The Hormesis Files: Who’s Afraid of Unrefined Sugar?

Part 1: The Hormesis Files: Chronic Ketosis and The Case of The Missing Glutathione.

Here we have Part 2, an in-depth look at unrefined, whole-food sugar in an evolutionary context—an enormous blind spot in “Paleo” going back to the very beginning. “Duck Dodgers” is once again the lead man for the piece, with lots of research work by three other collaborators who wish to remain anonymous such that credentials and employment don’t get in the way. Took the four of them 2 months to put this together. There was also some proofing help by a couple of others. 

Here are the topics:

  • Sugarcane Is A Superfood

  • Revisiting Oxidative Stress

  • Honey Is A Superfood

  • The Secret of Honey: Fiber and Fructose

  • Purified Antioxidants Are Counterproductive

  • Plants Use Sugars To Counteract Stress and Inflammation

  • Can Starch and Fibers Scavenge ROS?

  • Achieving Homeostasis

  • Hormesis from Antioxidants Acting As Prooxidants?

  • The Riddle of Persorption

  • Gut Flora and Homeostasis

  • Brief Overview of Part 3

In her 2011 book, “Primal Body, Primal Mind,” Nora Gedgaudas made an irresponsible statement that caused a great number of people to have anxiety about food.

Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life,” by Nora Gedgaudas (2011)

“Glycation and its damage is ultimately a cumulative process, so every bit of sugar or starch we eat eventually counts. Every piece of candy, cookie, bread, or potato, every spoonful of honey, and every drop of soda effectively shortens your life—something to think about.”

No, I’m afraid it doesn’t quite work like that. Refined sugars like HFCS or table sugar are intensely processed with heat, vacuums, chemicals, centrifuges, and filtering—which are designed to remove the naturally occurring cofactors, like prebiotic fibers, antioxidants, minerals and microbes. Ignoring that major difference is sloppy and disingenuous.

Sugarcane Is A Superfood

Sugarcane and sugar beet are major sources of refined sugar in the modern world. But, it might surprise you to learn that many traditional cultures in the tropics chewed raw sugarcane and drank sugarcane juice as a medicinal. Not only did the ancients utilize unrefined sugar for its medicinal qualities, but sugarcane juice is still considered to be a medicinal and a health-promoting beverage in some parts of the world. Interestingly, some of the earliest soda recipes, including Coca-Cola and Moxie, were initially concocted as medicinals before they were ever marketed to the public.

Sugar beets are considered to be a medicinal herb, where the fresh roots and leaves are used as garnish in traditional Asian dishes and have been shown to have potent hypoglycemic activity. More recently, sugarcane juice is being recognized as a low glycemic superfood. Sugarcane juice and sugarcane and sugar beet molasses was shown to have antioxidant and free-radical scavenging activity, as well as the ability to to reduce iron complex and inhibit lipid peroxidation. Sugarcane is rich in calcium, chromium, cobalt, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and zinc, and contains essential vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, B5 along with soluble fiber and proteins. Incredibly, it’s also believed to protect your teeth from decay.

Sugarcane molasses—the waste product of sugar refining—has anti-diabetic compounds, is rich in minerals like manganese, magnesium and potassium, and sugarcane molasses concentrate even lowers glycemic response when added to carbohydrate-rich foods.

Carbophobes like to classify potatoes as bags of sugar, but the potato happens to be loaded with antioxidants and other phytochemicals. Purple and red potatoes are very high in measured antioxidants, but potato varieties with yellow and white flesh were found to have greater antioxidant activity than colored potatoes. One of the more impressive antioxidants in potatoes is Alpha Lipoic Acid, which improves insulin sensitivity and is beneficial for diabetics. Amazingly, potatoes and their processed products, such as French fries and chips, are reported to be good sources of glutathione, the master antioxidant.

Revisiting Oxidative Stress

Now the damaging oxidative stress that Nora was referring to, above, is mainly due to Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs). The word “glycation” is really a misnomer—a relic of early diabetes research and the discovery of spontaneous glucose reaction products. However, scientists now know that most glycation products are a result of dicarbonyls, which are 20,000 times more reactive than glucose and can be derived equally from fatty acid and carbohydrate metabolism. The same is true of both ROS and Reactive nitrogen species (RNS). And as we learned in Part I, chronic ketosis—the metabolic state Nora recommends to avoid the glycation—is believed to generate large amounts of these highly reactive dicarbonyls.

We also learned in Part I that normal and unavoidable levels of ROS and oxidative stress act as signals for cellular metabolism—like traffic lights for our bodies that tell us, among other things, when to upregulate our own hormetic anti-oxidant pathways.

Furthermore, as Chris Masterjohn tells us, Insulin signaling is highly protective against glycation and ROS, so its loss in conditions like diabetes is a major contributor to damage.

Nora’s notion that every spoonful of honey and every bite of potato shortens our life is not backed by any science. Nor is it backed up by any real-world examples from cultures who relied heavily on those whole foods. It’s nothing more than fear-mongering to encourage people to embrace an unnatural diet under the guise of a faux “Paleo™” lifestyle.

It’s the false narratives, like Nora’s, that promote eating disorders such as orthorexia nervosa (an unhealthy obsession avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy), which have become rampant in the Paleosphere. Our Paleolithic ancestors ate whatever energy-positive staples they could find. They certainly didn’t fear sweets, like honey or starchy tubers. And as we will see below, plants natively provide the very compounds necessary to help regulate oxidative stress because they too need to regulate their own oxidative stress.

Honey Is A Superfood

Honey is one of the most energy-dense foods in nature, in terms of absorbable calories. (Fat is more energy-dense, but isolated fat is not classified as a “whole food”). More importantly, anthropologists now believe that starchy C4 sedge tubers and honey played a significant role in our evolution. Honey, in particular, was a prime source of energy for many indigenous cultures throughout the world. And with an unlimited shelf life, it never spoils.

A few of the well known honey hunters include the Rai people of Nepal, who scale cliffs in the foothills of the Himalayas that are home to the world’s largest honeybee, Apis laboriosa. The Magars—also of Nepal—were honey hunters as well. Others include the Shenko Honeymen of Ethiopia, the Aka, Mbuti and Efe pygmies of the Congo. Honey is the favorite food of the Mbuti. At times, during the rainy season up to 80% of the calories in their diet come from honey.

In Paraguay, the Aché tribe, consider honey and bee larvae to be the second most important food in their diet, after large game meat, and at times they will consume as much as 1,100 calories from honey a day.

Other notable honey hunters include the Masai, the Hadza of Tanzania, Australian aborigines like the Aranda, the Batek of Malaysia and the Yanomami of Venezuela. The Hadza consume about 15% of their calories from honey.

Amazingly, both the Hadza and Masai co-evolved with the Greater Honeyguide bird, a wild bird that instinctively leads humans to sources of honey in exchange for honey combs (see video).

Bees are the only the only animals in nature to create enormous surpluses of food—apparently evolving to have its own honey stolen by hungry humans, and other animals.

The lengths some cultures, like the Gurung Nepalese and the Aka will go to obtain honey are breath-taking.

Note that they eat the indigestible honeycomb (beeswax) too. And interestingly, some people consider bee venom, from bee stings, to be hormetic (see apitherapy).

Rock art depicting honey collecting has been dated to 40,000 years ago—found in Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia. One of the most famous honey-collection cave paintings is “Man of Bicorp“, an 8,000 year-old Epipaleolithic painting from the Araña Caves, shown climbing lianas and gathering honey from wild bees.

honey cave painting

Those are the cave paintings low carb Paleos, like Nora, don’t want you to see. How someone can write a book on the benefits of Paleolithic diets while also claiming every drop of honey shortens lifespans is absolutely mind-boggling.

Honey is now being investigated as an anti-diabetic agent. By this point we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s the oligosaccharides in honey that contribute to this anti-diabetic effect. But honey is more than fiber. It’s also a good source of antioxidants, and it is also being studied for its ability to significantly modulate gene expression differently than refined sugars. For example, in bees, honey up-regulates detoxification and immunity genes. Suddenly, fructose within the context of naturally occurring fiber and antioxidants isn’t quite so scary anymore. But don’t tell that to The Paleo Diet™ author, Loren Cordain, who’s team recently gave honey a big thumbs down solely because it is a good source of fructose. We know refined fructose is inflammatory, so therefore honey must be bad for you. There’s your modern Paleo™ “logic” in a honeynut-shell. [Update: see this 2014 study: Effect of honey in preventing gingivitis and dental caries in patients undergoing orthodontic treatment.]

To top it off, evidence shows that honey may have been consumed in much greater quantities than previously believed.

Honey revisited: a reappraisal of honey in pre-industrial diets, by Allsop & Miller (1996) (Free Download)

A reappraisal of the evidence from the Stone Age, Antiquity, the Middle Ages and early Modern times suggests that ordinary people ate much larger quantities of honey than has previously been acknowledged. Intakes at various times during history may well have rivaled our current consumption of refined sugar. There are implications therefore for the role of sugar in modern diets. Refined sugar may not have displaced more nutrient-rich items from our present-day diets but only the nutritionally comparable food, honey.

And it doesn’t take much digging to find paradoxes that defy Nora’s unsupported claims of death by carbohydrates. For instance, super-centenarians in the Longevity Villages and “Blue Zones” of the world eat lots of carbohydrates and legumes—basically the polar opposite of her version of Paleo™. In Bama, China and Yuzurihara, Japan they eat lots of potatoes. If you do your homework, you won’t find a single low carb longevity village. How can this be if Nora tells us that carbohydrates shorten our lives?

Another paradox we’ve seen more recently is that eating spoonfuls of prebiotic fibers seems to make people look younger and improve their body composition. Somehow eating spoonfuls of raw (prebiotic) starch appears to reduce inflammation. It seems as though fibers help reduce inflammation. Let’s keep looking.

The Secret of Honey: Fiber and Fructose

Perhaps carbophobes, like Nora, never took the time to look into what makes natural carbohydrates, such as honey, so special. But with a little bit of digging we can find some clues. A group of researchers fed honey to a group of rats and purified fructose to another group of rats to observe the difference. The honey protected the rats from much of the prooxidative effects of fructose.

