Grains: Wheat, Superfoods, Food Enrichment, and The Dietary Theory of Everything

[This was originally published as Iron, Food Enrichment and The Theory of Everything. Another series kicked off as How Wheat Went From Superfood To Liability has been incorporated as closely related. Now the task is to revampt the whole combined thing as well as the other posts in the combined series.]

This is the promised greatly expanded post that we touched on here: How Food Enrichment Made Us Fat, Diabetic, and Chronically Diseased. The Duck Dodgers team has been working on this for months and the purpose of that earlier post was to kinda crowdsource the idea, see if there were serious objections we weren’t aware of prior to putting it all out there more formally. In addition to the home team, we’ve also run this by a number of others and received lots of valuable feedback.

Keep in mind that we’re floating a hypothesis here, not claiming causality. And we think it’s solid, as it appears to work in every single obesity / disease “paradox” worldwide we can think of. Contrast that, say, to a hypothesis were dietary carbohydrate is per se behind the obesity epidemic. Well, right off the bat you have to contend with The Blue Zones where longevity is highest, and every single one consumes a carbohydrate rich diet…

Iron is an essential element for human beings—you can’t live without it. However, too much of it can be harmful. The US, UK and Canada are the only developed nations to have mandated iron enrichment of white flour, white breads, pastas, rice and cereals—no other developed countries do it. And as we’ll suggest, the policy has potentially been disastrous for our health, contributing to most of the major diseases of civilization including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Some countries, like Denmark, have even banned the imports of fortified foods. In fact, flour fortification is a practice that is almost exclusively practiced by third world countries

The reasoning behind iron fortification stems from the idea that some women are believed to have iron deficiency due to menstruation. Besides the fact that skewing the micronutrients of the food supply for a fraction of a population can be counterproductive for the majority, it turns out that the entire concept of women becoming anemic due to normal menstruation was recently disproved. There is no anemia epidemic due to menstruation. And even if there was, it would not warrant a modification to an entire nation’s diet.

In developed nations, food enrichment is only intended to help a tiny minority of the population. For instance, in 1998 a significant level of synthetic folic acid was added to enriched foods solely to target pregnant women, in order to reduce the incidence of a very rare birth defect (affecting 0.035% of US births prior to fortification). The program is believed to be harmful to far more people than the policy is designed to help. That is the logic of food fortification. Help a few people and ignore any greater collateral damage.

Indeed, we are the lab rats.

The countries that fortify their foods with iron are the very countries that have the most problems with their wheat and carbohydrates. The demand for “gluten free” has skyrocketed in these iron-fortified nations. Mysteriously, other developed, non-fortified countries don’t seem to have problems with their carbohydrates.

Gluten sensitivity was rare in the US before 1950, when widespread fortification was instituted. Sweden and Finland had voluntary fortification up until 1995, and Denmark fortified until 1987, when they banned it due to health concerns and low bioavailability. After de-fortification, iron deficiency anemia was virtually unchanged in those countries, proving that the iron fortification actually did very little to prevent anemia.

Coincidentally Sweden’s gluten sensitivity epidemic ended in 1996, within one year after they stopped fortifying flour. The Netherlands doesn’t fortify their flour and has virtually no issues with gluten. France does not fortify their flour and gluten sensitivity is very rare there.

The French are technically “undernourished” by modern standards; they eat roughly 40% more wheat than Americans do—a tradition dating to at least the 1800s—they’re “addicted” to antibiotics, have no interest in exercise, and yet they have 1/3 the obesity.

While iron is an essential trace element, it’s not a safe one. Iron easily oxidizes—it rusts—and excess iron has been strongly linked to virtually every major chronic disease that has plagued developed nations over the 20th century: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, AMD, arthritis, chronic liver diseases, and endocrine disorders. Even heart disease markers, such as homocysteine, may simply be an indirect marker of iron stores.

Iron Fortification Adversely Disrupts Gut Flora

Recently, concerns have been raised about the elemental iron added to our food. And with good reason. The iron added to our foods is often just metal filings—you can even pull your cereal with a magnet. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that iron fortification has been shown to adversely affect the gut microbiome for people in developing nations. [1][2][3]

Iron can affect the structural and immunological integrity of the gastrointestinal tract and its microflora, potentially promoting invasion by pathogenic enteric bacteria, as well as increasing gastrointestinal inflammation. [4] For developing countries, iron supplementation resulted in higher incidence of or higher mortality from infections.

When iron is added to food, they have to add a significant amount because only a fraction of fortification iron is absorbed and most of the given dose passes into the lower small intestine and colon. Iron negatively affect crypts in the colon, increases free radical production in fecal material, and increases lipid peroxidation in the mucosa of the large intestine. Phytic acid, which inhibits iron absorption, suppresses colonic cancer, which has been linked to iron.

What we are seeing is a double whammy effect. Manufacturers will add vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or HFCS to their products to enhance absorption of the poorly absorbed fortified iron. Should you happen to absorb that iron, it has the potential to promote iron overload. Whatever isn’t absorbed passes directly to the colon and causes damage and disrupts the microbiota, ushering in a host of downstream health consequences. In the big picture, taking account of what we’ve learned about the gut microbiome, this edge of the sword may be making the deepest cut in the fortification scheme.

While iron in real foods is certainly helpful for preventing anemia, it’s been speculated that the damage caused by inorganic iron supplements may even be one of the mechanisms that reverses anemia. Ray Peat explains:

Ray Peat wrote:

Q: Don’t you need iron supplements if you are anemic?

In general, no. Many doctors think of anemia as necessarily indicating an iron deficiency, but that isn’t correct. 100 years ago, it was customary to prescribe arsenic for anemia, and it worked to stimulate the formation of more red blood cells. The fact that arsenic, or iron, or other toxic material stimulates the formation of red blood cells doesn’t indicate a “deficiency” of the toxin, but simply indicates that the body responds to a variety of harmful factors by speeding its production of blood cells. Even radiation can have this kind of stimulating effect, because growth is a natural reaction to injury.

Inorganic vs. Organic

Inorganic metals found in supplements and drinking water are different than the organic metals found in food—something researchers even noticed and heavily debated over 100 years ago. Although there is much confusion and disagreement about inorganic copper, high levels of inorganic iron and copper found in drinking water in Finland and Sweden appear to promote health issues without much obesity. Hereditary hemochromatosis is more common in Scandinavia—and both Sweden and Finland have among the highest incidences of diabetes and Alzheimer’s in the world—but their populations are rather thin.

However, one fascinating hypothesis points out that while regions with very high incidences of metal-related diseases, such as Scandinavia and Sardinia having high levels of inorganic iron in the water supply, they also happen to have high airborne levels of iron from finely glaciated soils or soil heaps from mines. Some iron-related diseases (MS, and diabetes, for instance) are known to be more prevalent at high latitudes, indicating a connection to Vitamin D. However, the connection to Vitamin D may be false. Metal particles in the soil are finer at high latitudes, due to glaciation and rock formations are easily eroded and carried by the wind, making them easily inhaled. Sardinia’s high incidence of metal-related diseases is explained by the airborne metals from the many abandoned mines and soil heaps on the island. Therefore, the metal-related diseases in those paradoxical regions may actually be from inhaled metals that are bypassing the liver and entering circulation in a free state, where they can more easily cause damage.

New Kinds of Anemia

It was thought until quite recently that all people with anemia simply needed to eat more meat or take iron supplements (iron-deficiency anemia). Some athletes can be susceptible to this kind of anemia. Although, iron deficiency can often be caused by a copper deficiency, since copper is necessary for the absorption of iron.

However, it is now known that anemia can also manifest as anemia of chronic disease where the body intentionally stops absorbing iron and stores it in tissues in order to keep iron levels low in the bloodstream—to avoid feeding iron-loving pathogens and cancer. It can be counterproductive to give iron to someone who has anemia of chronic disease.

Iron Promotes Metabolic Issues

It’s been well known for a few decades that elevated iron levels causes metabolic derangements. That’s not controversial. Chris Kresser’s 2012 AHS presentation explains the connections well. There is also evidence that iron-fortified flour increases inflammation and is not safe for non-anemic men. Yet, the FDA mandates that all white wheat flour in the US is enriched with iron. People have the ability to choose low-sodium foods, but should any American need a low-iron pizza, tough luck.

Excess iron is known to worsen chronic illness. Obesity [5][6][7][8][9][10] and Alzheimer’s [11][12][13] have been linked to iron overload. Obesity and insulin resistance has been linked to an iron-enriched diet, while bloodletting improves symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Obese people have iron in the hypothalamus of their brains (possibly increasing their appetite), in their urine, in their adipose tissue, they do not absorb iron well, and iron blood levels can be low in some cases. Researchers believe their bodies may very likely be using adipose intentionally to keep excess iron out of the blood (i.e. anemia of chronic disease). As those studies point out, a peptide hormone named hepcidin is used to regulate the iron status of the blood and cells throughout the body. Both adipocytes and neurons can use hepcidin, explaining why iron can accumulate in these tissues.

Here is a diagram of the mechanisms between iron and obesity that are currently being investigated by researchers:

iron obesity

Surprisingly, what virtually all researchers miss is that the developed countries that fortify their food with iron are the countries that tend to have the most obesity, metabolic issues and chronic diseases. (One recent study connected fortification trends to obesity, but overlooked iron as the culprit). This pattern is particularly apparent as iron-fortified nations consume more iron-rich meats.

The island nation of Nauru—the most obese nation on Earth—is perhaps a good example of a diet that promotes iron overload. They have an extremely high meat intake and they import iron-fortified foods from trading partners.

South Africa, a developing country that has a low meat intake but fortifies their flour with iron, has a terrible obesity problem—while their neighboring countries that do not fortify seem to be immune from such issues.

US Iron Intake Has Skyrocketed Since WWII

Widespread iron-fortification of white flour began in WWII. The country had just come out of the Great Depression and micronutrient deficiencies and hookworm infestations were common, while meat was rationed. The FDA began iron enrichment levels at 8-12.5 mg of iron per pound of flour.

By 1944, the amount of iron in the food supply was 17% higher than it would have been without enrichment. Over the next few years US states began passing laws to expand enrichment to pasta rice and corn grits. By 1950, advertisements from the Wheat Flour Institute and the AMA were appearing in LIFE magazine telling people to eat enriched white bread when dieting to lose weight. In 1954, LIFE published it’s first major article on obesity titled, “The Plague of Overweight.” By this time, gluten had already started to become an issue for Americans.

Despite the fact that Americans were eating more iron-rich muscle meat after the war, the FDA increased iron levels to 13-16mg of iron per pound of white flour.

Since anemia in pre-menopausal women still hadn’t been eliminated during the 1960s, researchers began proposing up to as much as 60mg of iron per pound of white flour.

In the 1970s the FDA attempted to raise enrichment to a whopping 40mg of iron per pound of flour, but scientists became enraged and accused the FDA of faking an anemia epidemic with letters published in JAMA claiming that Senator George McGovern and the FDA were pushing a dangerous iron-fortification policy.

The FDA’s dramatic iron increase was rescinded in 1977 and then the FDA raised iron to 20mg per pound of flour in 1983, where it stands today, and added iron was increased in other foods as well (rice, corn grits, pasta).

Within 10 years, “iron deficiency anemia” was still prevalent among premenopausal women and we magically got the latest obesity epidemic, plus childhood obesity.

In the 1990s, a number of iron toxicologists were warning that the FDA’s increases could cause serious harm to the general population.

The following chart, showing skyrocketing levels of iron in the US food supply, is from a USDA report:

iron intake2

That’s a huge increase in oxidizable iron in the food supply—a burden that very few developed nations have to deal with. The composition of that enormous increase in iron intake came from mandated increases fortification and increased meat consumption. Here’s what that same USDA report showed for iron intakes between 1909 and 2000.

iron 1909 2000

And, mind you, this is with meat intakes increasing like this:

meat trends

Childhood Obesity

Vitamin C, fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) all significantly increase iron absorption, and are specifically added to fortified food products in order to increase iron absorption.

Why do US schoolchildren become obese with excessive fruit juice consumption, but German preschool children do not become obese with excessive fruit juice consumption? In the US, the schoolchildren eat their lunches with iron-fortified flour—the Vitamin C, fructose and HFCS all enhance the absorption of iron and thereby promote metabolic issues. In Germany they don’t fortify their food with iron, so the fructose, HFCS and Vitamin C have no such effect. This might suggest why diabetes is higher in populations with HFCS.

We blame our children for being lazy and sedentary, but the fact of the matter is that children born after 1983 are being exposed to unprecedented levels of iron in a developed nation that also has access to plenty of meats, vitamin C, fructose and HFCS. Even the high levels of iron in baby formula appears to have negative consequences on development.

It has been hypothesized that the extreme levels of iron in baby formula, combined with the high levels of iron in the food supply may be a direct cause to the rise in autism. Autistic children have decreased levels of major antioxidant serum proteins, namely transferrin (iron-binding protein) and ceruloplasmin (copper-binding protein), which lead to increased oxidative stress. Incidentally, the French, who do not fortify flour, have very low incidence of autism and ADHD.

The Role of Exercise and Sweating

Sweating excretes iron, which may explain the traditions of saunas and sweat lodges in some cultures that ate significant amounts of meat. It also explains why athletes have greater iron demands. Exercise can reduce iron loads, and therefore may be a key reason why it improves metabolic function. Perhaps this is why iron-rich liver was often reserved for highly active hunters and warriors.

Get Iron From Real Foods

Jane Karlsson, PhD, Oxford has studied the interaction of iron and other micronutrients for over 30 years and says that there’s good evidence that iron is only toxic when it is not opposed by manganese and copper, which are necessary for proper metabolic signaling in both plants and animals. Sugary plants require manganese and without it, their leaves turn yellow and their growth is stunted.

In foods found in nature, iron is often opposed by the beneficial organic versions of manganese, copper and zinc. The strikingly similar metabolic cycles across various species require those micronutrients to help maintain iron homeostasis and promote the formation of MnSOD in our mitochondria—one of the human body’s most powerful antioxidants against oxidative damage from iron.

