For the Indians of the far North this reinforcement” — he’s talking about reinforcement of nutrition for pregnancy — “was accomplished by supplying special feedings of organs of animals. Among the Indians in the moose country near the Arctic circle a larger percentage of the children were born in June than in any other month. This was accomplished, I was told, by both parents eating liberally of the thyroid glands of the male moose as they came down from the high mountain areas for the mating season, at which time the large protuberances carrying the thyroids under the throat were greatly enlarged.” So, what he’s saying is when the moose were about to reproduce, they naturally went into a kind of hyperthyroid state where their thyroids were enlarged, and the people there would harvest the thyroid glands so that they could reproduce, and as a consequence, most of their children were born nine months after the moose mating season…

      …And what the indicates to me is — I mean, it’s difficult to interpret it because he doesn’t go into great detail, but I think what we might be seeing here is up in the Arctic circle — and these are the inland people, they’re not seacoast, so they probably don’t have a lot of iodine in the diet, they certainly don’t have a lot of carbohydrate in the diet. It seems like they, as part of their natural adaptation to their environment, they supplemented with thyroid hormone so that they could convert their cholesterol to sex hormones so that they could increase their fertility, and I think what we’re witnessing is perhaps a natural acknowledgement that under those certain conditions where you have an extremely carbohydrate-restricted diet, you may need supplemental thyroid hormone in order to maintain that fertility.

      I bet indigenous cultures got pretty ingenious with their thyroid/fertility biohacks. The Masai were known to eat nothing but honey after marriage to boost their carbs and thyroid (perhaps where the term “honeymoon” came from).

      Just saved you 30 years ;)

    • DuckDodgers says:

      Here we go. As for the etymology of the word “Honeymoon,” it was customary for many cultures to consume honey or honey mead for a month (a “moon”) for fertility after marriage (the carbs apparently boosting thyroid activity):

      From: Mad about Mead by Pamela Spence

      Honeymoon, a term that we are all familiar with, is a specific reference to mead. The term comes from an old English tradition that dates from the Middle Ages. Mead was drunk in great quantities at weddings, and after the ceremony nuptial couples were given a month’s supply of mead—sufficient for one full cycle of the moon. It was believed that by faithfully drinking mead for that first month, the woman would “bear fruit” and a child would be born within the year. If, indeed, the woman conceived, success was attributed to the skill of the mead maker. The ability to produce life, that divine power, was believed to be imparted through the indulgence of the gods who gave humans access to the dew of heaven: honey, for their mead.

      The production of this powerful elixir, this drink of life, was governed by strict ritual behavior. In many cultures, particularly in Africa, mead making was undertaken by people observing vows of chastity. The Masai, for instance, chose one man and one woman to make the mead. For two days prior and for the six-day duration of active brewing. Breaking this vow was believed to result in the bees absconding (flying away) and the mead spoiling.

      In some cultures, among the Ethiopians as well as among the Vikings, women were the primary mead makers. Ethiopian girls learned the craft from their mothers and female relations, a tradition that survives today…

      …Among the Albanian gypsies and many other ethnic groups of Central and Eastern Europe, blessing a couple’s house with honey was common. Wedding guests, or the bride herself, smeared honey on the doorposts, gateposts, and window sills to keep malevolent spirits and mischief-makers at bay. Wedding guests then smeared honey on the doorway once the bride had entered the house. She might also be fed honey from a spoon by her mother-in-law, mimicking infant birthing rituals…Another widespread custom was that of smearing the bride’s face with honey. Depending on the culture, the woman’s eyes, mouth, or brow might be so anointed. This practice was followed in India and Africa, as well as among the Central Europeans.

    • gabriella kadar says:

      Duck, then we threw rice (but only because confetti was ecologically bad and the pigeons eat the rice.) ;)

    • DuckDodgers says:

      Good point.

      Turns out there are a few studies showing raw honey or bee pollen can have powerful effects on fertility. Seems like they think it can influence hormones beyond the usual carb mechanisms.

    • “There is some speculation that Neanderthals died out because they were squeezed into a niche that was so iodine poor they became cretins.”

      When it comes to Neanderthals they had rather unsubstantial temporal lobes – areas responsible
      for speech (!) – compared to both Paleo sapiens, as well as modern people – both latter have large ones, wheras Neanderthal is lacking any visible bulge, despite havin a large brain size overall. Both ancient skulls home a larger brains than a modern one, overall!

      Both old-time people having giant visual/spatial processing back parts of the brain compared to the moderns. In Neanderthals you also have to add those giant eye sockets to the mix.