Substituting Honey for Refined Carbohydrates Protects Rats from Hypertriglyceridemic and Prooxidative Effects of Fructose, by Busserolles, et al. (2002)

Because honey is rich in fructose, the aim of this study was to assess the effect of substituting honey for refined carbohydrates on lipid metabolism and oxidative stress…Compared with those fed fructose, honey-fed rats had a…lower susceptibility of heart to lipid peroxidation. Further studies are required to identify the mechanism underlying the antioxidant effect of honey but the data suggest a potential nutritional benefit of substituting honey for fructose in the diet.

Incredibly, the same researchers figured out one of the underlying mechanisms that significantly reduced the oxidative stress in the rats, but they withheld their findings so they could patent it.

US Patent#: 20060252725 A1 — Use of prebiotics for preventing or treating oxidation stress

“A subject of the invention is also the use of prebiotics as compounds with an anti-aging effect linked to an effect which protects the cells of the organism against the action of free radicals…These results indicate that the animals following the fructose diet are subjected to a significantly greater oxidative stress than that of the control animals (subjected to the starch diet) and that the addition of FOS allows significant reduction in the oxidative stress linked to the consumption of fructose.”

The patent filing reads like a study—explaining the experiments they ran to determine the antioxidant role of prebiotics in honey. Between the study and the data presented in the patent, we can see that while a purified fructose diet resulted in higer levels of inflammation, the prebiotics alongside fructose resulted in oxidative stress that was not significantly different over that of the starch + prebiotics diet. Another study in rats, the following year and using oligofructose, showed similar results. And in 2008, a third study showed that inulin protects from the harmful effects of fructose.

Purified Antioxidants Are Counterproductive

In Part I we learned that low levels of ROS and oxidative stress can activate powerful hormetic responses. We also learned that taking too many anti-oxidants may suppress the ROS signals that activate our hormetic pathways and can be counter-productive to health. Ironically, it seems that by avoiding oxidative stress, we become more fragile and susceptible to oxidative stress. The scientific community is finally starting to grasp this:

From the Gastrointestinal Tract (GIT) to the Kidneys: Live Bacterial Cultures (Probiotics) Mediating Reductions of Uremic Toxin Levels via Free Radical Signaling, by Vitetta, et al. (2013)

“…The concept of oxidative stress being a major deleterious player in all manner of situations has been massively supported by a vast literature [31,32,33]. The data presented in these reports has formed the basis for pre-clinical and clinical trials of antioxidant therapies [34,35], most of which have disappointing outcomes. We assert that the conclusion of a need for antioxidant therapy is based on misinterpretation of these data. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are central to normal metabolism. They give rise to physiological levels of peroxide, which then acts as a second messenger in maintaining normal physiological function [36]. Thus, ROS at physiological levels are essential for health”

Therefore, it may be reasonable to deduce that a combination of antioxidants and pro-oxidants may result in a mild inflammation, or homeostasis, that provides us with hormetic benefits, such as up-regulated antioxidant status.

Given the important role honey plays for so many indigenous cultures, it’s possible that honey promotes that kind of homeostasis—a mild and hormetic inflammation without the harmful effects of refined fructose. If nothing else, the large amounts of honey many indigenous cultures consume at certain times of the year should encourage us to consider honey as yet another ideal source of carbohydrarates.

Plants Use Sugars To Counteract Stress and Inflammation

You may have noticed a correlation between plants becoming sweeter as the weather turns cold. Apples become sweeter during the Fall. Carrots increase their sugar or brix content as frost starts to appear. Sugars accumulate as plants undergo stress (drought, cold, salinity, lack of nutrients). This is not an accident. Sugars help plants tolerate and respond to stresses, like the cold. And the accumulated sugars allow for rapid growth once the stress is removed.

These “sugars” or “glycans” include the complex polysaccharides we think of as prebiotics (starch, inulin, FOS, GOS, etc.) as well as the carbohydrates attached to larger molecules like proteins (glycoproteins) or fats (glycolipids, triglycerides, etc). Thus, “carbohydrate”, “glycan”, “saccharide”, and “sugar” are generic terms that are used interchangeably. Plants and animals each have millions upon millions of their own special kinds of sugars/glycans. For instance, our gut linings are composed of mucin-2, a glycoprotein that’s 80% sugar by weight. And it’s no accident that most of the known prebiotics are glycans. That’s because if a glycan is packed too tightly (like resistant starch) or has β-glycosidic bonds (like β-glucans) they cannot be degraded by our own enzymes. But, our microbiota specializes in metabolizing glycans. So, virtually every complex sugar or glycan has the potential to be a prebiotic. That’s how our gut bugs survive. If you have the right gut bugs that can degrade some of these glycans, those glycans become what is referred to as Microbiota-accessible carbohydrates (MACs).

In plant cells, sugar goes beyond stress tolerance and energy—sugar is also used for signalling genes and signaling antioxidant network connections. Recent studies have investigated how sugars help plants balance their internal signals and responses to oxidative stress from ROS—to achieve homeostasis. In both animals and plants, tolerable and hormetic levels of sugar appears to up-regulate ROS scavenging pathways.

Furthermore, researchers are also investigating how sugars can have true antioxidant effects in plants and animals. For instance, sucrose can act as a powerful antioxidant in plants. Of course, animals have enzymes to rapidly degrade sucrose into the monosaccharides glucose and fructose, for energy. When sucrose is eaten in its refined form, without fiber or antioxidants, it obviously increases oxidative stress.

If you’ve read Jo Robinson’s “Eating on the Wild Side,” you know that stressed and damaged plants will be higher in natural antioxidants. It seems that sugars and antioxidants tend to go hand in hand in nature.

Can Starch and Fibers Scavenge ROS?

Feeding diabetic rats RS-rich white rice, can decrease inflammation and improve antioxidant status. The same is true of other prebiotic fibers. The most common explanation for this is that the prebiotics are inert and the gut bugs or their metabolites are upregulating our anti-inflammatory responses. That alone would explain why people look younger while eating spoonfuls of prebiotics and why honey and inulin protects against the inflammation from fructose.

But, if plants use sugars for balancing hormetic ROS production/signaling with ROS-scavenging, might the sugars and indigestible polysaccharides/prebiotics have a similar effect in animals as well? Some researchers seem to think so.

The food additives inulin and stevioside counteract oxidative stress, by Stoyanova, et al. (2011)

Prebiotics such as inulin (Inu)-type fructans and alternative natural sweeteners such as stevioside (Ste) become more popular as food ingredients. Evidence is accumulating that carbohydrates and carbohydrate-containing biomolecules can be considered true antioxidants, capable of scavenging reactive oxygen species (ROS). Here, we report on the ROS scavenging abilities of Inu and Ste in comparison with other sugars, sugar derivatives and arbutin. It is found that Inu and Ste are superior scavengers of both hydroxyl and superoxide radicals, more effective than mannitol and sucrose. Other compounds, such as 1-kestotriose, trehalose, raffinose and l-malic acid, also showed good reactivity to at least one of the two oxygen free radicals. The strong antioxidant properties of Inu and Ste are discussed.

Even raffinose family oligosaccharides (RFOs) and other sugars may act as antioxidants in both plants and animals. Even pine bark, a medicinal prebiotic fiber used by some indigenous cultures, has free radical-scavenging abilities targeted for humans.

Researchers are now considering the theoretical antioxidant functions of all prebiotic glycans. However, in theory many should be inert, and only a limited direct scavenging ability may be theoretically plausible. Nevertheless, researchers such as molecular plant biologist, Wim Van den Ende, has raised some eyebrows:

Disease prevention by natural antioxidants and prebiotics acting as ROS scavengers in the gastrointestinal tract, by Van den Ende, et al. (2011)

An increasing amount of data point to a combined antioxidant and immuno-modulatory effect for prebiotics, suggesting that the underlying mechanisms might be identical. The finding that both AXOS and inulin-type fructans can act as antioxidants themselves (Broekaert et al., 2011; Stoyanova et al., 2011), raises the question whether they could act directly as ROS scavengers (instead of indirectly through SCFAs and GSTs)

And this past year, researchers further explored the antioxidant scavenging ability of fructans, like inulin:

Antioxidant Activity of Inulin and Its Role in the Prevention of Human Colonic Muscle Cell Impairment Induced by Lipopolysaccharide Mucosal Exposure, by Stoyanova, et al. (2014)

Antioxidant activity of inulin, which was significantly higher compared to simple sugars, remained unaltered despite cooking and digestion processes. Inulin protected the mucosal and submucosal layers against protein oxidation…Inulin protects the human colon mucosa from LPS-induced damage and this effect appears to be related to the protective effect of inulin against LPS-induced oxidative stress.

The RS in sweet potatoes are being investigated for ROS-scavenging properties. So is Buckwheat. Chitosan, a prebiotic glycan found in insects, crustaceans, and fungi has stronger scavenging activity than Vitamin C on highly chemically reactive ROS hydroxyl radicals. Moreover, RS has been shown to prevent the depletion of glutathione.

And just like the glycans in fibers and polysaccharides, polyphenols have glycosidic linkages that can be metabolized by gut bugs. This explains why red wine polyphenols can bloom certain kinds of bacteria.

In fact, polyphenols, fructans, and fibers like RS appear to be synergistic. One study showed that tea polyphenols modulate RS to produce a more slowly digestible starch that is beneficial to postprandial glycemic control. Fructans are not only prebiotics, but when combined with co-existing phenolic compounds they too can exhibit anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties.

And it seems that plant-derived polyphenols can act in collaboration with whole saliva, human red blood cells, platelets, and also with catalase-positive microorganisms to decompose reactive oxygen species (ROS). Amazingly, polyphenols can adhere to mucosal surfaces, and are retained there for long periods to possibly act as a “slow-release devices” capable of affecting the redox status in the oral cavity.

Achieving Homeostasis

In Western medicine, and culture, there’s a misconception that things can only be “good” or “bad.” We think that a pathogen must be “bad,” even though there is some evidence that pathogenic parasites can up-regulate hormetic responses. So, we try to kill and eradicate all pathogens and anything perceived to be “bad” and we over-indulge in anything that is “good.” Meanwhile, indigenous cultures such as the Hadza co-exist with some pathogens. Could it be that in the West we tend to turn our attention to the extremes?