Copper is needed for iron efflux. Iron can’t get in or out of cells without copper. For instance, in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, patients have iron overload in the liver because of copper deficiency. Phytates can enhance the bioavailability of copper from food.

Therefore, when you eat real foods, they will virtually always have a natural balance of opposing organic micronutrients (the foods themselves would not thrive without this balance), which protect against iron overload and promote weight loss. Manganese and iron compete against each other for absorption, so any food that is very high in manganese (hemp seeds, all whole grains, tree saps/syrups, green tripe) will help to properly manage iron.

Many people unfairly fear manganese. While inhaled manganese (which bypasses the liver) can cause manganism, the manganese ingested from food has no known toxicity and is regarded as one of the least toxic trace elements. Unlike iron, manganese is easily excreted.

The word manganese is thought to derive from an ancient word for magic. Magic relates to magnetism, and the biologically relevant form Mn2+ is extremely magnetic, even more so than most forms of iron. The magnetic field measured outside the human head may be due in part to Mn2+ in glutamine synthetase, the enzyme which detoxifies glutamate and ammonia. Yes, manganese detoxifies ammonia.

To put this in perspective, Jeanne Calment—the oldest person to ever live—consumed 2 pounds of chocolate per week, which would have provided her with roughly 125%DV of manganese and a good amount of easily inhibited non-heme iron. She lived until 122. Sarah Knauss, the oldest American to ever live and only outlived by Calment, was said to eat lots of milk chocolate turtles and potato chips.

Bivalves like clams, mussels and oysters might appear to be high in iron, but their iron is poorly absorbed and easily inhibited. The Inuit risk their lives to harvest mussels that are high sources of manganese, and they eat intestines and stomach contents, which are also extremely high in manganese. They drink teas and eat plants with iron-binding toxins and anti-nutrients.

Therefore, one should not fear iron in real foods. Simply understand that if one eats iron, they must also eat real sources of micronutrients, including manganese and copper. This is very easy to do when one’s food is not fortified and a wide variety of foods are consumed.

Balance From Whole Grains and Real Foods

The Hunza thrived on a diet that included whole wheat and other whole grains, dairy, nuts, fruits, vegetables and limited meat consumption. It was nearly a century ago that Sir Robert McCarrison observed these Hunzas and was their doctor for 7 years. McCarrison described them as, “the finest races of India, so far as physique is concerned, and amongst the finest races of mankind.”

Inspired by the Hunzas, McCarrison replicated their diet on 1,189 rats, giving them chapattis (flat bread, made of wholemeal wheat flour) lightly smeared with fresh butter, sprouted pulse, fresh raw carrots and fresh raw cabbage ad libitum, unboiled whole milk, a small ration of meat with bones once a week, and an abundance of water, both for drinking and washing. McCarrison described the results in the first of two lectures given at the College of Surgeons in 1931:

From: The Wheel of Health, By Guy Wrench

“During the past two and a quarter years there has been no case of illness in this ‘universe’ of albino rats, no death from natural causes in the adult stock, and, but for a few accidental deaths, no infantile mortality. Both clinically and at post-mortem examination this stock has been shown to be remarkably free from disease. It may be that some of them have cryptic disease of one kind or another, but, if so, I have failed to find either clinical or macroscopical evidence of it.”

McCarrison and others performed similar studies on rats with both white and enriched flours, each one ending with disastrous results. Rats cannot live on enriched flours. They die and become chronically ill.

Not only is whole wheat consumption associated with improved health and weight management, but it’s possible to lose considerable amounts of weight eating whole grains, fibers and iron chelating plants. Those micronutrients and anti-nutrients in whole grains inhibit iron and are protective against cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Phytates, which are commonly thought of as “anti-nutrients,” have also been shown to reduce calcification of the arteries. Phytic acid chelates excess iron from the body. In fact, one common way to reduce elevated ferritin levels is to consume phytic acid supplements (IP-6). Or one could just eat legumes, seeds and whole grains. Now we can see why cultures that ate lots of meat would have benefited from anti-nutrients in their diets.

All whole grains are extremely high in manganese and other micronutrients—they promote iron homeostasis. Even better, whole grain flours are not fortified so long as they are not blended with enriched white flours. Typically white organic flours are not fortified. And some bakeries and mills have even begun offering freshly-ground whole grain breads and flours, which are very good sources of micronutrients, enzymes and iron-scavenging antinutrients.

Disclaimer: Our gut flora are responsible for metabolizing and detoxifying much of our gluten, so whole wheat may be a challenge for those with damaged microflora. Some have had great success by grinding their own fresh flour with a home flour mill.

Whole grains are an excellent source of phenols such as benzoic/cinnamic acids, anthocyanidins, quinones, flavanols, flavanones, chalcones, tocopherols, and amino phenols, that all have antioxidant activities against the damage from iron. These phytochemicals are actually believed to be the major health-promoting factors of grains. Therefore, simply choosing one’s food using RDA targets from the 1950s is a rather antiquated and oversimplified approach in the context of complex phytochemicals that help maintain iron homeostasis.

For instance, oats have strong anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties. A good deal of the health-promoting effects of oats are believed to largely be from their unique antioxidants, like avenanthramide and high levels of tocopherols.

The French Paradox

While people often cite the French Paradox as a reason to indulge in a high fat diet, the other side of the French Paradox is that the French eat roughly 40% more wheat than Americans do. Their tradition of very high wheat consumption dates back to at least the 1800s. The French are also “addicted” to antibiotics, they have no interest in exercise, are technically “undernourished”, yet they have 1/3 the obesity, very low incidence of chronic diseases like CHD and diabetes, and they have very few problems metabolizing gluten. Finding gluten-free options in France is no easy task.

A popular lunch spot in Paris looks like this:

paris lunchtime

The French do not obsess about their health—they only obsess about the taste of their food. Up until now, there has been no explanation for why the French have the ability to stay healthy on a Western diet rich in meats, baguettes and pastries. It’s a mystery. Even Dr. Davis has no idea how to explain why French “modern” wheat is so tolerable. Meanwhile many Americans cannot touch the same wheat without triggering inflammation and weight gain.

The French do not frequent “health food” stores. They eat whatever tastes good and they follow traditional pairings and courses. Their tastebuds have figured it all out.

What nobody seems to have noticed is that the French diet is engineered to inhibit the absorption of iron and scavenge its free radicals. Tea, coffee, cocoa, wine phenolics/tannins, eggs, chocolate and cheese are all well known to inhibit non-heme iron. The fondue, cream sauce or cheese course at the end of the meal inhibits heme and non-heme iron. Various forms of cooking transform some heme iron into non-heme iron. Wine does contain iron, and alcohol does improve iron absorption, however red wine phenolics reduce lipid peroxidation, and can inhibit iron absorption, especially when the alcohol is cooked off. The darker and higher the heme content of the meat, the more tannins and phenolics we crave to pair them with. Hollandaise sauce, red wine reductions, chocolate, cheese, spices like rosemary—they all inhibit iron absorption. It’s not intentional—tastebuds crave these kinds of food combinations.

Secondly, the French do not fortify their foods. Their baking standards require that their white flour be pure. As much as a chocolate croissant might seem devoid of nutrition, chocolate makes up for the loss of nutrients in refined flour—trading wheat bran for a cacao paste.

Chocolate is an excellent source of iron-scavening phytates, polyphenols, and high in micronutrients like manganese and copper. French children traditionally ate bread or croissants dipped in bowls of hot chocolate for breakfast, and pain au chocolat as weekend treats.

The French do have high incidence of colon cancer, which may be an indication that their relatively low fiber diet, addiction to antibiotics, or both, may not be ideal.

Iron Inhibitors and Chelators = Anti-Alzheimer’s and Anti-Diabetic Compounds

Are you now not at all surprised that chocolate is anti-diabetic and anti-Alzheimer’s? In fact, all of their iron-inhibiting compounds (tea, coffee, eggs, wine phenolics/tannins, cocoa and cheese) are known to be anti-diabetic and anti-Alzheimer’s. Here take a look…

Foods that are anti-Alzheimer’s include: phytates, cocoa, tea, tannins and cheese.

Foods that are anti-diabetic include phytates, cocoa, tea, tannins and dairy.

This would not seem to be an accident.

Curcumin, honey, hempseed oil, white tea and green tea have similar anti-diabetic and health-promoting effects. Why? Among other things, they inhibit, chelate and deactivate free iron. Virtually every superfood seems to be high in micronutrients, such as manganese, and has the ability to chelate or inhibit excess iron.

The Masai Inhibit Iron

The Masai of Tanzania eat lots of iron-rich meat and blood with very little chronic disease. How do they do it? Their tastebuds are similar to the French. Instead of pairing iron-rich meats with red wine, they always consume meat soups with Acacia Nilotica, which has very high levels of tannins, saponins, and manganese. Tannins bind preferentially to iron, but not copper or zinc and they also inhibit free-radicals from iron.

The Masai consume honey and a liter of dairy per day—much of it fermented—even though most Masai are lactose intolerant. A serving of dairy inhibits both heme and non-heme iron found in cooked meat. Their considerable dairy intake may explain why blood was traditionally supplemented to their milk, at least occasionally, and not just amongst the Maasai, but Asiatic Turks, Tibetans and ancient Celts are also known for consuming blood with dairy.

The main iron-inhibiting factor of dairy is believed to be calcium, which is also found in high quantities in the health-promoting hard drinking waters of Longevity Villages, Blue Zones and the Ethiopian Great Rift Valley. Just two cups of some mineral waters has enough calcium to inhibit heme and non-heme iron absorption for a single meal.

Fiber, Phytochemicals and Anti-Nutrients Bind Iron

Fibers and anti-nutrients in foods, like phytates, phenols and oxalates, protect against iron overload. Only about 1% of iron from legumes is normally absorbed. And only 1% to 2% of iron in spinach is absorbed because of its oxalates. Depending on its preparation and food pairings, oxalates in spinach have even been known to chelate, or remove iron from the body. This may explain why we briefly persorb these compounds into our blood and they help protect against the same chronic diseases linked to iron overload.

Red wine contains phytates (from grape seeds), saponins, and tannins. Phytates, tannins, saponins, anthocyanins, fiber, anti-nutrients are chelators and inhibitors of iron. And some fibers bind well to iron and helps inhibit iron absorption. The phenolics in fruits such as apples, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries all have the ability to inhibit iron absorption.

Foods to Enhance Iron Absorption

The other side of this coin is that some cultures had limited access to meat and therefore did whatever they could to enhance their iron absorption. Vitamin C is considered to be the most powerful enhancer of iron absorption. Alcohol, beta-carotene and sugar enhance iron absorption as well. Meat and fat can enhance the absorption of iron from phytate-rich foods. So, it makes sense that the low meat cultures did whatever they could to avoid anti-nutrients (soaking, fermentation, cooking, etc.). Even spices have the power to enhance or inhibit iron when paired with certain foods. No doubt our tastebuds are in tune with these combinations.

Why do Jews avoid milk with their meat? Ancient Israelites ate a lot of dairy and grains, but rarely ate meat. They took steps to reduce anti-nutrients and they likely avoided dairy with meat to enhance their iron absorption. Today, Israelis have much more access to meat but still avoid mixing it with dairy. This may explain the Israeli paradox of high levels of CHD and colon cancer despite eating from what should be a healthy Mediterranean diet?

Cultures that didn’t have much meat enjoyed pairing iron absorption-enhancing fructose and Vitamin-C together with their iron-rich foods—like beans and salsa. Vegans, who avoid dairy and eggs—which inhibit iron—are known to have higher iron levels than their vegetarian counterparts.

The Tastebuds Figure It Out

These dietary choices were likely not made for health reasons. They were made because of what was available, and the food tasted better to them with specific pairings. One’s tastebuds naturally gravitate towards foods that promote iron homeostasis. It’s not something people have ever needed to think much about. The French do not obsess about their health—they mainly care about eating good food. The taste is paramount to all else.

Dietary Paradoxes Explained

This phenomenon of promoting iron homeostasis is largely overlooked by researchers and nutritionists. However, iron may in fact be the very key to unlocking most unexplained dietary paradoxes. Here are some paradoxes that iron homeostasis seems to explain.

Why did heart disease deaths rise in Tunisia after their diet shifted from wheat to meat while smoking and inactivity declined? The diet likely promoted iron overload.

Why does Northern Ireland have a CHD death rate 4 times higher than Toulouse, France, despite almost identical coronary risk factors? Northern Ireland fortifies its foods, but France does not.

Why did the Pima Indians stay healthy for millennia eating beans, squash and maize but quicly became obese and diabetic from government-supplied flourThe government gave them white flour fortified with iron.

Why is Nauru one of the most obese nations on Earth? They eat excessive quantities of meat and rely on fortified foods imported from their trading partners. Their entire lifestyle promotes iron overload.

Why is obesity a major problem in New Zealand? They eat excessive quantities of meat and they have very low dairy consumption. Dairy is one of the only inhibitors of heme iron found in meat. Their diet promotes iron overload.

Finland, Sweden and Sardinia are lean, but have very high incidence of diabetes and Finland has the highest levels of Alzheimer’s in the world, with very high levels of CHD. How is this possible? Scandinavian populations have high incidence of hereditary hemochromatosis and high levels of stored iron have been linked to heart attacks in Finnish men. High iron and copper in Scandinavian drinking water has been linked to heart attacks. However, one hypothesis speculates that airborne metals from finely ground high-latitude glaciation and mining soil heaps are easily inhaled and bypass the liver, allowing them to directly harm organs. This would appear to explain these paradoxes.

Why are the Japanese, who eat lots of fish, slender with such great longevity? Fish is a low-iron meat and they balance their iron intake with sources of manganese. They also drink plenty of green tea, which chelates iron. Recent increases in diabetes in Japan are attributed to increased meat and fat consumption which promotes increased iron absorption.

Why does South Africa have a terrible obesity problem despite having relatively low meat consumption? They have mandatory flour fortification of iron. Some Africans may also be more susceptible to iron overload.

