Low carb for sure. High fat and most importantly, high protein too, and it’s my mission in this, primarily, to make understood that’s why LC worked for them long term. But, also: they prized an enormous diversity of plants, when available.
What follows is some comments in a couple of different posts who have used Google to discover new things, to find conflicting narrative that doesn’t come in a book designed to pitch one single narrative, etc. I’ve edited things somewhat for clarity, as well as to tone disputes down.
There’s this claim that glycogen only degrades to lactic acid. In fact, glycogen degrades postmortem through glycolysis and ATP. And the first step of the glycolysis pathway is the degradation of glycogen into, wait for it… glucose!
From: Muscle and Meat Biochemistry edited by A.M. Pearson, Dec 2012 The major role of glycogen in postmortem muscle is release of glucose, which can be used to replenish the high-energy phosphate compounds. Thus, glycogen is largely degraded and is mainly responsible for the formation of lactic acid in muscle, which accounts for the pH decline that occurs in postmortem muscle. Therefore, glycogen is ultimately responsible for the changes in the properties of muscle that accompany the drop in pH as glycolysis proceeds. These changes are reviewed later in this chapter.
In case you think that this is some kind of fluke explanation, I assure you it’s not. You can read more about it here and here and here. Sorry, but glycogen does not degrade directly to lactic acid. There’s a pathway. And a fair amount of glucose is created through glycolysis on the way to lactic acid. And in fact we see this in beef industry time tables. If you click on that link, you’ll see that glycogen takes days to fully degrade into lactic acid in beef—particularly at colder temperatures. And one of those byproducts is glucose rising in the process before it too is degraded into lactic acid.
Let’s look at a process known as rigor mortis. It’s common knowledge that rigor mortis is not something that starts immediately. In fact, rigor mortis takes time to set in and glycogen is depleted during this pre-rigor state.
Secondly, while glycogen depletion can be halted with liquid nitrogen, that it must be is not supported by any scientific evidence. If that were true, than the term cold shortening would not exist in the meat industry. Factory farms use electrical stimulation on beef carcasses to speed up this pre-rigor time period, because muscle that simply hangs in a slaughterhouse does not degrade its glycogen quickly enough for their chill rooms. The process of glycogen degradation is too slow for them. The truth is that glycogen depletion stops completely at -18ºC, which is hardly difficult to obtain in the arctic. Moreover, low temperatures in general slow the process over many days.
And while Stefansson was calculated to have eaten 10g/day of meat glycogen in the Bellevue Experiment eating land mammals, land-based mammals are not the same thing as diving marine mammals. Diving marine mammals have significant carbohydrate stores in their blubber, skin, organs, and to a lesser extent, their meat. Yep, most of the glycogen in diving marine mammals isn’t even found in their meat. It turns out that whales are particularly unique when it comes to their pre-rigor state and ability to preserve their glycogen:
From: Lawrie’s Meat Science by R. A. Lawrie, David Ledward, p 92, (23 Jan 2014) A much delayed onset of rigor mortis has been observed in the muscle of the whale (Marsh, 1952b). The ATP level and the pH may remain at their high in vivo values for as much as 24h at 37ºC. No adequate explanation of this phenomenon has yet been given; but the low basal metabolic rate of whale muscle (Benedict, 1958), in combination with the high content of oxymyoglobin in vivo (cf 4.3.1), may permit aerobic metabolism to continue slowly for some time after the death of the animal, whereby ATP levels can be maintained sufficiently to delay the union of actin and myosin in rigor mortis.
So glycogen isn’t even tapped for postmortem glycolysis for as much as a day postmortem, because aerobic metabolism can be maintained for as much as a day! In other words, that enormous difference between land-based mammals and diving marine mammals—that allow these divers to spend hours deep under the surface of the ocean—appears to be responsible for preserving the glycogen perfectly in whale meat for extremely long times. The facts speak for themselves.
The Inuit were hunting a very unique class of carbohydrate-rich mammals in a very unique environment, and eating those mammals in a very unique way (raw and fresh or frozen). It seems to me that the soundness of around-the-clock ketogenic diets requires some substantiation basis far beyond the practices of the Inuit.
Gisli Pálsson’s, Travelling Passions : The Hidden Life of Vilhjalmur Stefansson ads a bit more typically human sorts of things to the mix. Not meant to smear, just perhaps remind you that he’s not a deity.