In traditional Eastern medicine, there is a belief in achieving homeostasis—a harmonious balance between what some may perceive as good and bad. All diseases are considered to involve a disturbance of homeostasis. There is also a belief in taking something that is bad and turning it into something good. Think for a moment how this stands in contrast to Western medicine, and how this applies to what we’ve learned above and about hormesis. If we look closer, we see that even the antioxidants themselves may have dual roles in this game.

Hormesis from Antioxidants Acting As Prooxidants?

As Stephan Guyenet explained in his excellent hormesis posts (Parts I and II), while antioxidants, as polyphenols, may have the ability to scavenge free radicals in a test tube, and inside of our guts, their role as they travel throughout the body may actually be hormetic as prooxidants which can activate hormetic pathways.

Polyphenols, Hormesis and Disease: Part II, by Stephan Guyenet

…Radiation and polyphenols activate a cellular response that is similar in many ways. Both activate the transcription factor Nrf2, which activates genes that are involved in detoxification of chemicals and antioxidant defense**(9, 10, 11, 12). This is thought to be due to the fact that polyphenols, just like radiation, may temporarily increase the level of oxidative stress inside cells. Here’s a quote from the polyphenol review article quoted above (13):

We have found that [polyphenols] are potentially far more than ‘just antioxidants’, but that they are probably insignificant players as ‘conventional’ antioxidants. They appear, under most circumstances, to be just the opposite, i.e. prooxidants, that nevertheless appear to contribute strongly to protection from oxidative stress by inducing cellular endogenous enzymic protective mechanisms. They appear to be able to regulate not only antioxidant gene transcription but also numerous aspects of intracellular signaling cascades involved in the regulation of cell growth, inflammation and many other processes.


Nrf2 is one of the main pathways by which polyphenols increase stress resistance and antioxidant defenses, including the key cellular antioxidant glutathione (14). Nrf2 activity is correlated with longevity across species (15). Inducing Nrf2 activity via polyphenols or by other means substantially reduces the risk of common lifestyle disorders in animal models, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer (16, 17, 18), although Nrf2 isn’t necessarily the only mechanism. The human evidence is broadly consistent with the studies in animals, although not as well developed.

Evidence also suggests that the increase in antioxidant capacity of blood seen after the consumption of polyphenol-rich (ORAC-rich) foods is not caused directly by the polyphenols, but most likely results from increased uric acid levels derived from metabolism of the antioxidants. The health benefits from fruits, vegetables, and even chocolate, may be that they activate our hormetic pathways.

The Riddle of Persorption

As Guyenet pointed out, when polyphenols enter the bloodstream, they are seen as foreign compounds—or xenobiotics—and the body does everything it can to get rid of those foreign particles. Moreover, he explains that the concentration of these particles is not great enough to reduce much oxidative stress. More likely, the particles in the blood appear to be a temporary hormetic stressor that can upregulate the powerful antioxidant pathways in the body—known as xenohormesis. Guyenet says the reason may be that diversity and chemical structure of polyphenols makes them potentially bioactive. But there’s another interesting reason why the body has to get rid of them. Many polyphenols (and starch particles) can be too large to fit through small blood vessels (arterioles).

Gerhard Volkheimer showed this phenomenon when he asked test subjects to drink an excessive 200g of raw potato starch, without chewing, and he observed how the large starch granules found in potatoes and other foods entered the bloodstream and caused embolisms in small blood vessels. Ray Peat made it sound rather frightening. What happens is that the gut lining preferentially persorbs particles into the bloodstream that range from 5 μm (microns) to 150 μm in diameter. What Volkheimer discovered is that it’s possible to overwhelm the natural defenses of the human body.

Since red blood cells have to squeeze through tight arterioles, persorbed particles that are larger than a red blood cell (which are only 6-8 μm in diameter) could potentially get stuck and cause blockages and embolisms. So, you can see why the body would want to get rid of those large particles once they are done doing their job.

A sampling of some of these large nanoparticles include raw mature potato starch granules (8 to 140 μm), cellulose in vegetables (>30-50 μm), carrots (4-26 μm), drip coffee (filtered to <25 μm), activated charcoal (1-150 μm), pollen in raw unfiltered honey (2.5-1,000 μm), dirt (0μm up to small pebbles), antioxidant-containing particles in cocoa solids (5-150 μm), machine ground cocoa bean shells (>90 μm), flavanols in green tea (average 715 μm), ascorbic acid particles (10-160 μm), and α-Tocopherol (10-80 μm). Even animal fibers have been implicated too. When particles are too large, our microbiota metabolize them and make sure they are small enough to enter the bloodstream.

Gut microbes make dark chocolate healthy

…Bacteria break down some specific components contained in cocoa, called polyphenols. These molecules are too big to be absorbed into the blood, but gut bacteria break them down into smaller chemicals that can pass to the blood. These chemicals have the property of reducing inflammation in cardiovascular tissues.

Given the wide array of large particles we persorb on a daily basis, the lymph and blood vessels are prepared to handle such intrusions. For instance, it’s well recognized that the liver is specifically designed to filter such particles from the blood. Volkheimer also acknowledged various elimination pathways (urine, bile, enzymatic degradation, cerebrospinal fluid, milk production, phagocytosis by macrophages).

There are three lines of defense to prevent obstructions and embolisms from ingestion of starch granules—salivary amylase, pancreatic amylase and plasma/serum amylase (see also this paper). And the blockages appear to be temporary. Full disclosure: if someone has liver, pancreatic or other health issues, serum amylase may be compromised.

But, one has to wonder why a healthy gut epithelium would selectively persorb particles into the bloodstream, ranging up to 120μm, only to then get rid of them a few hours later. There are other reasons besides hormesis.

For instance, β-glucans—a fiber/glycan found in mushrooms and oats—stimulate the immune system when they are delivered into the blood and ingested by macrophages (macrophages themselves are 21 μm). Starch granules have shown the ability to catch pathogens like Cholera. Mannose-binding lectins can scavenge Ebola and other microorganisms like HIV (so can polyphenols). Edible plant exosome-like nanoparticles can “talk” to animal cells, to promote Healing—an amazing example of interspecies communication. Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) from blueberries get transported to your blood vessels and play a role in maintaining their health. Without persorption, there would be no way for GAGs to contribute to the health of blood vessels, there would be no way for polyphenols, ascorbic acid particles, and α-Tocopherol particles to do their jobs.

In other words, it’s not an accident that the body lets those large particles into the bloodstream and lymphatic system. Our bodies want those large particles to interact with the body. And then it wants them gone.

Gut Flora and Homeostasis

As many who read this blog already know, we are constantly learning about new roles that our gut flora play in our health. It’s impossible to do the topic the justice it deserves, but I hope some of these recent discoveries will change the way we think about inflammation and ROS signaling going forward.

One interesting example is that bacteria coated by polyphenols acquire potent oxidant-scavenging capacities. Suddenly we can see how using sterile test tubes doesn’t give us the full story on antioxidants.

But remember, optimal health appears to be a balance of mild inflammation (ROS signaling), combined with antioxidants, which seems to provide a kind of homeostasis in both plants and animals.

So, how can our gut flora help modulate this homeostasis? Believe it or not, your gut bugs can contribute to hormetic levels of inflammation.

From the Gastrointestinal Tract (GIT) to the Kidneys: Live Bacterial Cultures (Probiotics) Mediating Reductions of Uremic Toxin Levels via Free Radical Signaling, by Vitetta, et al. (2013)

A recent study has demonstrated that some genera of human GIT bacteria can induce a rapid increase of ROS, eliciting a physiological response through the activation of epithelial NADPH oxidase-1 (Nox1) [57,58]. In addition, reports site in vitro experiments with epithelial cells that, when co-cultured with specific probiotic bacteria, show an increased and rapid oxidation reaction of soluble redox sinks, namely glutathione and thioredoxin [57,58] that indicate the presence of a regulated process. This effect was demonstrated as an increase in the oxido-reductase reaction of transcriptional factor activations such as nuclear factor kappa B (NFκB), NrF2 and the antioxidant response element, reflecting a cellular response to increased ROS production that is regulated [57, 58]. This effect must be decisive in order to elicit a restrained anti-infective response with a minimal chance of pro-inflammatory damage to the tissue. These reactions define potent regulatory effects on host physiological functions that include immune function and intracellular signaling.

Furthermore, probiotic strains have also been reported to generate a range of anti-microbial substances and to positively affect and modulate immune system function. Lee [60] has reported that the enteric commensal bacteria by rapidly generating ROS negotiate an acceptance by the GIT epithelia. Different strains of commensal bacteria can elicit markedly different levels of ROS from contacted cells. Lactobacilli are especially potent inducers of ROS generation in cultured cells and in vivo, though all bacteria tested have some ability to alter the intracellular oxido-reductase environment [59]. Yan [61] has reported that there are soluble factors that are produced by strains of lactobacilli that are capable of mediating beneficial effects in in vivo inflammatory models. This result expands our understanding that there are ROS-stimulating bacteria that possess effective specific membrane components and or secreted factors that activate cellular ROS production to maintain homeostasis.

These reports focus our understanding on the importance of second messenger functionality for the maintenance of homeostasis and brings into serious question the annulment of ROS by antioxidant supplements for the amelioration of chronic diseases such as CKD. The established importance of recent investigations regarding probiotic/microbial-elicited ROS teaches that stimulated cellular proliferation and motility is strictly controlled and is a regulated signaling process for proper innate immunity and gut barrier functionality [59,62,63]. The observations that the vertebrate epithelia of the intestinal tract supports a tolerable low-level inflammatory response toward the GIT microflora can be viewed as an adaptive activity that maintains homeostasis [64].

probiotics demonstrate properties that can promote and rescue deviations in intestinal redox metabolism through the activity of ROS in a similar manner as somatic cells signal metabolic function

It’s rather curious that our gut bugs evolved to help us manage oxidative stress. How can this be? Well, it turns out that the creation of animal guts appears to have coincided with the oxygenation of the Earth’s atmosphere—forging major alliances between animals and microbes. And in this alliance, we find that our microbial inhabitants actively program our bodies and our genes to manage oxidative stress.