Why are fad diets popular in some countries? Countries where fad diets are popular tend to have fortified flour. In all cases, these fad diets all have one thing in common: avoidance of fortified flour. The diets invariably stop working the moment people return to a diet that includes fortified foods.

Why did Sir Robert McCarrison observe extremely healthy cultures thriving on a diet high in whole wheat while some modern countries cannot tolerate gluten? The wheat McCarrison’s cultures consumed was not fortified. The countries that have trouble with gluten and the ones that fortify their flour.

Why does beer promote beer bellies? Excessive alcohol consumption increases iron absorption, while red wine has iron inhibitors and antioxidants to scavenge free radicals.

Why do excessive fruit juice consumption promote metabolic disfunction in US children but children in Germany have no issues with excessive fruit juice consumptionIn the US, the schoolchildren eat their lunches with iron-fortified flour. The Vitamin C, fructose and HFCS all enhance the absorption of the high levels of iron and thereby promote metabolic issues. In Germany they don’t fortify their food with iron, so the fructose, HFCS and Vitamin C have no such effect.

Why were chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes much rarer 100 years ago? Flour fortification was invented in the 1920s and became widespread after WWII—promoting iron overload and chronic disease.

What caused diseases of civilization before fortification existed? If iron overload is the culprit, than a combination of refined sugar, high fat and high muscle meat consumption would have promoted iron overload. Incidentally, sugar used to be boiled in cast iron kettles during the refining process. Queen Elizabeth I’s teeth turned black from excess sugar consumption, which is a telltale sign of iron overload.

What causes the Northern Ireland paradox where Belfast has a coronary artery disease death rate that is more than 4 times higher than in Toulouse, France, despite almost identical coronary ‘risk factors’. Northern Ireland fortifies flour with Iron and France does not.

Why did CHD and mortality increased by more than 100% in Beijing between 1984 and 1999? The great majority of the increase was explained by a five-fold increase in intake of meat. That would have contributed to iron overload.

Why do Blue Zones, have low chronic disease and increased longevity? Their diets are low in heme iron and they practice iron inhibition of non-heme iron. They consume low levels of meat, no fortification, high manganese intake, and high levels of anti-nutrients such as legumes and moderate wine phenolics. Their diets tend to have lots of fiber, which binds to and inhibits iron absorption. Some Blue Zones have very high levels of calcium in their drinking water, which inhibits both heme and non-heme iron absorption.

How did this individual lose 50kg eating whole grains, fibers and herbs? Every aspect of the diet inhibited and chelated iron.

Why are high fiber diets therapeutic and health promoting? Fiber is fermented by our microbiota into health-promoting metabolites. Some fibers binds to iron, and have the ability to inhibit and chelate iron.

Alzheimer’s is far less prevalent in countries with unsanitary conditions. How does this relate to iron? Alzheimer’s has been linked to iron. Hookworms, which protect against iron overload, are ubiquitous in countries with poor sanitation.


Up until now, all dietary gurus have engaged in overly simplistic macronutrients wars. However, all macronutrient-based arguments are easily debunked by dietary paradoxes (French, Masai, Hunza, Kitava, Mbuti, Hadza, Blue Zones, Longevity Villages, etc.). Yet, the preservation of iron homeostasis explains all of these paradoxes. Furthermore, we can now see that all cultures with notable chronic health issues have a disruption of iron homeostasis. Nearly all dietary gurus have been oblivious to this key variable in human health. But that will hopefully change now that we have this new perspective. Now it’s up to you to spread the word.

Further Reading

Chris Kresser: Iron Behaving Badly: The Role of Iron Overload in Metabolic Disease
Anthony Colpo: Strategy for Reducing Ferritin Levels
The Iron Factor of Aging: Why Do Americans Age Faster?, by Dr Francesco Facchini
Exposing the Hidden Dangers of Iron, by Garrison and Weinberg
Iron: The Most Toxic Metal, By Jym Moon
Bill Sardi: Can Humans Live Longer?
The Iron Hypothesis

This latest from The Duck Dodgers is not a call to go back to eating Hot Pockets, Pop Tarts, Twinkies…or ordering up pizza and Subway on alternate days.

Rather, we aim to reveal what’s tantamount to a lost and forgotten history. There are two principle elements to it. First, it does not serve industry or institutions well to shed any light on how things used to be regarding wheat (and other grain) growing, harvesting, milling and food preparation practices—and especially, how they were observed to promote rather than compromise health, back then. Second, some good narratives—The paleo Diet and derivatives being most prominent—have over simplified and conflated things.

So enjoy the rich history of wheat as a one-time acknowledged superfood—one now rendered a liability and misrepresented in the whole by means and memes of good sounding—but easy to understand “evolutionary” narratives. Narratives that, nonetheless, appear on close critical examination, to be false.

In the second episode of the Netflix Documentary Series Chef’s Table, Dan Barber, winner of the James Beard Award for excellence in cuisine, culinary writing, and culinary education in the United States, says:

When we think of Western civilization, you start to realize it was built from wheat. Grains represent 65% of our agriculture. Vegetables and fruits are about 6%. We eat more wheat than just about anything. The problem is that we don’t eat true whole wheat. We eat wheat that’s dead and denuded, so it will last—it’s shelf stable. Part of the reason that it has absolutely no flavor is because agribusiness is looking for crops that last a long time and can travel, or last a long time in the refrigerator and they’re not looking for flavor or not looking for nutrition. The real disaster in all of this is that we lost the taste of wheat and we lost all the health benefits. And for something that we eat so much of it’s really a true disaster…If we’re going to change the food system, we have to change how we grow and consume wheat.

In a previous article, we took Barber’s statement a step further and showed that the countries that fortify their wheat with iron appear to have significantly more chronic health issues. We also suggested that it’s probably not a coincidence that low carb diets and gluten avoidance are more popular in iron-fortified countries. Now we’re digging a bit deeper. Did pre-modern civilizations thrive on regular whole wheat or did they just tolerate it?

If what Barber is saying is true, then it should be relatively easy to find evidence that regular whole wheat was, in fact, nourishing for pre-modern cultures. After all, unlike our Paleolithic ancestors, our more recent ancestors wrote about their foods and what effects they had on their health. From Hippocrates to Aristotle, and Avicenna to Paracelsus, all were preoccupied with the digestive processes. Secondly, we figured that we should be able to find evidence of Barber’s hypothesis as we transitioned to modern milling practices.

The first bread appeared about 30,000 years ago. It’s not difficult to find proof of the high regard for wheat in the Ancient world. The word cereal comes from the name for the ancient Roman goddess, Ceres—the goddess of grains and agriculture. Ceres was said to have discovered wheat, and given the gift of agriculture to humankind. According to the mythology, before agriculture, man had subsisted on acorns and wandered without settlement or laws. Indeed, our ancient ancestors worshiped their wheat and believed that it was responsible for the rise of civilization. Perhaps this isn’t surprising; never before was there a food that could grow human populations exponentially.

Emmer was the dominant wheat through the Neolithic while barley was a new  companion cereal. Einkhorn wheat was a weedy cultivar—a minor admixture, adopted much later—and was said to make a miserable bread. It was usually consumed as a porridge. Then came common bread wheat, which the Romans adopted after having long relied on Emmer. The origin of spelt wheat is unknown but appears to have entered much later as a naturally occurring hybrid of early wheat. Rye was a wild minor admixture that later became cultivated in its own right.

So, how did cultures regard wheat and whole grains before the industrial revolution? According to the historical literature, wheat was not some sub-par caloric filler or cheap energy. Every culture had its superfood and wheat was hands down, the superfood of Western civilization. Whole wheat is not just calories and nutrients. It contains all sorts of phenolics, carotenoids, sterols, β-glucan, resistant starch, inulin, oligosaccharides, lignans, and other phytonutrients (see Table III, here). Much of the health benefits of wheat are believed to come from these phytonutrients.

Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, not only recommended bread as a health-promoting staple, but he was keenly interested in experimenting with different preparations of wheat. Hippocrates wrote:

I know, too, that the body is affected differently by bread according to the manner in which it is prepared. It differs according as it is made from pure flour or meal with bran, whether it is prepared from winnowed or unwinnowed wheat, whether it is mixed with much water or little, whether well mixed or poorly mixed, over-baked or under-baked, and countless other points besides. The same is true of the preparation of barley meal. The influence of each process is considerable and each is a totally different effect from another. How can anyone who has not considered such matters and come to understand them possibly know anything of the diseases that afflict mankind? Each one of the substances of a man’s diet acts upon his body and changes it in some way and upon these changes his whole life depends.

If wheat were so deleterious, you’d think that Hippocrates would have noticed it and warned against its consumption instead of recommending it for the prevention of disease.

Hippocrates was not alone. Avicenna recommended bread as an essential staple of the diet. Paracelsus believed that wheat had mystical properties, and Aristotle thought foods made from wheat suits our bodies best. And, what we see over and over again in the historical literature is that wheat was once considered to be the most nutritious and most important edible plant in the entire vegetable kingdom. Bread was the Staff of life—it was the de facto superfood for agriculturalists.

Over 250 years ago, Swedish biologist Carl von Linné, the father of modern taxonomy and modern ecology, wrote two texts—Ceres noverca arctoum and De pane diaetetico—wholly devoted to bread and bread-making. Citing his observations as well as those of the greatest medical authorities of antiquity, he wrote:

From: De pane diaetetico, by Carl von Linné (1757)

Of all foods bread is in truth the most noble. It is a food that is so necessary that we usually describe a true pauper with the words “he has not even a crumb of bread”. It is served on the tables of both the rich and the poor, is beneficial in all diseases and suitable for all temperaments and it imparts a pleasant taste to food that is of itself tasteless. Therefore, since bread is so widespread and strengthens us and pleases our taste, I beg you distinguished reader, to not feel disturbed by paying attention to a dietetic investigation of bread.

Von Linné also provided examples of how bread could prevent or cure specific diseases. Although rye was popular in his home country of Sweden, von Linné considered wheat bread to be “the most excellent of all.” We can see that even during the 18th century when tubers and a vast array of vegetables were available as staples, bread was still considered to be the most important article of food.

In 1782, the Finnish botanist, Carl Niclas Hellenius, wrote in his dissertation:

From: Om finska allmogens nödbröd, by Carl Niclas Hellenius (1782)

Of the many ways humankind has invented to make use of the rich resources of the vegetable kingdom, that of preparing wholesome and tasty bread is without doubt the most profitable. Bread contains in the smallest volume the greatest mass of the nourishing elements obtainable from plants; in all seasons and at all occasions it gives equally good and useful food; it can be stored for long periods without any loss; it heightens the taste of many of our dishes, and even more, it often changes a food which is inedible due to its kind or condition, into one which people can consume without any risk and with benefit. Therefore, it is not to be wondered if its consumption has become so common that hardly anyone, except the most savage Nations, can get along without it. Since ancient times the so-called Cerelia have been considered as the most noble plants which generous Nature has us provided.

In the 19th century, Thomas Hodgkin, the prominent English physician and first to observe Hodgkin’s disease, wrote:

The means of promoting and preserving health. Lecture II, on the Articles of food, solid and fluid, by Thomas Hodgkin (1841)

The farinaceous seeds are unquestionably the most important of [alimentary vegetable substances]. Their introduction has been marked amongst the earliest steps in the progress of civilization, and may be noticed amongst the first historical traditions of the most ancient nations of the Eastern and Western hemispheres. Thus the Greeks paid divine honours to Ceres, as the introducer and cultivator of wheat and other grains; and the ancient Peruvians paid similar honours to Manco Capae, who gave them maize or Indian-corn, and taught them how to cultivate and use it.

Of Wheat.—This appears to be the oldest and most valuable grain with which we are acquainted; but we know not the country to which we are indebted for it. It contains a large quantity of starch; a highly nutritive principle; and a larger quantity of gluten, the most nutritious of all the vegetable principles, than any other grain.(1) It likewise contains sugar; and a small portion of phosphate of lime, the essential constituent of bones, on which their firmness depends. It is far superior to every other kind of grain, for the formation of bread, which is emphatically termed the “staff of life” and, in all civilized countries, forms so large and considerable a part of our diet, that the word “bread” is become almost equivalent with that of “food.”

Seeing, then, that wheat, in the form of bread, is of so great importance as an article of diet, it will be worth while for us to dwell a little upon the varieties of bread, and on some points connected with its use…

It may be surprising to us that gluten was once believed to be the most nutritious vegetable compound. And if that doesn’t surprise you, there was even a time when “gluten bread” became popular for diabetics.

So, how did we go from a time when wheat was the most important “vegetable,” with nary anything but praise heaped upon it, to when it promoted chronic disease? Here’s where the history books, along with a little understanding of the gut, helps explain what led to dyspepsia.

Dyspepsia was a condition that arose as America entered the industrial revolution, and is what amounted to a national stomach ache and chronic constipation. Today we call it Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). At the time, people knew that regular whole wheat could not have been responsible for dyspepsia since people were quite healthy eating mainly wheat before the dyspepsia epidemic even began. Furthermore, people knew that avoiding white flour, while eating more brown bread and fibrous foods helped to cure dyspepsia. Even the short term “potato diet” cured dyspepsia.

As much as we’d like to think that we only recently figured out the links between the gut, probiotics, dietary fiber and gut issues, the dietetic gurus of the 19th and early 20th centuries had already figured out the links between refined foods, the microbiota, and dyspepsia. Of course, they also promoted some very bizarre theories. The dyspepsia epidemic is chronicled in the fascinating book, Inner Hygiene: Constipation and the Pursuit of Health in Modern Society, by James C. Whorton.

In the early 19th century, Sylvester Graham invented Graham bread, which was high in fibers and free of toxic additives such alum and chlorine, commonly added to flours during the Industrial Revolution. These additives were used to make bread whiter in color and more appealing. Refined bread was a status symbol of the middle class because of its purity in color. Grahamites believed that avoiding those additives and favoring foods that scratched or rasped the inner lining of the alimentary canal helped keep the gut regular and healthy. Graham died at the age of 57, leaving many unsure about the validity of his theories.