Stefansson was a shameless self-promoter who was clearly an engaging and dynamic speaker and a wonderfully clear and lucid writer. Such self-promotion was born of the necessity to make a living out of his work, but in the process the quality and credibility of his work suffered. His “scientific” anthropological output is slim: one report for the American Museum of Natural History which was never finished and had to be completed for him by the museum director (he was away on another expedition at the time) and the rather peculiar ethnography, My Life with the Eskimo (1913), which reads more like a travelogue than an ethnographic report…
Pálsson establishes that while he was engaged to Cecil Smith, Stefansson had an intimate relationship with an Inuvialuit woman, Pannigabluk; intimate enough that the couple had a son, Alex. While Stefansson’s relationship was well known in the North both to Inuvialuit (their cultural mores provide no reason to deny it) and northern administrators (Alex always used Stefansson as his last name), Stefansson himself consistently denied any such relationship. Pannigabluk is virtually erased from Stefansson’s published accounts, and while she appears frequently in his diaries, no mention is made of any relationship between the two. A critical entry that may provide insight into the relationship is crossed out in such a way that even Vatican palaeography experts cannot decipher it (p. 109)! Stefansson is listed as Alex’s father in the Anglican baptismal records of the time. Pálsson goes into careful detail to explore whether, at any time or to any person, Stefansson may have actually admitted the existence of his son in the North. The evidence is largely negative. This is despite the fact that he might have continued to support both Pannigabluk and Alex through a Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) account, although there are no HBC records to support this.
Why should we care about the sexual adventures of an anthropologist one hundred years ago? It is precisely because it is now clear that Pannigabluk acted as Stefansson’s primary cultural and linguistic interpreter, and that much of the data in Stefansson’s ethnography comes from Pannigabluk and her (evidently very strong) opinions. This means that the information that has been constituted as the baseline data on the Mackenzie Inuit is limited in scope, and raises the critical question of who was Pannigabluk and what was her position in Inuvialuit society? This is a much more difficult question to answer, but it now challenges researchers in the field to take into account this bias and re-read Stefansson’s work with new lenses.
The New York Times obituary writers didn’t mention any of this.
Most of the Inuit research suggests that they ate a lot of meat. One of the more comprehensive reviews of all the available literature at the time was from a paper by H.M. Sinclair in 1952.
The Diet of Canadian Indians and Eskimos By H. M. SINCLAIR Laboratory of Human Nutrition, University of Oxford (Page 76) The Eskimo is apparently able to digest and absorb very large amounts of protein and fat at a single meal. In times of plenty, 4 kg [(8.8 lbs)] of meat daily is a common amount and much is taken at a single meal : they do not usually take food in the morning. Consumption of larger amounts such as 15 kg [(33 lbs)] has been observed on occasion, and Ross (1835) considered that an Eskimo ‘ perhaps eats twenty pounds of flesh and oil daily’, which I suppose is possibly 46,000 Cal. Parry (1824) thought he would test the capacity of an adolescent Eskimo ; the food was weighed and, apart from fluids, he ate in 20 h 8.5 lb. meat and 1.75lb. bread (about 15,700 Cal.) and ‘ did not consider the quantity extraordinary ‘. But this is trivial compared with the feats of the Siberian Yakuti who eat 25-30 lb. meat daily, and there is no record approaching the 35lb. of beef and 18lb. of butter (providing about 112,000 Cal. and occupying a volume of the order of 54 gal.) alleged to have been eaten in less than 3 h by each of two Yakuti (Simpson, 1847.)
Many researchers have observed extremely large protein intakes among Eskimos.
I have searched around what the people on the other site of Bering Strait—namely Chukotka and Yakutia (Russia)—would be eating at present and in the past. It seems there is more nutritional tradition still intact, as the imported food from elsewhere is expensive. Great online source, a lot in English, all confirming Duck’s hypothesis of omnivore eating even in these harsh conditions. Many plant sources; roots, fruits, leaves, barks stored for winter in a very creative way. And do not forget there has always been a lively trade, the coastal people traded their food sources with the inlanders. If you have time, see for yourselves: Chukotka (tourist guide with pictures) From The Dishes of Peoples of Yakutia this must be yummy:
Vil’mulimul’ [Вильмулимуль] – Reindeer blood, kidney, liver, ears, roasted hooves, and lips mixed with berries and sorrel and stuffed into a stomach—which is dried and then saved in cold storage and fermented over winter to provide a rich spring food, full of calories and vitamins.