      Contempoarary skull on the other hand has a large executive frontal part of the brain that is responsible from controlling impulses, planning for the future etc. The process of increasing has been going on forever, but there seems to be acceleration of it in the historical time. (This is about averages, we have enough variation, both then and especially with today’s population sizes to cover all sizes, proportions etc.).

      Skulls comparison of 2 paleo supspecies and 1 modern:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXWx0MHQVO4

      Contemporary vs. medieval (average) modern brain proportions:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUo6cop4vXg&t=7m43s
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4643312.stm

  15. @gabriella: Context is everything! And I think that’s what your pointing out — we just don’t have all the information needed to create any sort of dietary doctrines.

    There is no way We (that’s the royal “We”) can extrapolate a diet for the masses simply based on archaeological evidence — it’s the wrong context.

    In what context are We sick, fat, tired, brain fogged, lean, happy, fast, or strong? Food type, volume, and timing are different when I need to perform heavy thinking compared to heavy labor. It’s different when living in a hot climate to a cold climate, Paris or Mexico, cubicle farm or executive office, and on, and on, and on…..

  16. We now live in the space age.

    What is so special about( hyperventilating on) reconstructing a speculated substrate smorgasbord for human consumption somewhere between the rise of agricultural technologies and the prior development of fire technology? Fire technology transformed polysaccharide substrates that were likely predominantly fermented in the hind gut to increased dissolution in the fore gut after fire technology invention.

    Why not use our space age science tools and cast back further into time and have a look at the colon biochemistry of our living cousins- http://www.livescience.com/1103-surprise-cousin-sea-urchin.html
    :-)

  17. Damn, this makes so much frickin sense.

  18. Pagan Cossack says:

    The question is, how much of the minerals get absorbed once phytate is broken down by gut bacteria?

  19. So where does this leave intolerance testing by the strict avoidance method,such as the Whole 30 protocol? Is 30 days long enough to lose the specific digestive bacteria? So that Average Jane goes from happily eating wheat, dairy, nightshades, whatever, to having digestive issues on reintroduction and then believes herself intolerant.

    • “So where does this leave intolerance testing by the strict avoidance method,such as the Whole 30 protocol?”

      Well isn’t that an interesting question? I think it’s impossible to say. Individual.

  20. How much do we know about bacteria living in harmony with one another? It seems that trying to have good bacteria is a bit vague. What if “good bacteria type A” doesn’t like “good bacteria type B” and that causes inflammation or an imbalance?

    Maybe if I’m more susceptible to or have a certain disease I’d want to increase a certain bacterial phylum than the others to help combat it? That would be pretty cool.

    • “How much do we know about bacteria living in harmony with one another? It seems that trying to have good bacteria is a bit vague. What if “good bacteria type A” doesn’t like “good bacteria type B” and that causes inflammation or an imbalance?”

      That’s the beautiful thing. We know almost nothing about it in pixalated resolution. We certainly know about serious pathogens, and that’s been a huge part of the history of medicine. Unfortunately, in figuring out how to kill them, they carpet bombed.

      I think we can be sure that a real food diet for most people will support a healthy biome, but figuring out the intricacies of 500-1000 different species? Lots of work to do.

      Prepare for the drug companies to be heavily involved soon. Probably ultimately, they’ll engineer specific gut bugs.

      All cats are out of all bags.

  21. “I, on the other hand, seek to complicate the livin’ shit out of everything and demonstrate how wrong people can be in their certainty over years.” ~Richard

    Kudos Richard, such is the duty of the enlightened human. But good luck, what with the new Jesus movie opening to record attendance and all. Humans have been sort of an embarrassment, at least to me. I mean, first we over-complicate, corrupt, manipulate, delude, fantasize, and lie about every possible thing to gain advantage. Now we over-complicate, corrupt, manipulate, delude, fantasize and lie about what was “real” before we did all that (again, mostly to gain advantage). It just becomes layer of dubious complication upon layer of dubious complication.

    I applaud your efforts Richard, but don’t think we will ever truly “free the animal.” (Or as I would say “recapture the instinctual simplicity, honesty and organic balance of the animal.”

    • I’m very well aware, Q.

      When this whole gig began with Paleo, back in 2007, I was a bit bright eyed…like, no way, a bunch of people getting on board with something that inherently honestly, is both anarchic and atheist.

      And 90% of what I see is exactly the opposite, Paleo reduced to a cartoon caricature, and that’s only when I’m not assaulted with the latest paleo treat made with non-paleo nut flour. If I want a treat, I’ll go down and get a PayDay bar. At least it has salt to balance the sweet.