In the late 19th century, Elie Metchnikoff developed a theory that toxic bacteria in the gut cause aging and lactic acid could prolong life. He surmised this by observing exceptionally old age in Bulgarians who drank sour milk. Based on this theory, he drank sour milk every day, and he espoused the potential life-lengthening properties of lactic acid bacteria and discovered Lactobacillus bulgaricus (named after the Bulgarians). Unfortunately, he died in 1916 at the age of 71, of heart failure.

John Harvey Kellogg believed that while Metchnikoff had made some good points, a key to gut health was to replace the fiber that had become lost due to modern milling practices. Among other things, Kellogg promoted the isolated bran fraction into food products. And the practice became the inspiration for the Kellogg Company, eventually popularized by his brother, Will Keith Kellogg.

In 1892, Erastus Wiman wrote an open letter advocating old-fashioned, whole wheat to solve the growing dyspepsia and health problems.

The Flour of the Future, by Erastus Wiman (1892)

In civilized Germany, the man who should venture to adulterate or even dilute beer goes to prison, followed by disgrace and the imprecations of his fellow citizens. The man who should take it into his head to adulterate bread might do so with impunity, as long as he avoids introducing poisonous substances.

The demand has been made for white bread; fashion calls for it; the millers have complied. Mechanical skill has come to their assistance, and every part of the wheat which would tend to darken the flour is being removed with a precision and thoroughness which are simply wonderful. But does this tend to make the bread better? Does it give the workingman a greater return for his hard-earned loaf? Does this refined milling process give to the convalescing invalid, to the growing child, more strength and nutriment than did the old-fashioned dark bread? The answer to the fore going questions is decidedly in the negative. Indeed, on the other hand, it is impossible to estimate the injury done by the elimination of the most valuable constituents of the grain. A prominent English physician, when discussing this question, has recently said:

“Wheat and water contain all the elements necessary for man, and for the hard working man, too. Where is the man that can exist on our present white bread and water? There is an old joke about doctors being in league with undertakers; it would rather appear as if the millers and bakers were in the doctors’ pay, as if, were it not for them, and for the white bread they are so zealous in producing, the doctors would have less to do. Separating the bran from the flour became fashionable at the beginning of the present century. This fashion created the dental profession, which, with its large manufacturing industries, has grown up within the last two generations. It has reached its present magnitude only because our food is systematically deprived of lime, of salts and phosphoric acid, the creators of nerve bone, and tissue, which especially are so signally absent from our modern white bread.

What we need is a reversal of the opinion which demands a white, starchy flour…

A recent episode of 99% Invisible explored how the preference for white flour was often fueled by racist ideologies. White bread was known as a “chaste loaf” and whole wheat as the “defiled loaf.” Wiman was even ridiculed by the very food reformists that were promoting flours that were free of “natural impurities.”

A perusal of milling publications at the time show them filled with a plethora of milling innovations. Everything from quick-rise yeasts, fast roller mills, new ovens, equipment to sift white flours to have fewer “impurities.” As more people consumed highly “purified” flours, the dyspepsia epidemic only got worse.

It’s interesting that Wiman noted that dental issues worsened with the refinement of flour. Decades later, Dr. Weston A. Price—a dentist—had noticed this as well. In Chapter 3 of his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Price noted that the isolated Swiss villages he visited had excellent dental health eating mainly whole rye bread, dairy and only one serving of meat per week. It’s also interesting to note that dental attrition—due to the wearing down of teeth from grit and sand debris left by early millstones—was the primary cause of tooth decay in Ancient Egypt.

In 1931, Sir Robert McCarrison gave a series of lectures, at the Royal College of Surgeons, where he reported his observations on the Hunza people after having been their physician for seven years. He remarked:

In conformity with the constitution of their dietaries they are the finest races of India, so far as physique is concerned, and amongst the finest races of mankind. Familiar as I am with the [wheat]-fed races of northern India, I have little patience with those who would have us believe that ‘white flour’ is as good an article of diet as ‘whole wheat flour’.

McCarrison also performed a series of experiments on rats comparing the effects of refined versus whole flours, which confirmed the health-promoting effects of whole wheat as well as the degenerative effects of white flour. McCarrison’s findings are summarized in the excellent 1938 book, The Wheel of Health, by Guy Wrench.

As seems obvious by now, the major aspects of nutrition and gut health—including some primitive understanding of the microbiome—have been known for well over a century. People knew that the wheat our ancestors once thrived on had become denuded and purified to the point that it had become a liability. New additives became standard, including various bleaches and toxic bromides. Metabolic issues were seen in the poor eating white flour during the Great Depression, and so it was with the discovery and isolation of individual micronutrients that the government set out to replace a few of those micronutrients lost to flour refinement with artificial fortification. Never mind that there is a long list of beneficial micronutrients, phytonutrients, and phenolics found in whole grains. The government picked out a few micronutrients that could easily be isolated and mandated their addition to all white flour.

By 1953, Newfoundland had enacted mandatory fortification of white flour. By 1954, Canada and some US states had adopted the Newfoundland Law. Southern states, in particular, were eager to enact the law, to reduce pellagra, that had become prevalent during the Great Depression. These states typically mandated fortification of flour, bread, pasta, rice and corn grits.

Food Enrichment ObesityDiabetes

In 1983, the FDA significantly increased the mandated fortification levels—coinciding with the beginning of the obesity epidemic. 1994 was the first year that obesity and diabetes statistics were available for all 50 states. Notice a pattern?

obesity diabetes 1994

Fortifying flour may have ended the deficiencies of the Great Depression, but it appears to have significantly worsened chronic diseases.

Furthermore, wheat flour fortification may explain the popularity of non-celiac gluten sensitivity we see today in fortified countries (it was exceedingly rare before fortification). As it turns out, iron fortificants have been shown to promote significant gastric distress, even at small doses and pathogenic gut profiles in developing countries. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is virtually unheard of in unfortified countries, like France, which consumes 40% more wheat than Americans.

In his book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, Dr. William Davis claimed that modern hybrids of wheat are to blame for all modern health issues. However, this is not supported by the scientific literature—nor is it backed by France’s lower levels of chronic diseases despite considerably higher wheat intakes. Nor does Dr. David Perlmutter’s book, Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers, explain how humanity enjoyed its highest levels of intellectual achievement while primarily eating wheat and other grains as staple foods—enjoying unprecedented population growth and longevity as well. In a recent lecture, Dan Barber more reasonably explains that the biggest problem with modern wheat hybrids is that they lack taste and have less nutrition, particularly due to poor industrial growing practices.

So, when did wheat go from being the most important vegetable to the cause of all modern diseases? The historical evidence clearly suggests that it first started when wheat became “purified,” i.e., tainted, during the early 19th century—well before wheat was hybridized by Norman Borlaug in the 1960s. Put simply, the more we departed from whole foods and whole wheat, the worse dyspepsia and chronic disease became.

With this in mind, we are now able to explain how Sir Robert McCarrison and Dr. Weston A. Price once observed extraordinarily healthy cultures, free of chronic disease, thriving on traditionally milled grains. Finally, we can make sense of these seemingly confounding observations and leave behind the cognitive dissonance that comes with certain incomplete narratives, such as The paleo Diet.

Industrial flours are not whole foods. Rather, they are highly processed, far beyond simple grinding, and are often adulterated with additives, many of them nefarious. Slowly, things are starting to change. Organic flours are available without fortification, and some historical grist mills have been revived across the country. Some bakeries are demanding real flour and some, like Berlin Natural Bakery, grind their flour daily, as was once the common old world tradition. It’s also encouraging to note that high-end bakers, like France’s Eric Kayser and Austria’s Josef Weghaupt, have found tremendous success by reinventing ancestral baking traditions.

According to some sources, 95% of the flour consumed in the United States is fortified white flour—making it little more than a source of empty calories and unbalanced micronutrients for most people. Our superfood has become a liability. Dan Barber argues that part of the problem is that the modern hybrid of whole wheat lacks flavor and nutrition—we’ve lost the taste for wheat and refined away all of the benefits to make it more “appealing.” However, Barber doesn’t believe the solution is to rely on ancient wheat varieties. He’s been working with wheat breeder Steve Jones to cross-pollinate a better tasting and more nutritious whole wheat. In 2013, Barber remarked, “If we could talk to the people a hundred years ago who bred the heirloom tomato varieties we love, they’d wonder, ‘Why all the effort to preserve these? Why not keep going, keep breeding new varieties?'”

So where do you go from here? Well, hopefully not out to your local supermarket for a plastic-wrapped loaf of “whole wheat bread.” And, it must be added that all of the preceding is not intended to make the consumption of even artisanal, freshly ground, real whole grain—even sprouted and/or fermented—any sort of imperative for anyone. We’re now fortunate to live in circumstances where vast variety in diets is possible because, with just a little care, most people can easily source adequate nutrition through any number of dietary paradigms, from vegetarian to high-fat low-carb.

We just wish to give those of you who may enjoy whole grains in their various forms—in terms of taste, texture and convenience—good reasons to see if they can enhance your well being.

You can look around and find increasingly more sources of careful whole grain bread making, even places that grind their grain fresh, daily. You can even do it yourself by purchasing a grain mill. That’s a very top-of-the-line one, and beautiful to boot, but there are many options—though you might stay away from anything that uses iron to do the milling, or high-speed blades that impart too much heat. And then, you could have fun experimenting with different grains and blends, sprouting, fermenting, etc.

We do not think that any fear is called for. They may enhance your well-being in various ways, they may not, but in either case, you’ll be free to move forward on either path; but hopefully, on one that’s free from any sort of dietary dogma—where it’s more important what narrative you believe than how you feel and how you enjoy your life.

Update: Tom Naughton has up a fair rebuttal.

Subsequent Posts Are For Supporting Members:

  1. Grains Aren’t Grown, Processed, or Eaten Equally, So The Paleo Narrative is Essentially False on That Score
  2. Did The Paleo Diet Get It Wrong On Grains?
  3. Are You Eating Enough Anti-Nutrients, Toxins, Etc. To Be Truly Bulletproof?
  4. Waffling On Whole Grains
  5. Let’s Unpack A To-Be-Published Gluten Sensitivity Study Touted To Vindicate Dr. William Davis and Wheat Belly

Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. The cost of two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance the travel to write, photo, and film from interesting places and share the experiences with you.


  1. Karen on June 17, 2015 at 15:29

    Well crap. Does this mean my cast iron cookware needs to go bye-bye?

    • Richard Nikoley on June 17, 2015 at 16:59

      Save one for the occasional batch of cornbread. :)

    • Bruce on June 18, 2015 at 12:35

      That was my very first thought. We cook all the time in our cast iron skillet. Well now, off to research how much iron leaches into food from skillets.

    • giskard on June 18, 2015 at 13:15

      Pls. update here with what you find.

    • giskard on June 18, 2015 at 13:17

      So what % of total iron intake in the SAD is from enrichment?

      Also, this food combining tricks only work if they’re taken in the same meal, right? Doesn’t work to eat meat for lunch and dairy for dinner?

    • Bruce on June 18, 2015 at 18:30

      Here’s what I found. The short answer is *yes* cooking in a cast iron skillet can add huge amounts of iron to the food.

      The variables:

      1) Acidity adds more iron
      2) Moisture adds more iron
      3) More cook time adds more iron.

      For example on the first two, 100mg of spaghetti sauce had iron content jump from .61mg to 5.77mg. On the other side of the spectrum, cornbread went from .67 to .86

      (Source: Journal of American Dietetic Association July 1986)

      One could guess that the better the seasoning, which is a layer of polymerized (hardened) oil, the less leaching would occur. The same would apply to enameled cast iron.

      I *shudder* to think of all the cooking of chili, etc we’ve done in cast iron. It is our main cooking pot. No more.

    • Kati on June 18, 2015 at 18:59

      I’m ditching cast iron too, and we have 2 vessels cooked in almost daily that are cast iron, with 6 in total. No more. :/

    • Bret on June 20, 2015 at 06:12

      I can’t help but remember hearing Sally Fallon assert once that nobody ought to cook in any pans that were not cast iron (I believe it was on one of Jimmy Moore’s podcasts). I wonder how many people listened, snicker snicker.

    • Kristi on June 20, 2015 at 11:13

      Richard, what do you recommend for everyday cookware?

    • Richard Nikoley on June 20, 2015 at 13:56

      Well, at home in the states I have Al-Clad stainless. I assume that’s OK. I know Mercola has been harping on this a long time and has a line of ceramic coated stuff which is probably the ultimate in safety.

      I do have a non-stick around for occasional use in omelet making.

      In terms of non-stovetop, crock pot is great, and Pyrex type stuff for the oven is pretty inexpensive, way less than that French brand of cast iron coated in ceramic.

    • Man on June 20, 2015 at 14:13

      I use Scanpan cookware (a Danish brand that uses ceramic / titanium coating that makes very efficient non-stick skillets). Pricey but quite worth it.

    • Elliebelly on June 22, 2015 at 04:08

      I think so. As long as your cast iron is well seasoned and you don’t cook with anything acid .
      After each use I heat mine and rub with fat to keep the seasoning intact.

    • Elliebelly on June 22, 2015 at 10:36


      Great story! But wow! 600 – 700 d f. I have never gone above 400. I bet that skin is super crisp. Will have to try it.

      You have been on my mind with regard to garlic. I think my rather large intake of raw garlic has helped with what I did not know at the time was Lyme disease. All rather inadvertent and accidental, and there is still more to do, but,nonetheless, quite welcome. So thank you!!!

    • Elliebelly on June 22, 2015 at 11:32

      My husband says no garlic breath. And I can’t smell any when I try cupping my hand over my mouth to catch a whiff.

    • Michele on June 22, 2015 at 02:31

      Hello! This comment is for Team Duck or anybody else who pleases:
      I read this once, am reading it again and REALLY appreciate these posts!!! I live in Germany, so not much or no fortification, give blood, have a cycle and try and eat as varied as possible. So, isn’t it a bit extreme to go and start chucking out the cast iron cookware?

    • Michele on June 22, 2015 at 06:37

      Thanks Elliebelly, this is what I do too.