Live probiotic cultures and the gastrointestinal tract: symbiotic preservation of tolerance whilst attenuating pathogenicity, by Vitetta, et al. (2014)

These reports focus our understanding on the importance of second messenger functionality for the maintenance of homeostasis and brings into serious question the annulment of ROS by antioxidant supplements for the amelioration of chronic diseases. The established importance of recent investigations regarding probiotic/microbial-elicited ROS teaches that stimulated cellular proliferation and motility is strictly controlled and is a regulated signaling process for proper innate immunity and gut barrier functionality (Collier-Hyams et al., 2005; Lin et al., 2009). The observations that the vertebrate epithelia of the intestinal tract, supports a tolerable low-level inflammatory response toward the GIT microflora, can be viewed as an adaptive activity that maintains homeostasis (Neish et al., 2000).


These [bacterial] endosymbionts providing a functional duality, that is control of homeostasis for growth and protection from the deleterious effects of an oxygen rich atmosphere that is analogous to the deleterious effects of oxidative stress.


…An ancient endosymbiotic event that gave rise to mitochondria also evolved regulated ROS signaling pathways that are widely distributed in diverse environments from soils to commensal and probiotic bacteria found in the human gastrointestinal tract (Neish, 2013).


…Mechanistically probiotic bacteria may rescue mitochondrial dysfunction by linking a biologically plausible cellular signaling program (ROS dependent) between the human host and its microbiome cohort for a continued co-operative symbiosis that maintains homeostasis favorable to both.

Our gut bugs evolved to co-exist with us. We provide them with shelter from the oxygenated atmosphere, as well as food, while they help us manage our oxidative stress by programming our genes and helping to stimulating ROS-signaling in order to maintain homeostasis.

After investigating hormesis on the cellular and microbial levels, perhaps the ancient Eastern medicine concept of promoting homeostasis may be more sound than the Western approach of purification, over-sanitation, and eradication of all pathogens and microbes as well as suppressing inflammation through potent pharmaceuticals and purified antioxidants. Ironically, Mother Nature—as well as our gut bugs—provides us with a wide range of ways to achieve homeostasis. And the best part of all is that our tastebuds help us navigate the entire process.

That wraps up Part II of our hormesis series. In Part III we’ll investigate how the recent “Paleo™” trend of trying to avoid all naturally occurring toxins is not only anthropologically incorrect, but is likely counterproductive to optimal health.

Since Covid killed my Cabo San Lucas vacation-rental business in 2021, this is my day job. I can't do it without you. Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. Two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance this work I do, and if you like what I do, please chip in. No grandiose pitches.


  1. Mark on January 5, 2015 at 19:00

    I have been eating primarily paleo, and raw honey has been part of my diet. Thanks for setting the record straight. Excellent post.

  2. Jared on January 5, 2015 at 12:15

    Wow this blog post couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time for me. For the last week and a half I’ve been eating a high starch mainly plant diet with honey drizzled on top of everything. I’ve been eating primarily 80% veggies and 20% meat. I don’t really know why I started eating this way but I’ve been feeling great and have just been eating absurd amounts of raw honey. I knew raw honey in moderation was supposed to be good for me, but I guess now I know why I’ve been feeling so great.

  3. FrenchFry on January 5, 2015 at 12:33

    Great post, guys! Well done :)

    I will need to re-read it a few times and check some links. But it confirms me in my way of eating :)

  4. janrendek on January 5, 2015 at 12:56

    Real honey is surely different category than table sugar.
    Yet, (to avoid speaking like a scientist) it’s sweet, and I still believe human animal must first eat parts of animals and vegetables and only then sweets.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 5, 2015 at 13:00

      ” still believe human animal must first eat parts of animals and vegetables and only then sweets.”

      Which minute, hour, day or week?

    • rob on January 5, 2015 at 13:44

      I think in a natural setting the sweets would take priority because they are energy. Absent energy, in a world where there is no fridge or convenience store, eventually you will wither and die.

      In a natural setting eating animal flesh is a luxury which is why people are so happy when it is available. Someone kills a wild pig, they throw a party.

      If you do some reading into some of the least developed areas of the world such as the Congo, animal flesh is hard to come by, if you have possession of a monkey’s shoulder that ripe rotting piece of tough meat will spark a bidding war.

      Edible animals are hard to come by, and if you want to succeed you better have some sugar available to you. You won’t make it as a fat-burning beast cause there ain’t no fat to be had.

    • Cat on January 5, 2015 at 15:52

      Good point, Richard :D Raising two kids on a paleo+’good carbs’ diet, I noticed their interest in sweet things was very self-regulated. I didn’t have to limit them – they ate sweet things in balance with everything else. BUT, it was not on a “eat a meal, get a treat” kind of ‘balance’. You had to evaluate their food balance over the course of a week or two – and then, it made sense.

      They’d have a day where they went to town on berries. Ate nothing else. Then a day with meat & fat cravings. A couple days with GF breads or starches. A random cycle like this was the normal pattern. Somewhere in there, there would be a day or part of a day when they ate all the sweet stuff. Looks like the paleo pattern, doesn’t it. The tribe finds ripe berries…eats them all! The tribe finds a hive, it’s a honey feast! Eating only one or two foods in combination means the body isn’t called on to make all the enzymes ever – just a few; in a compromised digestive environment, this is a big advantage as many of us with messed up gut flora know! But maybe it’s also just energy efficient – digest one or two things really well.

      I always kept allergen-free sweet treats available…but their balance overall stayed healthy. Pretty cool how the body manages that :)

      (as an aside, neither of them tolerated honey, maple syrup or molasses. fructose issues perhaps? They couldn’t eat the ‘healthier’ sweeteners! so it was organic sugar all the way in our house, go figure :P)

    • Wilbur on January 5, 2015 at 19:22

      Same Cat? Terra? I feel that I am trying to one-up you, but that’s not it at all. You are seeing what I am seeing, and that’s exciting.

      I have tried to describe this as eating within a “context”. What I eat today depends on what I ate over the past few days, and even what I might over the next few. Another reason why divulging my diet makes little sense. My diet today looks very vegetarian, but combining it with yesterday’s pork belly, sausage, liver, etc. proves it not to be.

      Once in a while, I love to go nuts on blackberries and honey. A good thing, I think.

    • Cat on January 5, 2015 at 19:39

      Hi Wilbur! Yes, same Cat :D (darned cross-platform posting confusion – vegetablepharm absolutely refused to post for me after a while unless I used my google login!)

      No no, I would make no such assumption – we’re all in this together man! I’m with you – every new data point, every comparison that confirms something or causes me to question something – it’s all equally exciting!

    • Richard Nikoley on January 6, 2015 at 08:14

      Nice, Cat.

      Damn kids. We could learn a lot from them in terms of what a wild animal does. Instead, we indoctrinate them with all of our comforting doctrines because misery loves company.

      Yea, this is the big rub. We’ve been led to believe that naturally occurring sugars are poison when the real deal is that you have to work to get them. It’s the ubiquitous availability for no effort that’s the problem, not the food.

      Ha, never thought I’d be calling unrefined sugar food.

    • Cat on January 7, 2015 at 10:25

      LOL Richard :D Well, imo, it says only good things about you that you’ve considered compelling evidence on all this new info and changed your thinking. Not too many impassioned believers in a thing ever do that! And as you often say – poison=dose.

      And oh *yes* kids! My childrearing philosophy was entirely centered around the idea that, unlike us socialized adults, kids are acting out their deep genetic firmware – and that that firmware was refined for a million years by nature into something inherently life and health promoting. Shockingly, this turns out to be true :P The only times I saw deviations from this, was where ill health had already messed up the system. The way they slept, the way they ate, the way they nursed, the amount of time they wanted skin contact/holding…they taught me more about what it means to be a healthy mammal than any amount of research – all filtered through adult biases and almost magical thinking – could possibly have done.

      The little rascals are hominid-incarnate :D

    • Richard Nikoley on January 7, 2015 at 10:37


      I just changed my blog tagline on a whim after reading your comment.

      “Caged Zoo Human Chronicles Since 2003”

      Critique and input welcome.

    • Cat on January 7, 2015 at 10:59

      aaa ha ha ha ha LOVE it! :D Maaaannn, us poor industrialized, socialized, highly educated adults in our mental zoo :P We have to do *so much work* to get OUT of that cage. Unfortunately it seems we built this cage with our thinking selves, and deconstructing it enough to escape has to be done the same way. Once you’ve got that door open a crack though – flee! Back to deep-rooted healthy mammal behaviour!

      Something I’ve been thinking on after some comment exchanges over on Tim’s recent posts, is the social aspects of radically improving gut flora. If we improve our gut bugs and as a result we become better social creatures (‘better’ in this instance being defined as ‘less reactive, less angry, more thoughtful, more able to project outcomes of our possibly impulsive reactions’)…then the implication may be that we are SUPPOSED to be this way. We are supposed to have emotional intelligence set on ‘high’ in our firmware. That’s a mindblowing thought right there.

      It is a tenet of natural parenting that children are inherently social creatures – they not only seek interaction, but they’re also programmed to learn healthy bonded social behaviour asap. Kind of like they’re primed to learn language at a rapid pace. My experience as a parent and as a parenting counselor to thousands of other parents would seem to bare this out. It actually takes a crazy amount of screwed up social conditioning to make children into adversarial anti-social messes that many of us adults become :D (and/or crashing the gut biome, a major complication)

      What does it mean that improving gut flora seem to reduce combativeness almost across the board, from reporters here? It’s awfully hard to get (or stay) worked up about trivial crap, irritating stressors stay in perspective, we choose to walk away from idiots rather than escalate. If it is true that we’re a social creature that seeks social harmony…this good-gut-bug-profile looks a *lot* more natural than a hostile, combative posture to the world.

      *douses all aggressors on the planet in potato starch*

    • Richard Nikoley on January 7, 2015 at 11:25

      “Something I’ve been thinking on after some comment exchanges over on Tim’s recent posts, is the social aspects of radically improving gut flora. If we improve our gut bugs and as a result we become better social creatures (‘better’ in this instance being defined as ‘less reactive, less angry, more thoughtful, more able to project outcomes of our possibly impulsive reactions’)…then the implication may be that we are SUPPOSED to be this way. We are supposed to have emotional intelligence set on ‘high’ in our firmware. That’s a mindblowing thought right there.”

      So let me out myself. Back over the Xmas time, with too much time on hands, I trolled Woo’s blog in 3 different characters, besides myself. It was in a post slamming me, so I thought it fair game; but I presented 3 distinct personalities, Sibyl like. The last one, a misogynist (this was right after my female character, whose mom knew me in the Philippines…with veiled implications she might be my daughter) got the alerts on, so I came clean on the whole deal (Groker, my bad-English, honest, Hispanic American honest questioning persona had already done a couple of dozen comments with no clue, though).