      But mostly, I see most “Paleos” spending most of their time and effort dealing in neolithic force against other people in one way or another. Paleo as a framework is cool. Most of those who take the name are frauds.

      Just how I see it.

    • To be honest, it kind of fucking saddens me as an animal that I have to read 10 blogs to help me put food in my mouth. But my statement applies to just about every nook and cranny of human existence, be it politics, religion, healthcare, diet, business, investments. It’s all so corrupt upon corrupt it can only collapse in upon itself at some point, and I want no part of any of it. And then, on a more intimate scale, what the fuck, humans don’t even know how to EAT, SLEEP or SHIT anymore!

      It’s sad, but I think humans may be the worst mistake evolution ever made.

    • “It’s sad, but I think humans may be the worst mistake evolution ever made.”

      Ah, but I don’t agree at all with any of it:
      – evolution makes mistakes ? Makes no sense at all.

      Evolution is a chaotic principle that “explores” all possible paths accessible at a given time and space / circumstances. Like all chaotic systems, equilibrium is never real and can suddenly collapse. human evolution is the same. That is not a mistake but an intrinsic property of life evolution. The ever going battle against entropy which manifests in many forms.

      So chill out, we are not a mistake, just a pseudo-stable form that is anyway doomed in the long run. Buddhists did not need all this chaos theory, they had a saying: “nothing is permanent” … how so true! :D

    • Hey, Q – Loving your comments. You fit right in around here. Here’s an excerpt from the NY Times #1 Bestseller of all times (not yet for sale) and subject to MAJOR editing:

      “We closed the chapter on Ancient gut bug food near the terminus of the Paleolithic Era which ended approximately 10,000 years ago. Up until that time, we ate much as we had for the preceding 2 million years. During that lengthy span of time, we evolved into big-brained humans with a gut full of microbes that had just as much at stake in our survival as we did. They guided our hunger, sleep, and social lives ensuring we remained their perfect hosts. Then, our brains became maybe too big. We learned to shape stones, control fire, mine minerals, herd animals, and we planted crops that fed the vast populations that our big brains produced. For the first time in millions of years, we were too smart for our own good.”

    • Tatertot
      More questions.
      Chaos. Isn’t a process we call chaos simply just way to complex for our meagre, even of perception, abilities? Alike the things we call “wonder”, but merely for the reason we do not understand, or do not even perceive all what is going on within this “wonder”?

      Evolution. Isn’t it fact, that after each major extinction event species diversity “exploded”? Maybe next round after present major extinction event species will evolve to utilize then present high radioactivity? What is all this, some kind of game?

      Man. Personally consider the naked ape the sickest animal ever to walk on earth, maybe except those few not “contacted” yet tribes that may still exist for a few more years, maybe. Sickest animal, with all-time high, but inaccessible potential so far?
      We call our behaviour intelligent? Do we even grasp the intelligence, of say dolphins? They have been around a long time and never came into a position to destroy the habitat of each and all and their own, isn’t this way more intelligent than sending men to the moon?

      Back to man. The present global destruction made it’s way out of Europe, no? Others have destroyed their habitat as well, but never as globe spanning than what began 500 years ago. Has the sickness made it’s way around the globe by being spread due to sick guts of mothers and fathers and therefore sick brains?

      Last. Can a cure be found so mankind can heal itself? Even if it’s too late already, at least try for the fun of it?

      Peace!

  22. Richard, Melissa’s got a bs post up about why she stopped posting on pd, LOL

  23. OK, so now I’ve been on the PS for 7 odd weeks perhaps its time to allow a little of those foods I once cut out completely. So if I’m going to add a little rice back into my diet can anyone tell me which sort is likely to be the least problematic. I used to be able to buy short grain, long grain and brown. Now its all Basmati, Jasmine and ??? I get it that Basmati has a lower GI than Jasmine, but do we let that matter any more now the PS evens out our blood sugars? So can someone who knows advise me about the types of rice and whether we are OK with one rather than another?

    • @Harriet
      If you look at the GI, look at it as a indication of RS content in the rice. In that case, go for parboiled rice. it has none of the brown rice issues, and 80% nutritional content of brown rice. And its GI is low. Parboiled rice stir-fry is the way to go. I never crash on that, regardless of the amount I eat (but I eat about once a day so it’s not like I eat it all day long ;) ).

    • gabriella kadar says:

      Harriet, there is parboiled basmati rice as well. Has a firmer consistency than regular basmati. Needs soaking for 4 to 6 hours before cooking.

  24. EatLessMoveMoore says:

    Formal terms of surrender in the Paleowars? http://huntgatherlove.com/content/paleodrama-why-i-stopped-posting-my-blog-highlighting-pseudoscience-and-bigotry-paleo

    Sure sounds like it to me. What say you, Field Marshal Nikoley?