    • Wilbur on June 22, 2015 at 09:57

      Elliebelly –

      I have a story I love, but so few people cook with cast iron anymore that I have no one to tell.

      Anyway, I roast whole chickens in my cast iron at 600-700 d F. Chicken fat splatters everywhere, and my cast iron is beautifully seasoned as a result. One time, cooked something in my cast iron outside on the grill. I set it aside and forgot it for about a week because we had daily rain. When I saw it again, it was full of water. Would you believe there was no a speck of rust? Just a bit of rinsing and it was ready to go!

      I think a good seasoning will definitely reduce the iron transfer.

    • Wilbur on June 22, 2015 at 11:09

      I’m glad the garlic might have helped! Sorry about the Lyme disease though.

      Do you notice any garlic breath? I sure don’t on me.

      Yes, the skin is the best part. Be sure to use small chickens (<3.5 lbs, closer to 3 even better) because otherwise the outside gets tough before the inside cooks. I dry brine and let the chicken sit uncovered on a rack in the fridge for at least a day. The skin is like shrink wrap even before it goes on the Big Green Egg.

    • Douglas on June 22, 2015 at 11:34

      In case anybody might be wondering, that brand is Le Creuset. Also, you need to take some perspective before getting rid of all your cast iron ustensiles. First of all the fact that it leaks iron in your food has been known for quite a time, nothing new. It is best used when cooking with non-reacting ingredient. So great for your steak but not so much for the red wine/cream reduction. Do it separately. I love my cast iron and it last for a life time. Another great way to lower your iron stores is to give blood regulary, if you are into that. Have your vitamin C with your cheese, not your steak. Le Creuset are great if you can afford them. They will also last you a life time. Cheers.

      • GTR on November 9, 2015 at 13:48

        @Douglas – i saw these pots and pans, and it looks like Le Creuset are covered with enamel, which is basically a glass. So no contact with iron there, as long as the surface is full, unscratched – no need to throw it out until the surface breaks. Cast iron is there just for its hign heat retention, you are actually cooking on glass (enamel).

    • Marcus on July 3, 2016 at 09:34

      The exposure to dietary iron from cast iron cookware is discussed in depth here in this thread, but I could not find any estimates of how much iron is likely to be ingested by cooking different foods on CI.

      Well, here’s a page from where they do just that:–4eD0mI7R–/c_scale,fl_progressive,q_80,w_800/frdw8bzrur1kvouwkxvd.jpg

  2. Wilbur on June 17, 2015 at 15:58

    I find it very interesting that the data presented here fit very nicely with the improvements in my health. Higher fiber, more plants, almost no processed foods, high antioxidants, etc.

    Thanks for all the work putting this together.

  3. Mycroft Jones on June 17, 2015 at 16:40

    Finally, an excuse to go on a tea, coffee, eggs, wine, cocoa and cheese diet! ;-)

    Thanks to this article, I’m going to go to Whole Foods and load up on chocolate potato chips. And I’m going to reboot my sourdough rye activities; I knew there must be a reason why a fresh loaf of sourdough rye made me feel like I was drowning until I finished the last bite.

    • John on June 17, 2015 at 19:14

      I found a mini sourdough loaf of bread at Trader Joe’s, with unenriched flour, for a $1.19. Quite tasty, and a perfect treat for this week.

    • Jen W. on June 17, 2015 at 19:55

      How did you know it was unenriched flour?

    • John on June 17, 2015 at 20:34

      Read the ingredients and looked at iron percentage in the nutrition facts box. This bread only listed “wheat flour,” and a slice had 2% RDA of iron. Enriched flour will be listed as enriched in the ingredients, type of iron used to fortify will be listed also, usually “reduced iron,” and RDA will be listed at 10% for a slice.

    • Mycroft Jones on June 17, 2015 at 23:55

      Because I bought organic rye from a farm in Saskatchewan, and ran it through my “Country Living” grain mill. It was a 100% rye loaf, with a sourdough culture I’d cultivated for several months.

      Let me tell you… after one bite, I felt like a drowning man who was suddenly able to gulp air. And gulp I did, till the whole loaf was gone. I normally don’t have that response to bread, I can take it or leave it. And normally leave it.

      And when I added white sugar, the loaf came out with a lemony flavor. And when I mixed in white sugar and a bit of wheat flour, the rye loaf came out with a bit of an orange flavor. Sourdough rye is high in Vitamin C, I believe.

    • Mycroft Jones on June 17, 2015 at 23:57

      John: now imagine what that loaf would be like fresh out of the oven, with butter and honey. When it is still soft and fluffy.

      I smear the baking pan with a little palm oil, and bake it at 450F for 20 minutes before lowering the temperature to 380 for the last 20 minutes of the bake. That is one crisp and crunchy crust.

  4. Trevor on June 17, 2015 at 17:05

    Wow, very compelling hypothesis and a lot of ingest.

    A couple thoughts:

    For those lactose intolerant what’s best practice for regular meat intake?

    What fiber sources are you eating regularly?

    • John on June 17, 2015 at 19:09

      There’s lots of options- you can pair coffee, tea, or red wine with meat meals. You could also look into oystershell or eggshell calcium, if you want to take a supplement. You could also take an IP6 supplement, with or away from meals. Lactoferrin might also be an option.

      Also, avoid taking vitamin C supplements with meals. Same with juices and sodas.

      The Anthony Colpo articles are excellent for iron reduction. You should also get an iron panel, with TSAT and ferritin, and look into donating blood.

      And exercise. I currently do weight training an lots of walking.

      I’ve used all of those, and I went from a 440 ferritin number a couple years ago, to 28 when I checked it last week. I think my new, higher activity level might mean I actually have to bump meat intake up a bit.

    • John on June 17, 2015 at 19:12

      Oh, I forgot about eggs! Low iron, and also has some iron binding elements, like the lactoferrin mentioned above. Shifting some of your protein intake from meat to eggs could be prudent.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 17, 2015 at 19:29

      “coffee, tea, or red wine with meat meals”

      John, in our research, we found that only calcium can inhibit heme absorption found in meat. The other inhibitors you mention only inhibit non-heme absorption (which is easily inhibited).

      But the heme iron in meat is rather difficult to inhibit without calcium. Perhaps about 20%-50% of heme iron could be transformed to non-heme iron by oven cooking (pan-searing could only transform from 0-20%), and that non-heme iron could be inhibited with the usual coffee, tea, cream sauces, red wine reductions and dairy, etc.

      The good news is that some mineral waters contain a lot of calcium, which we believe would inhibit a lot of heme and non-heme iron absorption.

      The general rule of thumb, according to the reviews we read, was that you needed between 150mg to 350mg of calcium in a single meal to inhibit a lot of the heme and non-heme iron in a meal. It’s not a complete inhibition, but enough to make a substantial difference. A serving of cheese or a glass of milk or two cups of calcium-rich mineral water is enough to achieve that inhibition.

    • John on June 17, 2015 at 20:12

      Excellent point. However, I remember in the Garrison and Weinberg book, they stated that the heme iron in meat is about 50% or so. Calcium would be superior, but the other options should still have an inhibitory effect.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 17, 2015 at 20:48

      Right. I believe raw meat has only heme iron. But, up to 50% can be transformed into non-heme through thorough oven cooking. Aging meat can have an effect too. If you find information otherwise, do let us know!

    • Mycroft Jones on June 17, 2015 at 23:51

      Careful Duck Dodgers, next you’ll be telling us that Carey Reams was right; over time I’ve watched Paleo folks come around and one by one, they adopt the positions of Carey Reams. There is a ways to go yet, but the trend is unmistakable.

      Even Reams never explained why he put such an emphasis on calcium(s). This makes a lot of sense. And he never claimed the calciums were about bone mass.

    • Mycroft Jones on June 18, 2015 at 00:01

      If oven cooking turns heme to non-heme iron, might explain why I can’t tolerate cooked liver. At all. Raw liver is ok with cilantro and lemon and lo, I find out today that cilantro is an iron blocker (right?)

    • David on July 8, 2015 at 17:47

      How does iron-serum differ from ferritin- serum on the lab test? Which number are you looking at? Any thoughts on a reference range for the Iron Saturation %

  5. John on June 17, 2015 at 18:06

    FREAKING AWESOME! This is one post to spread far and wide. I’m gonna look into that Jym Moon book, I think that’s the only one I haven’t read.

  6. John on June 17, 2015 at 18:14

    … and with complementary links to Anthony Colpo and Ray Peat! Did ya ever think you’d see the day?

  7. giskard on June 17, 2015 at 19:40

    Are regular blood donations useful in preventing iron overload in the absence of homeostasis from proper food pairing? Before I started donating regularly my ferritin was in the 80s. After regular donation it’s in the 30s.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 17, 2015 at 19:59

      Yes, indeed.

      And interestingly, blood donation may also be a safe and low-cost alternative to statins. Reduction of LDL has no impact on cardiovascular health, but statins still provide some benefit. Some commonalities are apparent between the two approaches:

      The Statin–Iron Nexus: Anti-Inflammatory Intervention for Arterial Disease Prevention

    • John on June 17, 2015 at 20:06

      Absolutely. In fact, Phlebotomy is the main treatment for people who have iron loading disorders. After they are de-ironed (which can involve weekly extractions of blood), maintenance phlebotomies are recommended 4-8 times a year. Blood donors tend to live longer, in general.

      I don’t think blood donation can do much for the gut disruption of iron enrichment or supplements, however.

  8. Karen B on June 17, 2015 at 19:45

    My 11 year old has severe gluten intolerance, with diarrhea anytime he ingests gluten. But, we went to the DR over spring break and he simply could not resist the treats and basically gorged on gluten for a week with no diarrhea. We have been wondering for months about this. Perhaps the flour was not fortified?? Fascinating.

  9. John on June 17, 2015 at 20:46

    Also, it’s interesting that the French are practically “addicted” to antibiotics. I wonder what the rate of “antibiotic resistant superbugs” are in France. If higher than the US, that would suggest that yes, antibiotic use is driving force. But what if the rate is higher in the US? Could that suggest that a higher iron burden is the true cause?

    The “airborne metal” hypothesis could also explain the health problems that arise from smoking, as most tobacco is iron rich.

    Sorry, I know I’ve been commenting on this post a lot. I’m stepping away for a while, promise!

    • Jake on June 18, 2015 at 16:03

      This is a pretty mind blowing article. Gotta say it makes sense!!

      Only comment–The French, in my casual non-statistical observation, are a fairly physically active peoples. Moreso, they are pretty prominent on the international sports scene.

      Just an aside, though :)

      Takeaways, for me: Don’t fear legumes, have more raw milk, and no more cast iron stove!!

      • kayumochi on October 4, 2015 at 14:22

        Yeah, but the French don’t use cast iron cooking utensils? The top of line is Le Crueset … and the Japanese have a fetish for them.

    • Duck Dodgers on October 4, 2015 at 19:50

      John said: “I wonder what the rate of “antibiotic resistant superbugs” are in France. If higher than the US, that would suggest that yes, antibiotic use is driving force.”

      A new article on the subject claims that France’s rate of superbugs is very high. The article cites a report that claims 160,000 people each year were contracting infections from “multi-resistant” bacteria and as many as 13,000 people were losing their lives:

      France’s deadly antibiotics habit laid bare

      kayumochi said: “Yeah, but the French don’t use cast iron cooking utensils? The top of line is Le Crueset”

      Well, it’s cast iron enamel, which is actually pretty excellent. Plus, Le Creuset is a relatively new company (1925). The old world French cookware was actually copper and it’s still preferred by many top French chefs. See Mauviel Cookware ( depuis 1830). The cookware comes from a Normandy village, Villedieu-les-Poêles, “the city of copper”, which has an 800 year heritage of copper manufacturing.

      You can’t really deglaze a cast iron pan without imparting a metallic taste into your food. The French wouldn’t stand for it. And of course, French cooking utilizes a lot of deglazing and pan sauces. So, it makes sense that they would favor enamel coatings and copper cookware.

      • Richard Nikoley on October 4, 2015 at 20:42

        Duck, check out the history of Santa Rosalia.

        Weirdest place I’ve ever seen in Mexico, and remote Baja no less.

        Stayed there on the way down, stopped for a coffee and sandwich on the way up. Amazing French town in Baja, all to mine copper.

  10. Craig on June 17, 2015 at 20:51

    So is there a readily available test by which one can confirm the existence of iron overload in an individual?

    • John on June 17, 2015 at 22:33

      The best test for assessing whole body iron stores is ferritin. It does have some issues, however, as it can be an acute phase reactant, and can temporarily spike in sickness or infection. TSAT (transferrin saturation) is also a good indicator (calculated from serum iron and TIBC). Ideally, test both together. I just got an Iron Panel from, and I think it was 80 bucks for both.

  11. michael goroncy on June 17, 2015 at 21:36

    Don’t ‘fuck around’ with ‘Iron or Calcium’ supplementation unless you know what your doing. Self diagnosis is not a good idea. Although there are many MD’s who aren’t suitable to clean a ‘shit-house’ properly…..find a decent one that can guide you.

    Donating blood…excellent idea if suitable.

    ‘Ducky’ had a hiccup….” Reduction of LDL has no impact on cardiovascular health “ this is deadset incorrect at this stage regarding CHD. The evidence is overwhelming. And I am not talking ‘Statins’ for primary prevention.

    • GTR on June 18, 2015 at 04:15

      @michael – there’s a new stuff called “PCSK9 (proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9) inhibitors” with a potential to replace statins.

    • Skyler Tanner on June 18, 2015 at 06:29

      Except there are other drugs that lower LDL as a side effect but do not reduce CHD risk.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 18, 2015 at 06:53


      The “hiccup” is just what was stated in the paper. Did you read it? If you want to debunk the paper, be my guest.

    • Jer on June 18, 2015 at 09:00

      You can use OTC Berberine that will do exactly that. Over the span of 1 year (annual blood tests)I used it to drop my LDL to 99 from 148, total cholesterol from 230 to 178.
      ” The LDL receptor (which takes up LDL from the blood and contributes to an LDL lowering effect) can have its degradation attenuated and its synthesis increased by Berberine by two separate mechanisms; this may underlie the recorded reductions of LDL following Berberine administration to humans which has reached up to 25% in 3 months in people with high cholesterol”

    • Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2015 at 09:15

      So, patent law run amok, hey Jer?