      After a cousin or his wife posted an unflattering candid photo of me from my dad’s Facebook, Wooo actually took a kinda sincere pity and whether or not we ever agree, it flipped a switch in me for the time being.

      I’ve actually been doing some “just the facts, ma’am” commenting over there and she’s responding likewise. It’s kinda cool, actually. I think maybe that like me, she can’t hold grudges in a very sincere way.

      All that to say that for some weird reason, I’m way less into the drama. It’s difficult to explain because I still get enraged often enough. It’s more like I can set it aside pretty quickly and the thought of making a blog out of an outrage that’s not really pronounced kinda nauseates me now.

      We’ll see how long that lasts.

    • Duck Dodgers on January 7, 2015 at 11:50

      “…the implication may be that we are SUPPOSED to be this way”

      IMO, Richard’s blog is the perfect venue for all this. The blog is titled, appropriately, “Free The Animal.” How fitting. Richard once mentioned he wanted it to be “Feed the Animal” but I think the consolation choice was especially serendipitous.

      That’s really what these series of posts are all about—allowing us to be free on many, many levels.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 7, 2015 at 11:53

      And today’s freedom is tomorrow’s cage.

    • Cat on January 7, 2015 at 12:21

      ….if the goal is flexibility, robustness – then hopefully it’s not a cage we’re all building. It’s an adaptable matrix :)

    • Phil on January 9, 2015 at 15:00

      Richard wrote: “I’m way less into the drama. It’s difficult to explain because I still get enraged often enough. It’s more like I can set it aside pretty quickly and the thought of making a blog out of an outrage that’s not really pronounced kinda nauseates me now.”

      Big thumbs up to that. I’m hoping it continues. Helpful, info-rich and drama-free articles and threads like this are my favorite stuff on your blog. I’d like to be able to recommend this blog to gentle folk.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 9, 2015 at 15:59

      “I’d like to be able to recommend this blog to gentle folk.”

      Alright, deal’s off. :)

  5. James on January 5, 2015 at 13:46

    What does “reduce iron complex” mean? I looked at the study itself and still wasn’t sure. Does that mean reducing iron levels in the blood (would that be a good thing?) ?

    • David on January 5, 2015 at 15:49

      I would think that means lowering serum ferritin levels in the blood. That would not be a good thing if you are anemic,

    • Duck Dodgers on January 6, 2015 at 08:07

      While molasses is certainly nutritious, it would easily lack the heat-unstable cofactors that are delicate (microbes, fibers, etc). So, molasses just retains the highly nutritious heat-stable compounds, which makes it a good supplement. Here’s a good article on the different kinds of molasses you can buy:

      Jane Says: It’s Sugar That’s Bad for You—Not Sugarcane and Its Byproducts

      It’s funny, but if you’re a rum aficionado, you know that there is a never-ending debate about sugarcane rums vs. molasses rums. :)

      I’d love to be able to try real sugarcane juice someday, but it’s hard to get in the US. You can grow it and juice it yourself, but it takes a good juicer and a bit of work. In some countries, they actually sell sugarcane juice in vending machines that juice the canes while-u-wait.

      But, sugarcane juice doesn’t store well, it actually deteriorates rapidly. Some companies are trying to sell purified sugarcane juice that’s been sanitized without heat, but they use thousands of pounds of pressure, and even high pressure processing (i.e. canning, high pressure pasteurizing) will change the chemical structure of compounds. We may need to petition Whole Foods to start providing a fresh sugarcane juicer in their stores. :)

      On the other hand, drinking lots of sugarcane juice may not make one thin. It’s used as a cure for “thinness” (I could use some!). Of course, obesity wasn’t a problem in the tropics back in the day.

      From: Spoilage of sugarcane juice a problem in sugarcane industry

      Nutrition aspects of sugarcane juice:

      Sugarcane juice is very useful in scanty urination. It keeps the urinary flow clear and helps kidneys to perform their functions properly. Sugar is valued highly by common people. It also contains iron and vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6, plus a high concentration of phytonutrients (including chlorophyll), antioxidants, proteins, soluble fibre and numerous other health supportive compounds. Working synergistically, these nutrients provide a supremely health-promoting food which has been studied for its role in fighting cancer, stabilizing blood sugar levels in diabetics, assisting in weight loss, reducing fevers, clearing the kidneys, preventing tooth decay, and a host of other health benefits.It is also valuable in burning micturition due to high acidity, gonorrhea, enlarged prostrate and cystitis. Sugarcane juice is a fattening food. It is thus an effective remedy for thinness. Rapid gain in weight can be achieved by its regular use (Karthikeyan and Samipillai, 2010). Sugarcane juice has been used in the Ayurveda and Unani systems of medicine in India, since time immemorial. Sugarcane extract has displayed a wide range of biological effects including immunostimulation (El-Abasy et al., 2002), anti-thrombosis activity, anti-inflammatory activity,vaccine adjuvant, modulation of acetylcholine release (Barocci et al., 1999) and anti-stress effects. Sugarcane juice has broad biological effects in raising innate immunity to infections (Lo et al., 2005).

      I doubt molasses does all that too, but obviously molasses is highly nutritious.

    • Duck Dodgers on January 5, 2015 at 17:56

      James said: “What does “reduce iron complex” mean?”

      When iron is not properly controlled within the body it is believed to cause damage by making free radicals. Reactions of iron complexes and free radicals may contribute to human health and disease. So, sugarcane juice is believed to reduce this problem.

      Here’s the full quote from the study I referenced in the post, above:

      Antioxidant activity in sugarcane juice and its protective role against radiation induced DNA damage

      “Our results, in general, indicate that the sugarcane juice of different varieties were effective in giving antioxidant protection at various levels, inhibition of radical formation (by reducing iron complexes), radical scavenging at both primary and secondary stages, and in membrane protection (as assayed by lipid peroxidation).”


      David said: “I would think that means lowering serum ferritin levels in the blood. That would not be a good thing if you are anemic”

      Not quite. Sugarcane juice is used to treat anemia!

      Antioxidant activity influenced by in vivo and in vitro mutagenesis in sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum L.) (Free Download)

      “Besides sugar production, both the roots and stems of sugarcane are used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat skin and urinary tract infections, as well as for bronchitis, heart conditions, loss of milk production, cough, anemia, constipation as well as general debility. Some reports advise its use for jaundice and low blood pressure (Kadam et al., 2007).”

      Interestingly, here’s a study showing that “fortification” with evaporated sugarcane juice increased hemoglobin and thus reduced iron deficiency anemia in preschool children.

      See: Effect of a beverage fortified with evaporated sugarcane juice on hemoglobin levels in preschool children

      No TV till you finish your sugarcane juice! :)

    • James on January 6, 2015 at 06:51

      Thanks Duck! Also – would molasses be expected to have the same health benefits as sugarcane juice?

    • Richard Nikoley on January 6, 2015 at 08:29

      I wonder if harvested sugarcane degrades as rapidly as the juice. If not, then the ideal way to get the benefits and avoid overdosing is just to chew sugar cane. We used to do that as kids.

    • Duck Dodgers on January 6, 2015 at 11:17

      “I wonder if harvested sugarcane degrades as rapidly as the juice”

      It can be preserved in the fridge or freezer for longer periods (you can even buy them frozen in some markets). But it seems to be best when consumed fresh as the stalks dry out very quickly.

      How to Store Raw Sugar Cane Stalks

      You should be able to buy raw sugarcane at some traditional Asian or Latin American markets.

    • newbie on January 10, 2015 at 03:58

      Re – “reducing iron complex” – I suspect this refers to redox reactions – iron complexes can occur in the +2(reduced) or +3 form(oxidized). This is a very complex area of cellular biochemistry, as the same agent can be both a reductant and an oxidant, and iron can do both via Fenton Reactions. In this instance, since I have not read the full paper, I’m not sure to what they are referring.
      Here’s a decent basic page –

  6. Harriet on January 5, 2015 at 15:43

    Thanks for producing such a readable overview. At one time reading biomedical papers was part of my work and no big deal, albeit a little more work when it was outside my own usual narrow realm of study. Now I’ve realised I just can’t be bothered so its great when you make it easily comprehensible.

    Now to think about some honey based sweets for after dinner.

  7. Jed on January 5, 2015 at 16:24

    I’ve been cutting way back on my honey cause I’ve been scared off by those fructose demons. But I couldn’t quit it completely. Of course all honey is not created equal, but the raw, unfiltered stuff seems safest to me. But this research now confirms that I can not only keep sweetening with honey, but I can safely up my intake and not feel guilty.

  8. Gassman on January 5, 2015 at 16:41

    Would a honey hack make sense, like maybe a couple of tablespoons of honey 4 to 6 times a day with very little else for a week or two? Honey is 60 calories per tablespoon so 12 tbsp throughout the day would be 720 cal. I imagine I could lose weight because it would be less calories/food than I normally eat. It could simulate finding a source and using ’til gone. It might be expensive but there is lots of good local honey in my area.

    • Duck Dodgers on January 5, 2015 at 18:22

      Well, the Hadza and Mbuti tribes would eat up to 80% of their calories from Honey during the rainy season. I think it only lasted about three months though. The Hadza ate 15% of their calories from honey the rest of the year.

      These tribes typically ate their honey with maggots and pollen, which provided fats/protein/vitamins/minerals. See Ichikawa 1981 for a comprehensive description and statistics on the habits of the Mbuti tribe.

      There are a few cool books that show a long list of things that honey can do all over the body. Here’s one:

      The Honey Prescription: The Amazing Power of Honey as Medicine, By Nathaniel Altman

      It really is incredible stuff. It’s almost like we evolved with honey :)

    • Phil on January 5, 2015 at 19:39

      Maggots are fly larvae, and I’m pretty sure that he means bee larvae, so the mention of “maggots” is probably due to an error in translating Japanese text into English.

  9. Marc on January 5, 2015 at 18:48

    Long shitty day at work, thanks for posting this.

    Seth Roberts (rip) had some interesting self hack honey observations to read up on.

    Thanks Richard

  10. Bret on January 5, 2015 at 19:28

    I love honey and am glad I no longer have any reason to feel guilty when eating it.