This food is made by many northern peoples. Climate Change Adaptation: Traditional Knowledge of Indigenous Peoples Inhabiting the Arctic and Far North Marine Hunters of Chukotka on the Plants.
The Eskimo and coastal Chukchi use around sixty types of land and sea plants in their diet. Half of those plants are used in food on a regular basis. The languages of the Yupik Eskimo do not have a general word for the whole plant, but instead have individual words for its edible parts, for instance, the stem with its leaves or the root. Anything that is not used in food is called “grass”, or “flower”. Gathering and preparing plants for winter is an important responsibility of the women and is even called “women’s hunt”. Seaweed is an essential part of the diet; hunters also gather it on their way home after hunting sea mammals.
And it would be fun to read this one (abstract only)
Traditional foods in the diet of Chukotka natives “The traditional diet of Chukotka natives consists of caribou meat, marine animals and fish, depending on the place of residence. All meat products or fish are eaten with local plants: roots, green leaves, berries or seaweed. Local foods are usually eaten raw frozen and dipped into seal oil or melted caribou fat.
And, lastly, see, what you get by cherrypicking from the vast online photo source by keywords: inuit berry picking.
One more gem, almost 200 years old, from my treasure hunt: Narrative of a Pedestrian Journey Through Russia and Siberian Tartary: From the Frontiers of China to the Frozen Sea and Kamtchatka, Volume 1, by Captain John Dundas Cochrane.
Do not forget to google him:
John Dundas Cochrane (1780–1825)destined for the sea from an early age, but is best remembered as the Pedestrian Traveller.
At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, he set out on a six-year tour of France, Spain and Portugal on foot. When in 1820 the Admiralty turned down his offer to explore the river Niger, he decided instead to walk round the world via Russia, Siberia and North America. On his arrival in St Petersburg, the Russian government gave him money to continue his journey using sledges and canoes where necessary, but he abandoned it in Kamchatka, marrying a local woman and returning with her to England.
This account of his travels was published in 1824 and was immediately popular, going into several editions. By no means a scientific survey, it is full of interesting anecdotes and observations about a then unknown and mysterious area of the world.
The book was published in 1824, worth reading (long live the google books).
Some of his observations on fish eating:
I always ate of raw fish, as well from choice, as from a wish to conform to the manners and customs of the natives, confident that time and experience must have initiated them into a knowledge of what is best for their climate.
The manner of dressing their food is by boiling, when wood can be procured, which, however, is not frequently the case during the winter season. They then generally consume frozen meat or fish, which, with them, as with the others in reindeer coun tries, is considered a necessary and extravagant luxury ; warm and raw marrow is also their greatest delicacy.
The scurvy rages during winter with the poorer and consequently with the greater, proportion of the inhabitants of the Kolyma, because they, the poorer sort, cannot afford to eat raw fish, it being an article of luxury. It is true, that a most prodigious quantity of fish is caught on the banks of the Kolyma, but it does not follow that such a quantity is eaten raw ; indeed it is only a very small proportion that can be so consumed, and that quantity is naturally bought up and retained by the more wealthy part of the community. Herrings are the principal productions of the Kolyma, and are retained for the dogs. Red salmon constitute the next quantity, and are universally used by all classes, by being boiled, or dried up into youkola. The nailma, and, I think the osioter, being white fish, are the only species that are eaten in a raw state ; while mocksou and mock son are expressly converted into youkola, one for man and the other for dogs. There is also another reason why the poorer classes cannot partake of raw fish ; it is not only dear and scarce, but it is a most extravagant mode of eating fish, for a person can consume three times the quantity in a raw state, that he can either boiled or in the way of youkola. I hope this statement will be understood by my readers.
And on putrid meat eating:
As we continued our melancholy route, we fell in with two white bears bound to the north, but fear, probably, on either side, kept us apart. Still along the Okota, we reached twenty-five miles, the horses enjoying very fine pastures, but our provisions entirely at an end. The rains had again overtaken us, and were rapidly swelling the rivers. Of the last of the reindeer, the flesh was so far gone that I could not eat it; the Yakuti, however, are so fond of putrid meat, termed in England game, for indeed it was nothing else, that they finished it, regretting only that it was so little in quantity.
And there’s a volume II.
Hope you’re as excited as I am to have others so interested go out and find new information and integrate it into the narrative. I think Stefansson is an important explorer. But he wasn’t a deity; and moreover, there are many other works by others, and it now looks to me that Stefansson was a better self promoter, and so there was little competing stuff.