    • Jer on June 18, 2015 at 11:43

      Nailed it. Pharm Companies examine natural substances that fix a medical condition, research how to create it artificially, do a few test studies (throw away the ones that don’t match their expectations), and hit the market with it.

  12. hackberry on June 18, 2015 at 14:48

    Is there a mistake here?

    This sentence: “France does not fortify their flour and gluten intolerance is very rare there.” links to an article that reads:

    “According to AFDIAG (Association Française Des Intolérants au Gluten), France has the same rate of people who are gluten-sensitive as most other countries. It’s a number that’s rising — in the US, for example, one person in every 100 is now thought to be affected. Yet in France, AFDIAG has estimated that only 10-20% are actually diagnosed. Many others will continue to suffer “mysterious” symptoms, and, if they have CD, cause irreversible damage to their intestines with each morning croissant. “

    • hackberry on June 19, 2015 at 04:16

      I keep misunderstanding this…

      Hmmm, well, wrt:

      “But this is not the case in France—nobody really even cares or notices sensitivities to wheat. They are doing just fine.”

      This is of course just anecdotal (you know, stories from real life and real people), but I do live in France and gluten awareness seems to be exploding. Increasingly people come to us, straight from the doctor, having been told that they should avoid gluten (finally understanding or wanting to understand what our real food trip is about – the French eat a lot of shit, imported, industrial foods). Also, the gluten free sections are bigger every day – in small workers’ coops health food shops as well as in supermarkets. But that’s just marketing of course, which brings us to this:

      “Perhaps the two countries have the same amount of true gluten intolerance, but in America, there is a much, much higher demand for gluten-free foods. We found this curious and speculated that the fortification of wheat in the US may at least be partly to blame.”

      Fortification is to blame for the demand? Or what? Or are you saying that a billion dollar industry’s production of demand is indicative of and directly correlated with the specific health conditions of (the duped) consumers? Your clarification confuses me even more.

    • gabkad on June 18, 2015 at 17:15

      hackberry, all children in Italy are tested for Coeliac disease by age 5. The blood test is not terribly accurate but symptoms are taken into consideration as well. So it would appear that there’s a significant problem. In all of Europe there is CD. It is taken seriously. Over here on this side of the pond, not so much. I’m in Canada and the ministry of health does not cover the antibody testing for coeliac. But they do pay for the endoscopy. Except how bad do things have to get for a patient to need endoscopy?

    • Duck Dodgers on June 18, 2015 at 20:58

      That probably should have read “gluten sensitivity is very rare there”

      The point we were trying to make was that in the US, many people who don’t even have true gluten intolerance are gravitating away from wheat and gluten due to a purported sensitivity issue. But this is not the case in France—nobody really even cares or notices sensitivities to wheat. They are doing just fine.

      Perhaps the two countries have the same amount of true gluten intolerance, but in America, there is a much, much higher demand for gluten-free foods. We found this curious and speculated that the fortification of wheat in the US may at least be partly to blame.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 19, 2015 at 06:56

      Things seem to have changed since I was there in the early 90s.

      If you check out that The New Yorker article, you’ll see how clinical gluten intolerance jumped big, starting about the early 50s in U.S. Researchers actually tested stored blood samples from the 40s and compared them with similar demographic subject today and today’s subjects have some large multiple of clinical gluten intolerance.

      Thing is, there’s probably a snowball effect where some set uf people avoided gluten, felt better, and assumed it was the gluten and not the FODMAPS (or IRON!) . Then, of course, word spreads, demand builds, and then hype marketing kicks in and all science is right out the window at that point.

  13. Dave on June 18, 2015 at 15:10

    I. Fucking. Love. This. Blog.

    Seriously, brilliant work.

  14. Rafael B. on June 18, 2015 at 02:06

    More on whole grains and health?

  15. Elliebelly on June 18, 2015 at 17:39

    This is fabulous.

  16. Palva on June 18, 2015 at 03:53

    Excellent post. I would however like to add that obesity has been rising in pretty much every country of the world, iron enriched or not. Obesity and metabolic disorders are multifactorial, I don’t think iron overload is the end all be all by any means.

    And interestingly, regular phytate consumption inhibits less and less non-heme iron absorption over time, suggesting adaptation. Presumably via the gut flora producing more phytase.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2015 at 06:31


      “I would however like to add that obesity has been rising in pretty much every country of the world, iron enriched or not.”

      Reasonable quibble / objection. Precisely why “more study is needed.” Yes, obesity is largely a global phenomena now. Of course, there are differences and part of “more study” is to tease them out and draw meaningful distinctions.

      But, consider how ubiquitous the massive, U.S.-led snack food, fast food, and pizza have become globally. So, for instance, when you’re on the island of Crete, go into a mom & pop and buy a pack of Ding Dongs, are they imported from US or made in some regional facility under contract and if so, under what specifications.

      Recall how we pointed out the Denmark has banned the importation of all enriched foods. See, even if you have no mandatory policy of enrichment, or even ban it for in-country manufactured goods, the door is still wide open unless imports are banned as well.

      Mind you, I’m not advocating government action in any of this (personally), but I’m pretty sure that the whole world is getting some level of enriched foods via import or, via the various fast food, pizza, and other US food chains.

    • Palva on June 19, 2015 at 00:53

      I’m from the Netherlands, so that’s the lense I’m looking through. One thing that seems to hold true at least for Holland is that there are barely any imported food stuffs from the US. As far as I can tell, there are barely any if at all, products which are fortified with iron. The only product for non babies I could find in the supermarket yesterday was a lemonade syrup, ROOSVICEE FERRO (at least they’re honest about it!). Infant formula also packs added iron, you know, cos it’s so important for pathogens to thrive on (makes me sad to see, especially considering breast milk is almost zero iron).

      I don’t doubt enriched ‘food’ does get imported and sold in some shops, but it does not reach the population at large. I’ll concede that I don’t have any numbers on this though, just my personal experience.

      Government action is necessary, in removing the regulations that mandate iron enrichment. Disbanding the FDA could be a good move too ;-).

      I wholeheartedly agree that iron is a big issue though and I’m glad you and the Ducks are bringing this to a larger public!

    • Richard Nikoley on June 19, 2015 at 06:29

      Well, I suppose that in developed nations it’s going to be less of a deal and anyway, Europe makes their own stuff and it appears UK is the only one of you that fortifies anything.

      Very likely an issue in the developing world though, where almost everything in boxes, bags and cans is imported and of course, price will be the determining factor.

      How about the U.S. fast food and pizza chains? Not sure about their prevalence in Dutchlandia, but McD’s has a pretty substantial footprint though (and was enormous in urban Japan even in the 80s when I lived there). Would be interesting to look into if all their flour based things like buns and such are made to specifications that call for enriched flour.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 22, 2015 at 19:20

      Palva said: “And interestingly, regular phytate consumption inhibits less and less non-heme iron absorption over time, suggesting adaptation. Presumably via the gut flora producing more phytase.”

      I’m happy to admit I don’t have all the answers to all this. As I understand it—and I’ll admit I could be wrong—your body will persorb a certain amount of phytates into the bloodstream from the small intestine. Given the short time it takes for food to reach the small intestine, the stomach acid and bacteria in the small intestine can only break down a limited level of phytates before this can happen.

      So, the gut allows some phytates to be persorbed into the bloodstream to chelate (free) iron and (free) minerals, and the rest of the phytates from the meal bind to minerals in the gut. But, I wouldn’t suppose many phytates are degraded until they are attacked by phytate-degrading bacteria in the large intestine, which likely bloom over time. And it may even be that some of these phytates are not fully degraded until the feces leaves the colon.

      There is such thing as iron-eating and iron-sequestering gut flora, beyond pathogens, and my guess is that some phytate-degrading bacteria will target iron-binded phytates to get to that iron. If that happens, the iron would not be available to cause damage to the body.

      Incidentally, we did find that some gut flora, like Bifidobacteria, can be protective of iron overload. As bifido is believed to offer health promoting effects, it’s yet another chapter in this Iron Theory of Everything:

      Suppressive Effects of Bifidobacteria on Lipid Peroxidation in the Colonic Mucosa of Iron-Overloaded Mice (2000)

      Accumulation of Iron in Lactic Acid Bacteria and Bifidobacteria (2006)

      Bifidobacteria strains isolated from stools of iron deficient infants can efficiently sequester iron (2015)

      Iron metabolism in bifidobacteria (1996)

    • Palva on June 23, 2015 at 00:35

      Hi Duck, thanks for the links. I hadn’t considered the persorbtion, but I could definitely see this as feasible. My bet is that both factors play a role. It seems reasonable that the gut flora would adapt to high phytic acid intakes. Furthermore, I find it difficult to believe nothing that the gut flora creates (vitamins, freed up minerals) gets absorbed.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 23, 2015 at 18:33


      The reason I think persorption is plausible, is that people specifically take phytic acid in powder form (IP-6) to chelate excess iron from their bodies. The Anthony Colpo link at the bottom of the article recommends this approach in conjunction with bloodletting, although he has since disavowed his endorsement of IP-6 as, ironically, it wasn’t compatible with his anti-grain narrative. :)

    • Duck Dodgers on June 24, 2015 at 17:50

      Australia eats very high quantities of meat. Excessive meat intake is associated with obesity in studies. Also, some aboriginal populations are encouraged to mix “iron sprinkles” into their children’s food.

      Many breakfast cereals are voluntarily fortified in Australia.

      And then there’s Marmite which is fortified with a decent amount of iron (and is therefore banned in Denmark).

      Milo (a popular powdered drink mix) has a lot of iron in it. 4 tsp has 6mg of iron. I suspect many people use more than 4tsp per day.

      Kangaroo meat also has 4.4mg of iron per 100g (lean beef is 3.1mg/100g).

      So, it seems that Australia has plenty of ways to get too much iron, particularly since they eat a lot of meat.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 24, 2015 at 18:16

      List of fortified Australian breakfast cereals are found here.

      However, the kangaroo meat and the excessive meat intake in Australia seem like the most obvious culprit. If this high iron meat is consumed with HFCS or vitamin C, I’d imagine a significant amount of the iron is absorbed.

    • Harriet on June 24, 2015 at 17:14

      It seems that Australia doesn’t add iron to bread/flour – folate and thiamin, yes, iron, no. Iron is added to some breakfast foods, particularly those I think of as American, rather than what I was brought up on. Australian obesity is high. At one stage when I was studying obesity I was on an aeroplane flying out of Western Australia and was staggered to observe that on a plane of 360 odd people that only 6 could be said to be not overweight or obese and 4 of those were children. Now this could have been skewed as this happens from time to time – random and all. I was on my way to New Zealand and observed in 2008 that the average weight over there seemed to be about 10 kg lighter than where I live in Australia. I went back last year to find they were catching up fast and the huge discrepancy wasn’t obvious any longer. Family also commented that people seemed to be getting fatter fast. Note these are just observations, not scientific studies but it does make me wonder and if we don’t fortify with iron, then how do are increases in weight to be accounted for?

    • Wilbur on June 24, 2015 at 19:12

      Duck –

      What’s an “excessive amount of meat?” I ask this after eating (and craving beforehand) the glorious fat of Iberico pork, about 12 ounces worth.

      Every study of “high meat consumption” I have read compares, essentially, a diet devoid of vegetables to a high vegetable diet. A high vegetable dirt might be a high fiber diet. One devoid of vegetables is low fiber. So maybe diets with lots of meat are really low fiber, and low fiber is the true culprit? Maybe iron has some play here if indeed high fiber ameliorates its effects?

      So a high meat, high fiber diet might not be so bad? I cycle between this and near vegan diets, which is also high fiber. Not consciously, just by desire. Lunch today, for instance, was raw yellow squash and lots of black raspberries. Wonderful.

      I get the feeling that researchers are out to demonize meat. But my feeling is that it is not what’s added, but what’s missing. And what’s missing with many meat eaters is veggies (fiber). I get this a lot when discussing my health improvements with interested people. “I’m not a vegetable eater. I can’t give up my meat and potatoes.”

    • Duck Dodgers on June 24, 2015 at 20:04

      Wilbur said: “What’s an “excessive amount of meat?” I ask this after eating (and craving beforehand) the glorious fat of Iberico pork, about 12 ounces worth.”

      An “excessive amount of meat” refers to yearly per capita consumption—not the amount you occasionally crave or consume in one meal.

      See: The Economist: Kings of the carnivores

      Supposedly your body can only absorb so much iron in one meal, so eating a huge steak once in awhile has a limited effect on your iron stores.

      But should you consistently eat a lot of meat as a daily staple—say 120 kg/year, like the average Australian does—and often wash it down with HFCS or Vitamin C, that’s a different story.

      To put it in perspective, an average Blue Zone individual eats 3-4 oz of meat—usually low heme white meat—about 5 times per month.

      Wilbur said: “I cycle between this and near vegan diets, which is also high fiber. Not consciously, just by desire.”

      There’s nothing wrong with occasionally binging on meat. I suspect our ancestors gorged on huge quantities of meat whenever they could find it. But I kinda doubt it happened every day and it varied with the seasons. So, you may be following that exact pattern, which I imagine to be quite natural.

      Wilbur said: “A high vegetable dirt might be a high fiber diet. One devoid of vegetables is low fiber. So maybe diets with lots of meat are really low fiber, and low fiber is the true culprit? Maybe iron has some play here if indeed high fiber ameliorates its effects?”

      Fiber certainly plays a role. No one denies that. But, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that specifically low heme white meat consumption correlates with lower incidence of chronic diseases, while red high heme meats correlate with increased chronic diseases. For instance, there are plenty of studies implicating heme from red meats in colon cancer—not just any meat crowding out fiber. Do a Google Scholar search and you’ll find them.

      As you search through those studies you can see that researchers are even controlling for the heme content and seeing the damage that iron is doing to the GIT. For instance, here’s a brand new 2015 study that shows that it’s the heme in red meat that plays a key role in colon cancer.