    I also love tits and caviar, and have never felt guilty about either.

    • FrenchFry on January 6, 2015 at 02:31

      I feel no guilt no matter what I eat! :D

      i don’t indulge in honey though because I am not so fond of too much sweet taste. A little on my yogurt and occasional oatmeal is just fine though. But the honey has to be raw and as local as possible. A few weeks back, I visited my brother and the honey his kids are using is absolute crap. There was a mention on the bottle (plastic at that) that some honey used in the mix were not from the EU. I showed my brother what it meant: Chinese pseudo-honey (most of it is glucose syrup or very refined products of dubious quality). You can as well eat glucose syrup, it would be much cheaper than buying this crap product pretending to be honey.

  11. newbie on January 6, 2015 at 04:52

    Re – “As Guyenet pointed out, when polyphenols enter the bloodstream, they are seen as foreign compounds—or xenobiotics—and the body does everything it can to get rid of those foreign particles. Moreover, he explains that the concentration of these particles is not great enough to reduce much oxidative stress.”
    TYPO …….should read…. not great enough to INDUCE much oxidative stress ?????

    • newbie on January 6, 2015 at 04:56

      NO, reread it a few times, REDUCE is the correct word, ie the concentration is not enough to function as an antioxidant.

    • newbie on January 6, 2015 at 05:22

      ps – awesome post, a lot of work done to arrive at the finished product! We all benefit – thank you :)

    • Richard Nikoley on January 6, 2015 at 08:16

      This post took 4 people about 2 months to put together.

    • newbie on January 6, 2015 at 18:27

      I can see that, and every sentence is a full package of information, references included. More really than one has a right to expect from a blog post – more like a research paper. All are commended for their efforts.

    • Cat on January 7, 2015 at 10:27

      Damn Richard (and participants!) Hats off to you guys!

  12. golooraam on January 6, 2015 at 07:09

    ok, now I’m waiting for the product you consume as I always buy it! Thank you tigernuts!

  13. agatha on January 6, 2015 at 08:28

    Very good post Richard.

    Honey is the best natural sedative I’ve yet found. A couple of teaspoons at bedtime gives a beautiful deep sustained night’s sleep.
    Does anyone know what is the effect of honey on teeth?

    • Duck Dodgers on January 6, 2015 at 09:35

      See also…

      The effects of manuka honey on plaque and gingivitis: a pilot study

      “Research has shown that manuka honey has superior antimicrobial properties that can be used with success in the treatment of wound healing, peptic ulcers and bacterial gastroenteritis. Studies have already shown that manuka honey with a high antibacterial activity is likely to be non-cariogenic. The current pilot study investigated whether or not manuka honey with an antibacterial activity rated UMF 15 could be used to reduce dental plaque and clinical levels of gingivitis. A chewable “honey leather” was produced for this trial. Thirty volunteers were randomly allocated to chew or suck either the manuka honey product, or sugarless chewing gum, for 10 minutes, three times a day, after each meal. Plaque and gingival bleeding scores were recorded before and after the 21-day trial period. Analysis of the results indicated that there were statistically highly significant reductions in the mean plaque scores (0.99 reduced to 0.65; p=0.001), and the percentage of bleeding sites (48% reduced to 17%; p=0.001), in the manuka honey group, with no significant changes in the control group.

      CONCLUSION: These results suggest that there may be a potential therapeutic role for manuka honey confectionery in the treatment of gingivitis and periodontal disease.”


      The potential of honey to promote oral wellness

      “Honey has been used as a medicine throughout the ages and in more recent times has been “rediscovered” by the medical profession for treatment of burns, infected wounds, and skin ulcers. The large volume of literature reporting its effectiveness indicates that honey has potential for the treatment of periodontal disease, mouth ulcers, and other problems of oral health.”

      …and a few more recent studies.

    • agatha on January 7, 2015 at 13:40

      Hooray! Thanks!

  14. Bret on January 6, 2015 at 09:17

    Those are the cave paintings low carb Paleos, like Nora, don’t want you to see.

    More like don’t want to see for themselves. It is much easier to defend a rigid position (at least in one’s own mind) if one simply ignores contrary facts.

  15. Duck Dodgers on January 7, 2015 at 14:13


    Perhaps one of the most fascinating bits of information buried in this post is the video of the Greater Honeyguide—the wild bird that works with (and talks to) humans, to help both of them locate beehives for honey.

    In a study published this past November, researchers speculate that the Honeyguide likely evolved with our early hominid ancestors—dating back to the Pliocene Epoch (5.333 million to 2.58 million years before present):

    Mutualism and manipulation in Hadza–honeyguide interactions (Nov 2014)

    We propose that in a first, commensal phase, honeyguides preyed upon the bee nests and discarded honeycomb that hominins made available through their honey hunting. In a second, mutualistic phase, honeyguides evolved the habit of actively leading hominins to bee nests. Finally, in a third phase of manipulative mutualism, hominins began to actively change the payoffs received by honeyguides – either by actively “rewarding” them or by reducing their immediate payoff. The Hadza we observed did not actively reward honeyguides, but such may occur in other contexts. Below, we provide suggestions for how these interactions initially arose, and how transitions between the three stages took place, based on theory and available evidence…

    …First-hand reports only attest to humans being led by honeyguides, and so humans or our hominin ancestors appear to be the most likely partners of proto-honeyguides, as the habit evolved. Our interpretation of available evidence leads us to suggest that the earliest associations of hominins and honeyguides probably occurred during the Pliocene, and then steadily increased in frequency as savanna habitats expanded, hominins began fashioning stone tools, and gained control over fire. Honeyguides are proposed to have initially associated with hominins as commensals, and to later have evolved the active guiding habit as Apis mellifera honey became a larger part of the hominin diet. The manipulation of honeyguides that we witnessed probably arose relatively late, after the guiding relationship had evolved between the bird and a less cognitively sophisticated hominin. The fact that the Hadza do not actively repay honeyguides but instead suppress their diets illustrates that cooperation can endure between people and other species under a robust range of conditions.

    So, we can see that researchers believe that even very early hominids forged relationships with Honeyguides well before the Paleolithic era. That’s even older than tiger nuts.

    Somebody call Loren Cordain. He and Casey missed a very big clue.

  16. Josef on January 7, 2015 at 00:08

    Well due to some sibo issues i struggle with starchy foods but honey is no Problem at all!!!

    Well it’s still mice but …

    • Duck Dodgers on January 7, 2015 at 08:30

      Ha! Too funny. There’s actually a good amount of evidence that honey can inhibit mycotoxins. I’ll quote the study, in case others missed it:

      Effect of dietary honey on intestinal microflora and toxicity of mycotoxins in mice (2006)

      “Conclusion: Substituting sugars with honey in processed food can inhibit the harmful and genotoxic effects of mycotoxins, and improve the gut microflora”

      And there’s a few other studies too:

      A Possible Role For Honey Bee Products In The Detoxification Of Mycotoxins (2012)

      Evaluation the inhibitory action of Egyptian honey from various sources on fungal and bacterial growth and aflatoxins production (2010)

      Effect of crude honey on stability of aflatoxins and growth of Aspergillus flavus. (2007)

      Bees apparently don’t like too many mycotoxins either:

      Toxicity of mycotoxins to honeybees and its amelioration by propolis (2009)

      And this study suggests that taking bee propolis can ameliorate the harmful effects of mycotoxins:

      Potential Effects of Bee Honey and Propolis Against the Toxicity of Ochratoxin A in Rats

      So, perhaps the more propolis you have in the honey, the less mycotoxins might be present. I guess this isn’t surprising. There’s a brand, MEDIHONEY, that makes honey bandages and ointments that help cure staph infections.

      Of course, honey doesn’t make things completely sterile. Not sure you’d want it to be sterile either. After all, there are likely some hormetic benefits to small amounts of mycotoxins.

      Microscopic fungi recovered from honey and their toxinogenity (2012)

      Analysis of aflatoxins, caffeine, nicotine and heavy metals in Palestinian multifloral honey from different geographic regions (2013)

      Maybe Dave will start making batches of “Bulletproof” honey with extra propolis? LOL.

      Oh darn, the one thing honey can’t do is keep you in ketosis. Oh well. Anyone think he’s willing to trade the therapeutic effects of toxic methylglyoxal for yummy honey/propolis? :)

    • Richard Nikoley on January 7, 2015 at 04:34

      Get that study to Dave Asprey so there can be honey in “Bulletproof” coffee. :)

    • FrenchFry on January 7, 2015 at 05:27

      Richard! Honey and loads of butter … mmmm, while tasty, I am not sure I would do this every morning, that would defy the whole point of BP coffee anyway ;)

      But coffee and honey only ? If you’re into sweetened coffee, my be worth it :) After all, a lot of people add a tsp of honey in tea. Why not coffee ? (not me though, my morning coffee is black and only black).

    • Richard Nikoley on January 7, 2015 at 07:13


      Yea, me too. If I have an evening coffee which is rare, I’ll sometimes take a bit of cream or H&H. Otherwise black.

      On second thought though, if honey mitigates micotoxins then you could use plain old moldy coffee beans instead of Dave’s Upgraded version. :)

      I’m just poking at him a bit. I’ve told him to his face that while his coffee is OK, you’ll have to rip my dark French or Italian roasts out of my cold dead hands.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 7, 2015 at 08:53

      Well Duck, you knew it had to come out eventually:

    • FrenchFry on January 7, 2015 at 09:27


      You know that the major antibacterial component of Manuka honey is … methylglyoxal :)

    • Duck Dodgers on January 7, 2015 at 09:50

      Yep! We covered that in Part 1! I should have said chronic methylglyoxal.

      My guess is that he’d do well on manuka honey. Though, when it’s consumed in the diet, methylglyoxal is just an intermittent stressor. It’s not chronic like we see in prolonged ketosis.

      Also, methylglyoxal is actually a product of eating the honey, not a major component of the honey itself, unless the honey sits on a shelf at very warm temperatures for awhile—which increases its methylglyoxal content.