    • Not much to say. Declaration of victory, move on. Zero hard feelings on my part. I just don’t operate like that.

      Frankly, I’ve never seen anything she mentions as much of a problem. I don’t look at the whole thing as some conspiracy of organization as she does, but a bunch of cats. Tons of women in the movement are doing their own thing, speaking to women / family / mother issues and doing bang up jobs. If there’s so much oppression, how come so many of all these books coming out and being published are written by women? I have it on very good authority that a publisher offered her a book deal and she turned it down. So where’s the “oppression” and “silencing?”

      Basically, nothing has been the same for her since the AHS12 panel on self experimentation (that I was slated to be on too, ironically) was turned down. Just my guess.

      Anyway, to some extent I think she’s living in her own Private Idaho, but who cares? I suppose we all do. The fact is, I let that all go a long time ago and since, have been doing my own thing to undermine doctrine:

      1. Long term VLC / Keto as inappropriate for most

      2. Starches (including RS) as very important for most

      3. Legumes as a decent food

      4. The vast importance of the gut microbiome beyond the standard canned mentions it would get.

      You can sit around and moan about how awful things are, or you can do something about it. Seems to me that what she most wanted was to get other people to do x and not do y. I just do stuff myself and let anyone who wishes, follow my lead.

      At any rate, as I said, no hard feeling and the foregoing is to be taken as a critique of M, food for thought, hopefully constructive. I just popped some info in her comments on the previous post that I hope will be of help to her and any other of her readers.

      http://huntgatherlove.com/content/ancient-wheat-irritable-bowel-syndrome#comment-1262911537

  25. Kresser’s interview with Mat Lalonde in the podcast What Science Really Says About the Paleo Diet has great info on phytic acid myths. Bring on the the raw nuts.

  26. My feelings exactly…PD was an extended tantrum after the AHS 12 rejection.

  27. Wenchypoo says:

    the dose makes the poison

    Didn’t we figure this out in wake of the resistant starch experiments?

    Unfortunately, the very foods one must soak in an acid medium before cooking and eating, I have intolerance problems with–even AFTER soaking 24 hrs. in lemon juice, then cooking. This is what drove me from WAPF to the Paleo diet–trying to learn to live without them. Apparently I didn’t have the right gut flora to handle them, in spite of eating fermented foods and taking 10-strain probiotics.

    Now that some years have passed, I guess the time is ripe for another N=1 experiment.

    As for Paleo dying out, I told Chris Kresser on his blog that I see the Paleo diet as one big giant detox diet, or elimination diet, serving to reorient people to their body cues, learning what they can or cannot tolerate, and how much, before adding the carbs back in–again, listening to body cues. The rest of the whole Paleo thing is just marketing. The marketing has served offshoot industries well–gyms for HIIT and Cross-fit, plenty of mail-order meat companies, plenty of convenience foods, plenty of websites devoted to recipes, plenty of cookbooks and Paleo diet regimen books, and now, looming food shortages in items near and dear to Paleo hearts: coconut milk, chocolate, beef, bacon, avocados, and others.

    I’m just glad I found other people who eat that same way I have to, and that the eating style has a name. Now, I don’t feel like such a freak of nature!

  28. I don’t know if anyone has linked this (Phytates for the Prevention of Osteoporosis): http://nutritionfacts.org/video/phytates-for-the-prevention-of-osteoporosis/

    Phytates appear to work in the same way as osteoporoses drugs. They are essentially Fosamax without side effects.

  29. To eat, or not to eat…. I don’t eat them. I don’t like the bloat. But, with all this “New” evidence about gut repair and RS, etc, etc… bottom line, isn’t it really just about eating clean? Isn’t it all the crap our big ag has destroyed everything with the real problem? If we have to supplement to improve our gut flora and to replace nutrients not found in modern foods, isn’t it our food to blame? If I can tolerate wheat, why not eat it? But I can’t tolerate modern wheat. I grew up eating good, healthy bread in Germany. I never had problems until I moved back to the States. Paleo did cure me of some ailments, but I think it was more that I switched to grass fed, organic, etc. Tell me I’m wrong.

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  1. […] it’s also true that humans can tolerate moderate amounts of it without harm (perhaps because our gut bacteria produce enzymes that break down phytate and extract the nutrients the body needs). In fact, there’s even evidence that phytic acid may […]

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  3. […] To my knowledge, his entire schtick as concerns legumes is essentially 2002 verbatim but: Down the Rabbit Hole: When Phytate Becomes a Nutrient. […]

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