      A Central Role for Heme Iron in Colon Carcinogenesis Associated with Red Meat Intake (2015)

      And we see this pattern of heme interacting with cells in the colon the more you delve into the literature. So, it’s really difficult to ignore all this and just assume that it’s all just fiber, fiber, fiber. No. There’s clearly much more going on and too much heme seems to play a key role.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 24, 2015 at 20:25

      Also, Stephan Guyenet had 9-part series on “Is Meat Unhealthy?” Red meat, and processed meat in particular, didn’t fare so well.

      Guyenet barely mentioned heme in all his posts, but the interactions with heme in processed meats has been singled out by researchers as well.

      Frankly I’m kinda bummed because I love to eat meat. But, I just can’t find much evidence that consistently high meat consumption is good for anybody. The only time it seems to be OK is when the Masai simultaneously consume a liter of dairy per day and specific plants rich in tannins and saponins.

      I’m still going to eat red meat, but less than I used to.

    • Harriet on June 24, 2015 at 20:26

      Yes, Australia does have a large meat intake, about 111 kg per capita per annum, which seems high to me, but that just might be because we (hubby & I) have just reduced our intake by about 50% over these last few years.

    • Bret on June 24, 2015 at 20:35

      Speaking of Australians, this picture from Nutrition and Physical Degeneration always struck me for the relative pudginess of the upper right traditional man.

      No processed foods in his diet, but certainly a shitload of meat. And still, he has the love handles and a spare tire on the front.

    • Bret on June 24, 2015 at 20:43

      I’m still going to eat red meat, but less than I used to.

      I agree 100%. Thanks largely to the work you have shared here (plus Guyenet and others — not that shithead McDougall, though), I am increasingly seeing how much sense it makes to live primarily on natural, fibrous, starchy foods. Meat is much more useful as a supplement than a core.

    • John on June 26, 2015 at 06:19

      “The Anthony Colpo link at the bottom of the article recommends this approach in conjunction with bloodletting, although he has since disavowed his endorsement of IP-6 as, ironically, it wasn’t compatible with his anti-grain narrative.”

      Duck, I never saw Anthony Colpo disavow IP6, and he recommended it for iron reduction as recently as January 2014. He did warn that it can lower status of other minerals (such as calcium and magnesium), and suggested steps to counteract this.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 26, 2015 at 09:05

      Interesting, John.

      I was apparently referring to 2010 article when Anthony Colpo said…

      Anthony Colpo wrote:

      “The effect of phytate on mineral status is why I abandoned IP-6 supplementation and switched to phlebotomy instead, and why I made a point of taking IP-6 on an empty stomach away from meals first thing in the morning when I did take it.”

      If Colpo went back to IP-6 then there is something rather erratic and conflicting with his anti-grain narrative. Mind you, in that post, Colpo took private emails Jane Karlsson exchanged with him and published them so that he could cherrypick research to bash her publicly. A dick move.

      I like Colpo for the most part, and we even linked to his article you previously recommended. But there is something incredibly ironic about a Paleo™ -eque anti-grain author like Colopo recommending IP-6 supplements to manage iron status. It’s like he’s burying his head in the sand and promoting the very phytochemical he’s made a career demonizing. It’s a crock of shit.

    • John on June 27, 2015 at 16:31

      Well, the IP6 recommendation was made to an individual who had high iron stores who could not donate blood. As far as I can tell, Colpo’s stance on phytate is this- phytate generally will lower mineral status in the body, and therefore should generally be avoided, as this is not a good thing. But if you have high iron stores, phytate can be useful therapeutically. However, measures should be taken to ensure that lowering of other minerals (like magnesium, calcium and zinc) be kept at a minimum (hence taking an IP6 supplement away from meals). Also, if other methods (such as phlebotomy) will avoid these side effects, they should be preferred.

      I personally used blood donation and IP6 to lower ferritin, although I stopped using IP6 when I started donating blood monthly. When I eat grains, which, aside from rice, isn’t often, I opt for refined and unfortified whenever I can.

      If Jane Karlsson knows of studies that show that whole grains indeed do increase mineral status in the body, and are superior to refined and unfortified, then I would be eager to see them.

    • Jane Karlsson on June 29, 2015 at 02:08

      John, measuring mineral status is far from straightforward. Diagnosing copper deficiency, for instance, is pretty much impossible unless it’s severe. You can have marginal copper deficiency all your life and have no idea, unless your doctor happens to know your symptoms are exactly the ones seen in copper deficient animals.

      “Copper deficiency is the only nutritional insult that elevates cholesterol (7), blood pressure (8), and uric acid; has adverse effects on electrocardiograms (7, 9); impairs glucose tolerance (10), to which males respond differently than do females; and which promotes thrombosis and oxidative damage. More than 75 anatomic, chemical, and physiologic similarities between animals deficient in copper and people with ischemic heart disease have been identified.” – Leslie Klevay

      Refined grains have only half the copper they should have. The diet of most Americans has a copper content lower than the RDA, according to Klevay. And the RDA is very low, slightly below the level he found produced symptoms of heart disease in volunteers.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 29, 2015 at 11:32

      “As far as I can tell, Colpo’s stance on phytate is this- phytate generally will lower mineral status in the body, and therefore should generally be avoided, as this is not a good thing”

      Except don’t most Westerners accumulate ferritin as they age? So, why would someone living in a Western country want to avoid the opportunity to lower free mineral status? Keep in mind that opposing beneficial minerals aren’t exactly hard to come by in developed nations.

      The studies we investigated on anti-nutrients discussed how they had a dual role—being helpful to people in developed nations but counterproductive to people with extremely limited diets.

      Phytate in foods and significance for humans: Food sources, intake, processing, bioavailability, protective role and analysis (2009)

      “Health authorities from all over the world universally recommend increasing consumption of whole grains and legumes for health promoting diets. Whole grain foods are valuable sources of carbohydrates, dietary fibre, numerous bioactive compounds, vitamins, minerals and trace elements which are in short supply in many countries…Growing interest in whole grains and whole grain products in developing and industrialised raised the questions on these foods on the mineral status. High content of phytate in these products has been considered a major factor for limited mineral bioavailability, resulting in iron, zinc and calcium deficiencies. The inhibition of the intestinal metal absorption, however, can be counteracted by many food compounds such as organic acids and complexing agents, ascorbic acid, food fermentation products, etc. competing with phytic acid in the binding of minerals and trace elements. Thus, it will be assumed that in well balanced diets the inhibitory effects of phytic acid is low and little evidence exist from nutritional surveys that in well nourished population groups dietary phytate may seriously effect the status of iron, zinc and calcium.

      Under malnutrition and nonbalance diets low in minerals and essential trace elements but high in phytate, however, the situation is completely different. Vulnerable groups in developing and developed countries with inadequate intake or deficiencies of minerals and trace elements need to increase total intake of these elements via the daily diet or to improve the bioavailability of these elements under consideration of all factors inhibiting or enhancing the bioavailability of the minerals and trace elements in the diet. Adequate strategies to prevent deficiencies of these essential elements adjusted to the specific situation are required and different approaches are possible either by supplementation of the respective elements, by increasing the contents of competing and complexing agents or by removing phytate from food.

      The paper goes on to document the anticancer, blood glucose and lipid lowering effects of phytates as well as their antioxidant properties, particularly when people in developed nations in them. Phytates have a dual role.

      This is where Colpo’s narrative breaks down. As we explained previously, some populations with limited access to foods needed to enhance their iron absorption, so phytates are obviously counterproductive to these populations. While people in developed nations see health benefits when they inhibit or avoid overindulgence in foods that promote iron absorption. Anti-grain gurus have always applied the experiences of those vulnerable populations to Westerners. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

      Do you suppose Colpo thinks his audience is mainly those vulnerable populations, in developing nations, with very limited diets? It must be. How else can he assume that anti-nutrietns are always bad when the literature does not even say that?

    • Jane Karlsson on June 30, 2015 at 03:42

      John, if you have evidence to support your position, I would like to see it. To me, the idea that whole grains can cause iron deficiency is absurd. They contain a lot of iron, and if people need the iron they will absorb it, providing their gut is healthy and they don’t have copper deficiency.

      Perhaps you should read what Don Matesz says about phytic acid.

    • John on June 29, 2015 at 15:26

      “Except don’t most Westerners accumulate ferritin as they age? So, why would someone living in a Western country want to avoid the opportunity to lower free mineral status?” Well, men and post-menopausal women generally do. But children and pre-menopausal women do not. So any whole grain recommendation should be tempered with the warning that any iron lowering effect could be detrimental to young women, children, and others with low iron stores, at the very least.

      The problem with the study linked above are these words before the bolded text- “Thus, it will be assumed” Not established, shown or proven, but simply assumed. Wasn’t iron fortification assumed to be nothing but positive? Isn’t that the general assumption that keeps it in place in the US today?

      Also, when Colpo talks about micronutrient deficiencies in Chapter 18 of the Fat Loss Bible, he cites data from the US, UK, Canada, Germany and France. No data from developing countries was presented. And by the way, the idea that Western diets are nutrient poor certainly isn’t new, as Weston A. Price was saying the same thing in the 1930’s.

      As for Colpo’s audience, I believe it to be individuals looking for detailed and tailored information and advice to solve their health problems. I know I’m a Colpo fan, but it’s because his stuff works where other advice has failed me. The combo of the FLB and a Fitbit has helped me to lose 27 pounds (mostly fat) in 3 months. That time included 2 road trips and a business conference, things that would have totally derailed my progress before. My energy and strength at the gym are solid, and I’m avoiding the pitfalls that happened to me before, like freezing cold hands and feet.

      And again, I don’t think Colpo ever said that anti-nutrients are always bad. He admits that IP6 and the low meat, high whole grain diet used by Dr. Facchini can indeed be useful for lowering iron stores. He just doesn’t believe they are superior to phlebotomy.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 29, 2015 at 17:04

      Gotcha, John. Thanks for clarifying. I have a lot of respect for Colpo and his work. And my apologies if I misrepresented him.

      But, I’m not convinced that aging populations have poor health when that eat lots of whole grains and legumes—such as Blue Zones and longevity villages do. They seem to be doing quite well, and I think now we know why. If they do indeed have poor health from their diets, I’d be interested to hear how.

      As always, I try to have an open mind about it.

    • Jane Karlsson on June 30, 2015 at 04:19

      Duck, Colpo makes a very serious mistake about whole grains. He says they are low in antioxidant nutrients. His list of antioxidant nutrients does not include manganese or copper. He does not know that the most important of the antioxidant enzymes, the superoxide dismutases, are activated by manganese and copper.

      Colpo does his best, and his best is very good indeed. But he does not know enough biochemistry. I tried to tell him I had been studying this sort of thing for 30 years, but it was no good. He thought I was a ‘government shill’ being paid to promote whole grains.

    • Jane Karlsson on June 30, 2015 at 06:38

      Duck, Colpo makes a very serious mistake about whole grains. He says they are low in antioxidant nutrients. He has a list of antioxidant nutrients which does not include manganese or copper. He does not know that the most important antioxidant enzymes, the superoxide dismutases, are activated by manganese and copper.

      Colpo does his best, and his best is very good indeed. But he does not know enough biochemistry. I tried to tell him I had been studying these things for 30 years, but it was no good. He thinks I am a ‘government shill’ being paid to push whole grains.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 30, 2015 at 07:49

      “He says they are low in antioxidant nutrients”

      Right. I guess I just don’t understand how he can say that. Not only does phytic acid act as an antioxidant in non-vulnerable populations, but the major health-promoting mechanism of whole grains is believed to be their unique antioxidant/phytochemicals—phenols such as benzoic/cinnamic acids, anthocyanidins, quinones, flavanols, chalcones, flavanones, tocopherols, and amino phenols.

      On one hand, they can act as toxins/antinutrients. On the other hand, they can act as unique antioxidants that aren’t easily found in other foods. I suspect the more vulnerable one is, the more problematic those compounds can be—which is why tastebuds have guided cultures and individuals to crave or avoid those compounds and pairings we discussed. The more robust you and your gut are, the more beneficial those compounds can be in the context of replete diets.

  17. Paleophil on June 18, 2015 at 04:25

    Good to see Ray Peat getting mentions.

    Duck wrote in a comment on the last article: “we are going to try to explain virtually every dietary paradox on the planet through one unified theory.”

    Duck, Before hypothesizing a unified theory based around iron, I urge you and Richard to read up on Ray Peat. Then it should become obvious that iron is just part of a larger picture.

    While I don’t agree with Ray on everything, he covers many important things that are getting missed at this blog and elsewhere in the Paleo crowd, such as carbon dioxide (as Cool pointed out) and energy dissipation.

    • Paleophil on June 18, 2015 at 09:28

      …and I neglected to mention that the iron articles are another excellent, fascinating series. Nicely done, Duck et al.

    • Kelly on July 6, 2015 at 01:14

      Just out of curiosity, what do you not agree with peat? And Why?


  18. Jim on June 18, 2015 at 05:26

    Wondering if anyone has any thoughts about Australia … obesity levels rivalling the US but mo history of iron fortification.

    • John on June 18, 2015 at 06:39

      Actually, they do have at least some iron fortification, though it may not be government mandated. A quick search on Austrialian cereals brought me to “Kellogg’s Guardian,” which had iron listed on the ingredients label )
      And here’s another Austrialian cereal, Uncle Toby’s PLUS Iron-
      Also, per capita meat and sugar consumption are close to US levels, while alcohol consumption levels are a bit higher. So I would say Australia fits with the hypothesis quite nicely.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2015 at 06:41

      Yes, let’s add the cereal isle to my list of ubiquity in reply to Palva, above.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 18, 2015 at 09:05

      Australia eats very high quantities of meat. Excessive meat intake is associated with obesity.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2015 at 09:18

      And that is the truth.

      It’s also associated with extreme leanness, in athletes and body builders.

      Otherwise, I think The Blue Zones offer a better template, time and FAMILY tested, and you still get to eat your meat and have your puddin’.