      The origin of methylglyoxal in New Zealand manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honey

      Methylglyoxal in New Zealand manuka honey has been shown to originate from dihydroxyacetone, which is present in the nectar of manuka flowers in varying amounts. Manuka honey, which was freshly produced by bees, contained low levels of methylglyoxal and high levels of dihydroxyacetone. Storage of these honeys at 37 °C [98º F] led to a decrease in the dihydroxyacetone content and a related increase in methylglyoxal. Addition of dihydroxyacetone to clover honey followed by incubation resulted in methylglyoxal levels similar to those found in manuka honey. Nectar washed from manuka flowers contained high levels of dihydroxyacetone and no detectable methylglyoxal.

      It’s the methylglyoxal precursor—dihydroxyacetone sulphate—that’s in Manuka honey. Some people have the microbes to process it well, others don’t. I would imagine that many long-term VLCers are in the latter category, but that’s just my speculation.

      So, I suppose the difference is that VLC apparently encourages methylglyoxal to rise significantly in the blood, chronically, which is likely part of what makes it therapeutic to those who need it. Whereas just making a meal with some honey/propolis appears to ameliorate the effects of mycotoxins during and after that meal. Personally I think one approach is far tastier than the other. :)

  17. Daniel Brophy on January 7, 2015 at 06:55

    Excellent article Richard. I haven’t been on this site in over a year. You’ve just regained a reader.

  18. leo delaplante on January 7, 2015 at 07:31

    wow ,talk about connecting the dots,great work Duck Dodgers et all

  19. Chris on January 7, 2015 at 07:36

    This is good and lines up with my own and my children’s experience of eating. We never fell for any of the fads. My mom is a good, sane German cook and it shows. This information also lines up with a book I’m reading right now called “Antifragile.”

  20. Tim Maitski on January 8, 2015 at 07:43


    Thank you.

    You continue to spur me on to keep looking into so many things. I’ve seen stalks of sugarcane at my farmer’s market and always wondered who would use that and how would you go about eating it? What could possibly be good about sugarcane? Now I find out that it’s a superfood and fresh squeezed sugarcane juice is a popular drink with health benefits in many places around the world. I can’t wait until juice bars offer it.

    I always thought of honey as just sugar and should be avoided. I thought whatever extras that it had in it would be insignificant. Now I did a search and stumbled upon the Hibernation Diet where you eat a couple tablespoons of honey before bed. Found a discussion that reminded me of some of your first potato starch discussions. People taking honey at night were reporting sound sleep, vivid dreams and even some weight loss.

    Here’s a good description of the honey diet. Basically a whole foods diet with resistance training and honey at night.

    Also, my farmer’s market started carrying Tiger Nuts, the same ones that you recommend. I had bought some from another place because they were cheaper but I have to say that the peeled Tiger Nuts are so much better. I don’t even have to soak them to have them be a very great snack without tiring out my jaw like the other ones did.

    Thanks again. It’s funny. I started my nutritional journey three years ago when I read Loren Cordain’s Paleo Answer book. I blacklisted lentils, potatoes, honey along with processed foods and sugar. I was amazed how much I didn’t know about all of the antinutrients in these foods. Now I’ve come full circle on some of these things. I continue to test everything out on myself and sooner or later I will have the perfect diet that works for me. This blog, especially with the great commenters, keeps me filled with new ideas to try out. Unfortunately, I’ll probably be dead before I work it all out. But it keeps life interesting.

  21. Duck Dodgers on January 9, 2015 at 07:47

    Another goody. The Honeyguide bird most often helps humans seek out hives of the Honeybee Apis mellifera. What do we find in A. mellifera honey?

    Detection and Identification of a Novel Lactic Acid Bacterial Flora Within the Honey Stomach of the Honeybee Apis mellifera

    This investigation concerned the question of whether honeybees collect bacteria that are beneficial for humans from the flowers that contribute to formation of their honey. Bacteria originating from the types of flowers involved, and found in different anatomic parts of the bees, in larvae, and in honey of different types, were sampled during a 2-year period. 16S rRNA sequencing of isolates and clones was employed. A novel bacterial flora composed of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) of the genera Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which originated in the honey stomach of the honeybee, was discovered. It varied with the sources of nectar and the presence of other bacterial genera within the honeybee and ended up eventually in the honey. It appeared that honeybees and the novel LAB flora may have evolved in mutual dependence on one another. It was suggested that honey be considered a fermented food product because of the LAB involved in honey production. The findings are seen as having clear implications for future research in the area, as providing a better understanding the health of honeybees and of their production and storage of honey, and as having clear relevance for future honeybee and human probiotics.

    Some cultures fermented their honey, and there’s mead of course.

  22. Duck Dodgers on January 9, 2015 at 10:17

    We didn’t have room to discuss it, but add maple syrup to the list of healthy sweeteners. This was just posted today:

    The Health Benefits of Maple Syrup: Why You Should Replace Processed Sugar with Maple Syrup

    It lists many of the same themes we discussed here. Jane Karlsson points out that maple syrup is exceptionally high in Manganese. Dots are connecting.

    • Phil on January 9, 2015 at 14:54

      Indeed, Duck, humans have been eating many different tree saps and tree honeys (and also tree nectars and honeydews from tree insects) during the entire existence of humans, including even inland Eskimos. Along with milk, these are some of the rare substances in nature explicitly designed to be foods and thus are not replete with toxins to discourage consumption, as with seeds.

      It’s not that surprising, given that humans descended from tree-living primates. The earliest primates are believed to have been similar to today’s tree shrews, which are particularly fond of fermented nectar (

  23. Sean O Grady on January 10, 2015 at 11:00

    Thanks for this Richard. I have been “Paleo” for several years, but I’ve never had this fear of carbs. I eat lots of veggies with my meat and I still enjoy the honey and molasses that I grew up with (in the Smoky Mountains).
    I also want to mention that I decided a few months ago to experiment on myself with “Keto”. I was VLC for 6 weeks, usually 20% or less and my fat at 70% to 80%. At first I had a surge of new energy, but that went away. Using a blood tester, my ketones were from 2.0 to 3.5, so I know I was in ketosis. I also kept myself in a calorie deficit every day. After 6 weeks my metabolism was getting out of whack and I had put on 10 pounds. I decided that was enough and went back to a normal diet in time for Thanksgiving.

  24. jason on January 13, 2015 at 22:26

    Are these honey eating HG cultures mentioned known to be healthy?

  25. JasonC on January 14, 2015 at 12:51

    I suspect that one’s personal glucose and/or starch tolerance plays a large role. IIRC as per Denise Minger’s book humans can have between 2 and 8 copies of the AMY1 gene and they show a huge difference in starch tolerance.

    My glucose tolerance isn’t what it used to be back in 2006. At the time an OGTT showed 97 at the start, then <80 at 1 hr and <60 at 2 hrs. (reactive hypoglycemia). Alas I didn't know at the time that it often leads to poor glucose tolerance later on. These days it's all over the place. Sometimes my post-meal peak will hit 150 after some potatoes, sometimes 120 with the same meal. I'm still trying to figure out the conflating factors. I have been taking PS most days since Dec 2013; at first it made a dramatic improvement, and then 3 months later my glucose tolerance backslid. Am now trying Prescript Assist.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 14, 2015 at 13:28

      “My glucose tolerance isn’t what it used to be”

      Neither is much of anything for me, counting from my teens and 20s.

      I tossed my meter.

      You do what you like, but I’m feeling better not torturing myself by the numbers.

    • Duck Dodgers on January 14, 2015 at 13:43

      Well, low amylase and fructose malabsorption are two completely different things. And if I’m reading this study right, elevated serum amylase and lipase concentrations are higher in subjects with fructose malabsorption compared to normals.


      So, this may explain why some people do better with starch and others fruit.

      Honey is a combination of fructose and glucose. According to this study, the raw uniflower honeys, that are most sought after, at least by modern societies, tend to be very high in fructose and low in glucose—this tends to make them less likely to crystalize (for instance, raw tupelo honey never crystalizes). But uniflower honeys will have less antioxidants and diversity of compounds.

      Conversely, the raw multi-flower honeys have higher glucose concentrations, tend to crystalize more quickly, and tend to have more antioxidants and other compounds. Modern tastes suggest that this is an inferior quality.

      It’s difficult to say if one is better than the other, since they offer different things to the consumer, and each consumer is obviously different. The point being that you may have to experiment with what suits you best—high fructose/low glucose, lower fructose/higher glucose. Everyone is different and so is every honey.

  26. Wilbur on January 14, 2015 at 13:46

    I have gotten rid of (cured?) both reactive hypoglycemia and hyperinsulimia in myself. None for over a year after having it daily for about 40 years. Another guy, Stuart Mather, cured his too, but I don’t know what type(s) he had. But we both did very similar things. I can now eat anything I want, including pure sugar on an empty stomach with zero reaction.

    You’ll have to dig through the posts both here and on tatertot’s blog VegetablePharm if you are interested. Basically, it’s adding to the PS lots of different fibers that are taken in relatively small amounts individually but add up to a large total (100 g/day). I can try to help you get started if you are interested.

    My personal opinion based on my own personal experience is that the probiotics will be better when you get food for the whole gut to eat. I take a much lower amount of probiotics than when I started. If the gut is healthy, they can multiply far faster than I can eat them. If the gut is unhealthy, they’ll just die.

    • Wilbur on January 14, 2015 at 13:47

      Wrong reply button. The above is for JasonC.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 14, 2015 at 14:30

      “If the gut is unhealthy, they’ll just die.”

      If the gut is healthy, they’ll die too. One thing to think about is poop volume. If in your vast array of fibers you take however you take, you’re hitting the potty a dozen time per day to make a deposit towards your “wealth,” you might want to back off.

      For me, a TBS or two some days of the variety mix seems to be about right.

    • Wilbur on January 14, 2015 at 14:44

      I hit the potty usually once per day, sometimes twice. Never more than that. That’s a department that has also been perfect for quite a while!

  27. Kyle Davey on January 16, 2015 at 19:22

    Seems like, from my limited amount of knowledge, hormesis is similar in philosophy to homeopathy. Maybe I’m totally missing the mark here, and I’m fine with being corrected. I do know that mainstream medical writes off homeopathy as quackery and that it isn’t well-supported in the literature. Is there a link between hormesis and homeopathy?

  28. Fred on January 17, 2015 at 17:25

    Apparently honey, molasses, and maple syrup all have prebiotics. Anyone know what kind of prebiotic is in it?

    • Duck Dodgers on January 17, 2015 at 18:08

      It’s well known that raw honey has oligosaccharides.

      Molasses appears to have various oligosaccharides.

      And Maple Syrup has melibiose (a disaccharide), which implies that raffinose may be present.

      Most are capable of growing bacteria in a petri dish, but I believe only a handful of studies have been done on honey in vivo, mostly in rats. Nevertheless, I’m sure they modulate the gut flora in one way or another. Virtually any antioxidant can be a prebiotic, and will often be metabolized by gut flora.

  29. newbie on January 17, 2015 at 06:51

    Sorry Duck, of course you’re correct – I responded just reading from my email thread! Had read the hormesis post weeks ago. I’ll keep my 2 cents to myself.

  30. Kyle Davey on January 17, 2015 at 07:42

    ah, you got me. Yes, I was referring to alliteration. Hormesis, homeopathy, hormone, histamine, hot mess, homeless, hell, alleluia (h sound implied) all have obvious similarities.

    No, homeopathy as I understand is based one the idea that to treat an ailment, one should use a treatment that induces the same symptoms as induced by the sickness. Allopathy is the opposite: you have a headache? Here’s an anti-headache pill.

    In this way it seems similar to hormesis. Admittedly, I have to read these articles two or three more times to catch it all, but I understand that hormesis basically means putting “bad things” (not quoting this articles, just a general quote) on the body to make the body healthier. Which seems similar to homeopathy.

    Anyways. Just asking. I saw Ducks comment below, thanks for responding.

    • Kyle Davey on January 17, 2015 at 07:48

      ***in, not on, the body

    • Duck Dodgers on January 17, 2015 at 07:57

      Well, hormesis isn’t all that linear. Damage or stress in one component of the body, will often cause an improvement in a completely different system in the body. Guyenet covered that too. For instance, he pointed out that, “long-term consumption of high-polyphenol chocolate increases sunburn resistance in humans, implying that it induces a hormetic response in skin.” Anyway, you get the idea.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 17, 2015 at 09:08

      Homeopathy is generally a bunch of shysters selling solutions with “essences” of stuff so dilute as to be undetectable in lab tests.

      James Randi is fond of taking doses of “homeopathic” stuff at like hugely over the recommended “dose” as a demonstration. No effect is ever observed.

      Moreover, homeopathy is about “treating” specific conditions with specific solutions of “medications.”

    • Bret on January 17, 2015 at 15:46

      Kyle, here’s a linguistic breakdown, for whatever it’s worth.

      Homeopathy means something like ‘suffering the same’ (homeo and homo — the Greek homo as in homosexual, not the Latin homo meaning ‘man’ as in homo sapiens — are near synonyms). Just as the definition implies, the idea is to evoke the necessary antibodies by imposing a similar condition. Smells of charlatans to me: if the immune system was working properly, the original pathogen would evoke the necessary antibodies. If this does not occur, then it stands to reason the immune system is impaired, and inducing a similar condition simultaneously seems unlikely to work.

      Hormesis comes from the verb hormeo (not to be confused with homeo), meaning ‘to set in motion.’ Seems like a decent name, being that the notion is to spur on the body’s defense mechanisms by exposing it to mild doses of a toxin or pathogen it has not experienced in a while.

      The latter sounds much more plausible than chasing antibodies after you already have a problem on your hands. Sort of similar ideas, but one is proactive and the other is reactive in a sense.

      I am doing my best to deny the obvious conclusion that the four years of Latin and three years of ancient Greek I willingly took in college were a waste of my time and money, as well as the lottery players’ (scholarship program funded by impoverished gambling addicts — God bless America, and the South). I’ll take any victory I can get to that effect, however minute and insignificant. :-)

  31. Honey questions | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page on January 29, 2015 at 12:01

    […] and this article was quoted. It's very interesting and may help to allay any fears you have: Hormesis Files: Who's Afraid of Unrefined Sugar? | Free The Animal Reply With […]

  32. Susan on February 7, 2015 at 16:01

    Well I was very afraid of unrefined sugar, and even potatoes… and it’s about time I said THANK YOU all because what I’m learning here is making a big difference to my life. I found this blog the day I decided I wanted to eat potatoes again, and googled to find something good and even excellent about them.
    As a result, for the last 5 months I’ve been experimenting happily with potato starch, arrowroot, tapioca starch, green bananas, plantains, lentils and cooled/heated potatoes (all things I can easily afford). A day or two after I started, I had no more problems with BM’s (they had become scary – hard and practically impassable). I was so happy when the first nice (normal) one came and they’ve been that way ever since. So it’s not an experiment anymore, it’s part of my life, although I’m looking forward to adding the probiotics to my smoothies as well.
    I haven’t read ‘Primal Body, Primal Mind’ but the thinking had filtered through to me, hence no potatoes, grains, fruit or honey… I get really fed up with blanket statements that feed on fears but don’t say why… hence I keep wanting to learn more.
    So thanks for the wonderful research, and also to Tim (above) who mentioned honey and the hibernation diet. I’ve been almost as excited to have a good night’s sleep as seeing a big soft poo in the toilet… the book explains that if you feed your brain some food (glucose) before bed, it means no stress hormones through the night, and a peaceful sleep. It’s working for me, and I’ve stopped having nightmares all the time. I had a theory I must be overheating and it was my brain trying to wake me up… no it was my brain hungry.
    The honey has also stopped my legs from feeling restless/cramping during the night. It’s great although I don’t understand why, I thought I had a magnesium or sodium deficiency.
    I liked the video on collecting tree honey, and noticed eating the whole honeycomb is also good. I’ve also seen something called bee bread (fermented honey, pollen & bee saliva), and plan to try it. Also I found raw coconut sap sugar today, but restrained myself from buying it (for now – saving for probiotics).
    I’m also keen to try tiger nuts. I mentioned them to a friend and he just said ‘Tiger Nuts? Where can I get some!’ : )
    I also once worked with a lady from Nigeria, and she said they used to chew on fresh sugar cane all the time as children, and I don’t think they had toothbrushes. She said she didn’t have any problems with her teeth until she came to London. After that I tried fresh sugar cane juice in Malaysia, and it was delicious. It was a pale green colour. I was just sorry I couldn’t take it on the plane!
    Anyway thanks again for reuniting me with potatoes, fruit and honey, dispelling some fears I didn’t need to have, and for the happy times I’m having thanks to my ‘evil’ smoothie and ‘bad’ spoonful of honey : )

  33. Jess on February 23, 2015 at 13:20

    Looking to get one of these for the backyard:

    Could always do with more bees around the place. Not to mention access to (raw) honey that I only have to deal with one animal species to acquire.

  34. Charles Nankin on September 26, 2015 at 05:54

    living here in Brazil, I got to know rapadura, which I believe is called panela in spanish-speaking america. if you try rapadura, you will see thru LCHF in the twinkle of an insulin spike.

    and now there is an amazing new horizon which opens up after decades of LFHC and LCHF and the refined substitutes of sweet and fat: mixing things like rapadura, milk, cream, nuts, coconut, coconut milk, cacau, eggs, cheese, honey, etc etc :) the taste combination of sweet and fat is definitely better than the sum of its parts!!!

    all the best,

  35. Charles Nankin on September 26, 2015 at 06:32

    ok. potatoes improve insulin sensitivity?! whaaah!!!

    this is like sledgehammer stuff here yeehaa.

    oh how I was duped. give me food. any food. if it existed 4500 years ago, then bring it on. i will decide the rest. i have taste buds. i have a neuron connection between my gut and my brain. i will mix and match. i will stop a particular food when I FEEL I have had enough – usually when my taste and satisfaction diminishes while I am eating it.

    and now to consider: potatoes and butter. pretty close to heaven and much much MUCH better than the sum of their parts!

    bring on those middle eastern style setups with a large variety of different foods on separate plates. i will pick and choose depending on what my body needs on that day at that meal, communicated to me by taste and other signals. hehe

  36. Josh Finlay on March 31, 2016 at 00:53

    like you, I’m not a massive fan of kruse but you have to appreciate his epi-paleo diet principle that, no, our ancestors were not gorging on meat daily, but might well have been eating lots and lots of easily foraged seafood and sea veg. Eminent evolutionary scientist Michael Crawford appears to agree with this assessment.

  37. Benjamin David Steele on September 25, 2020 at 05:33

    Most traditional people, specifically hunter-gatherers, would eat such things as honey as an occasional and seasonal food. They would often eat it in large quantities all at once and then go for days, weeks, or months without having more of it. They didn’t have it stored away in bear-shaped jars to eat multiple times a day for every day all year long. Plus, they ate such foods as part of a calorie-restricted or even poverty diet based on some combination of typically small portion meals, occasional feasting, OMAD, intermittent fasting, and extended fasting. I don’t imagine many modern Westerners follow or would be willing to follow such a restrictive dietary lifestyle.

    Consider Loren Cordain’s 2000 publication, “Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets.” His study involved 229 hunter-gatherer tribes still eating a traditional diet (entirely from gathering, hunting, and fishing). For the majority of these hunter-gatherers, the average carb intake was 22-40%, for protein 19-35%, and for fat 28-58%. Compare that to many nutritional studies that define “low-carb” as high as 40% carbs. Low-quality carbs consist of more than 40% of the American diet and that doesn’t even include all of the supposedly health carbs, from whole grain bread to fruit. That cultural comparison shows such a drastic difference.

    Obviously, the human species has always eaten some carbohydrates when the opportunity arose, but there usually were immense natural constraints on this. Most hunter-gatherers did not have year-round access to abundant sources of honey, fruit, and root vegetables. Honey was available when it could be found, usually only in certain seasons. The same for fruit which often has very short seasons with wild fruit being small and low in sugar. Native root vegetables such as in Africa are hard to dig up, prepare and eat; and largely consist of indigestible fiber — not a desirable food.

    About the Blue Zones, even the slightest amount of research makes many of the claims fall apart. Many have visited Blue Zones that supposedly ate plant-based diets and instead found people eating large amounts of meat and animal fat. For other Blue Zones like Okinawa, Greece and Italy, historical records show that the diet vastly changed from before to after the world war era. The old people being studied were eating a far different diet earlier in their lives. That was demonstrated by the Okinawans who fed most of their sweet potatoes to the pigs they ate before the war and, after the pigs were killed during the war, they came to eat the potatoes for themselves.

    Context is everything. Without context, no meaningful analysis and conclusion can be made.

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