    • Jed on June 18, 2015 at 12:22

      Is it the meat or the bun that surrounds the meat?

    • Palva on June 19, 2015 at 00:59

      Only Kellogs has iron, but Kellogs is not popular in the Netherlands at all. A TV program in 2009 showed it had metallic iron (with a magnet, like the youtube videos) which resulted in some uproar.

      The funny thing about cereals however, is that they’re generally taken with milk, so that should counteract the iron absorption at least somewhat!

    • Richard Nikoley on June 19, 2015 at 06:33

      Good point about the milk, so put down that soy or almond milk crap. :)

      But keep in mind that one of the things we’re speculating is that the inhibited or plain non-bio-available micro-meteorites hit the gut and that could actually represent the bigger smoking gun here, with all we’ve learned about the many downstream consequences of a jacked gut.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 19, 2015 at 10:38

      Forgot to mention that the Australian government has either provided or recommended “iron sprinkles” to aboriginal populations.

    • Harriet on June 24, 2015 at 17:19

      So that is just a couple of examples, but doesn’t include the ubiquitous flour. I don’t see the iron supplementation bit as fitting for Australians as most of us don’t eat much in the way of breakfast cereals as a main food and most cereals here don’t seem to be fortified just the modern “americanised” sort. Ordinary weetbix, one of the biggest sellers isn’t fortified on the list I looked at.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 24, 2015 at 17:51

      I’ve provided more examples here.

    • Sharyn on June 25, 2015 at 13:28

      Looking at the boxed breakfast cereals in my New Zealand pantry – Sanitarium Weet-Bix, Skippy cornflakes, and Milo, all are fortified so one serve is 25% of iron RDI. The cornflakes were made here, with the other two made in Australia.

    • Skyler Tanner on August 25, 2015 at 08:27

      You can’t ignore that they, as a country, have some of the highest life expectancy in the world.

  19. Remnant on June 18, 2015 at 05:50

    The importance of this post simply cannot be overstated. This is a truly seminal and ground-breaking piece of work. Kudos to Richard and Duck. Glad I was here to read this real-time; the publication of this information will be seen as a historic moment.

  20. FrenchFry on June 18, 2015 at 07:31

    Hey guys,

    Interesting stuff.

    I can see how this would explain the initial “detox” and improved health a heavy red meat eater would experience by adopting a vegan diet. Of course, such a diet would eventually stop promoting health due to other deficiencies.

    • Harriet on June 24, 2015 at 17:20

      You might qualify that. Only some meat eaters might experience improved health when adopting a vegan diet. I didn’t.

  21. Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2015 at 08:00

    Well it also fits with why Paleo and LC/Paleo can work wonders. In eschewing processed foods and carbs/junk, you are eliminating all the chief sources of iron intake.

    • Russell on June 18, 2015 at 10:52

      Also: WESTON PRICE.

    • Harriet on June 24, 2015 at 17:23

      Might it have something to do with the processing or proportions or ??? Paleo helped heaps though previously I ate no fortified foods with almost no processed foods other than cheeses.

      Having said that the potato diet has helped my husband a lot – 8kg down so far. And a surprised doctor.

    • Bret on June 24, 2015 at 20:28

      I’ve lost plenty of weight more than once despite plenty of carbs, including white rice. I don’t think weight control has dick to do with carb quantity. It has to do with staying active and keeping your overall quantity of food down.

      Naturally, the less processed junk is consumed, the easier it is going to be to eat less. Debates have raged both here and elsewhere over which one of these things is causal. I don’t think the question is nearly that simple. I believe the two factors are inextricably linked as causes. To combat weight gain effectively, one must consider both quantity and quality of food, as well as overall level of activity…i.e. am I eating to live, or living to eat?

    • Paula on July 14, 2015 at 12:59

      Newbie here. What is the potato diet?

    • FrenchFry on July 14, 2015 at 23:30

      Hi Paula,

      All you ever wanted to know about the PD:

    • David on July 21, 2015 at 20:06

      Thanks for posting the link on the PD. I never heard of it, I gave it a try for 3 days, it totally works. I could see doing it a few times a year,

  22. Geoff on June 18, 2015 at 09:16

    So we have raw dairy producers getting raided by the Feds and iron filings being added into bread. Who’s getting rich off of fortification – that’s got to be the explanation.

  23. ChocoTaco369 on June 18, 2015 at 09:56


    I only had time to make it halfway through this article during my lunch break, but so far it is fucking brilliant. Uncharted territory in the health community.

    I hope people latch onto this idea and it spreads like wildfire, either to be confirmed or immediately squashed as complete bullshit. There are so many valid points and potentially causal associations it’ll bother me in the back of my mind forever.

    Ironically, I picked up a bag of organic white flour yesterday at Whole Foods. Due to your teaser article several weeks ago, it had my melon spinning and I bought the brand that had no fortification…which was actually their store brand. Just organic white flour and organic barley flour blended as “all purpose flour.” Whatever, no metal shavings…I hope.

    • FrenchFry on June 18, 2015 at 11:02

      Check with a magnet, just to be sure ;)

  24. C. on June 18, 2015 at 10:04

    Let’s not forget that regular wheat is soaked in glyphosate from Monsanto before it is processed.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2015 at 10:37


    • cool on June 18, 2015 at 11:57

      Yep, soaked. At least, that’s the claim:

      Common wheat harvest protocol in the United States is to drench the wheat fields with Roundup several days before the combine harvesters work through the fields as the practice allows for an earlier, easier and bigger harvest.

      (Obviously, there are a LOT of risk factors and confounders with industrialized food products, including wheat/flour).

    • Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2015 at 12:45

      Sweetheart, you need to learn to play better. I will usually overlook lying, since its ubiquitous, but now you went and lied twice.

      They spray roundup on shit.

      They don’t harvest grains and soak them in vats of roundup.

      Gave you a chance, and you lied in order to suggest that drenching also means soaking.

      Why do you find the need to lie like that?

    • hackberry on June 19, 2015 at 04:39

      Is that really lying, or just a bit of a echo chamber enthusiasm?

      At any rate, there *is* glyphosate in the wheat, isn’t there? And it is pretty toxic. And there is more of it in crops from the United States of Monsanto than elsewhere. Like fortification it could be a factor. One of many in what is obviously a complex thing.

      Speaking of France, by the way:

    • Cool on June 22, 2015 at 16:27

      Wait – are you responding to “c.” above me (“cool”) thinking we’re the same reader? We’re not. I’d heard the claim that “c.” had made and simply did a quick Google search and quoted the claim QUALIFING it as a claim. Soaked/drenched seems like semantics. Not sure what the nuance is that I’m missing – is it that drenching is before harvestvs. soaking is post harvest?

      Lemme simplify: I just want all that junk out of my food, I don’t care to split hairs, I also do not intentionally spread falsehoods or propaganda just to make a bigger case against the Monsantos of the world.

      So if what I cited I response to “c.’s” post was appreciably incomplete/incorrect , please help me understand and take it at face value that I have no such agenda, myself.

  25. maurile on June 18, 2015 at 11:17

    There is a book that I think should be way more popular in the ancestral health community than it is: Why We Get Sick, by Randolph Nesse and George Williams, published in 1994. Being a few decades old, it could use an update. But here’s what they said about iron (excuse the long quote, but I think the whole section is interesting):
    Our bodies have a … defense mechanism, of which most people are unaware and which physicians sometimes unwittingly attempt to frustrate. Here are some clues about how it works. A patient with chronic tuberculosis is found to have a low level of iron in his blood. A physician concludes that correcting the anemia may increase the patient’s resistance, so she gives him an iron supplement. The patient’s infection gets worse. Another clue: Zulu men often drink beer made in iron pots and often get serious liver infections caused by an amoeba. In contrast, less than 10 percent of Masai tribesmen have amoebic infections. They are herdsmen and drink large amounts of milk. When a group of Masai were given iron supplements, 88 percent soon got an amoebic infection. In another study, well-meaning investigators gave iron to supplement the low levels found in Somali nomads. At the end of one month, 38 percent had infections versus 8 percent of those who had not taken the supplements.

    Yet another clue: eggs are a rich source of nutrients, but their porous shells can be readily penetrated by bacteria. So how can eggs stay fresh so long? They contain lots of iron, but it is all in the yolk, none in the surrounding white. Egg white protein is 12 percent conalbumin, a molecule whose structure tightly binds iron and thereby withholds it from any bacteria that might get in. Prior to the antibiotic era, egg whites were used to treat infections.

    The protein in human milk is 20 percent lactoferrin, another molecule designed to bind iron. Cow’s milk has only about 2 percent lactoferrin, and breast-fed babies consequently have fewer infections than those fed from bottles. Lactoferrin is also concentrated in tears and saliva and especially at wounds, where an elevated acidity makes it especially efficient in binding iron. The researchers who discovered conalbumin predicted that there should be a similar molecule to bind iron within the body. This led to the discovery of transferrin, another protein that binds iron tightly. Transferrin releases iron only to cells that carry special recognition markers. Bacteria lack the needed code and can’t get the iron. People suffering from protein deprivation may have levels of transferrin less than 10 percent of normal. If they receive iron supplements before the body has time to rebuild its supply of transferrin, free iron in the blood makes infections likely — as has been a tragic outcome of some attempts to relieve victims of famine.

    By now the nature of this defense is surely obvious. Iron is a crucial and scarce resource for bacteria, and their hosts have evolved a wide variety of mechanisms to keep them from getting it. In the presence of infection, the body releases a chemical called leukocyte endogenous mediator (LEM), which both raises body temperature and greatly decreases the availability of iron in the blood. Iron absorption by the gut is also decreased during infection. Even our food preferences change. In the midst of a bout of influenza, such iron-rich foods as ham and eggs suddenly seem disgusting; we prefer tea and toast. This is just the ticket for keeping iron away from pathogens. We tend now to think of bloodletting as an example of early medical ignorance, but perhaps, as Kluger has suggested, it did help some patients by lowering their iron levels. …

    The evolved mechanism that regulates iron binding is but one specific illustration of the broader principle that we should be careful to distinguish defenses from other manifestations of infection, slow to conclude that a bodily response is maladaptive, and cautious about overriding defensive responses. In short, we should respect the evolved wisdom of the body.

    • Gemma on June 19, 2015 at 07:13

      “In short, we should respect the evolved wisdom of the body.”

      So true.

      Hepcidin is not only iron metabolism regulator, but an antimicrobial peptide as well (or rather, first of all it is AMP).

  26. John on June 18, 2015 at 12:23

    I made a Leangains protocol for myself. Obviously macronutrient based focus. Reviewing now, I realize it is lower in red meat than what I was eating prior.

    It has resulted in hunger regulation exceeding anything I’ve previously known, including stints of deliberate hypercaloric “bulking.”

    I previously assumed it was the protein (200-250g/day). Reviewing my foods with those discussed in the article – perhaps much of this information fits in.

    I eat about 14 servings of cereal a week, though (definitely fortified). Whatever I feel like, whether its simple like rice krispies, or sugary like frosted flakes.

    I am currently 5’9″ 154 lbs. Visible veins on abs. Strength good (though several injuries lately – probably due to attempting heavy lifts in the face of decreasing strength. I’ve lost almost 20lbs in the past 3 1/2 months).

    Rest day – 4x/week – Approx 1800 calories
    1lb Cuisine Solutions sliced beef.
    1lb 2$ cottage cheese
    150 calorie bag of frozen vegetables cooked with 1/2 tablespoon butter.
    3 cups whole milk.
    6oz wild salmon

    Workout day – 3x week – approx 2200 calories
    30g bcaa
    2lbs fat free greek yogurt
    333g frozen blueberries.
    20g Special K Gluten Free
    3 eggs cooked in 1/2tbs butter
    1 can tuna with mustard
    10 uni liver tablets
    4 servings cereal (440 calories worth)
    3 cups 1% milk
    2 talbespoons gelatin.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2015 at 12:53

      John, this is light years gone from me. If you have professional goals or need to know how to do it by the numbers, fine, but otherwise is tantamount to an eating disorder.

      You have veins on you abs. Look at what you just wrote. Consider behaving more normally.

    • John on June 18, 2015 at 14:28

      Abdominal vascularity is probably genetic – I don’t really look super lean – I’m just using one measure of leanness to illustrate my current state (as opposed to the other I don’t have – 6 pack).

      I don’t have an eating disorder. I find dietary experimentation fun. I don’t avoid the regular meals with family and friends, and eat what I want until I’m full. When I’m not with family or friends, I’m not thinking about food because I always know what I’m going to eat. It seems, like with most things in my life, planning and implementation leads to success in diet too.

      I came up with this meal plan as an experiment to see how lean I’d get. Since, I’ve noticed improvements in energy and mood, clearer skin, better body composition, improved digestion, reduced stress, better sleep, reduced blood pressure, elimination of almost all thoughts about “what to eat,” and the best appetite regulation I’ve ever experienced. As I said I’ve had a couple of minor muscle strains – nothing a week or two of gym avoidance didn’t fix.

      My ultimate desire is related to improvement of those things instead of whether my behavior is normal. I’m “light years” healthier in feeling and appearance than I’ve ever been so this experiment, though odd, I currently consider a success.

      Besides hunger control, I find the digestion aspect most interesting. I think it may be due in large part to adhering to staples most of the time.

      I jumped on board with the SBO/PS experiments over a year ago. I did notice interesting dreams. I did not notice an improvement to my digestive issues, though some worsening – possibly due to massive stool volume. I did develop the worst heartburn I’d ever experienced (previously only experienced heartburn one other time in my life – 2010 when I first read about probiotics on MDA and tried them). It was excruciating and constant. Upon recommendation on your blog I did a 48 hour fast – it was throat and chest burningly bad the whole time.

      And damn, did people think eating starch out of a bag and popping special dirt bacteria pills was abnormal behavior.

      And I’ve kept up with the evolution in thinking on these bug:bug food issues. I noticed “probiotic” related improvements while eating raw honey every day.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2015 at 15:17

      Ha John.

      Congratulations. You made me feel bad about putting you through that explanation.

      Good for you and best wishes.

    • John on June 18, 2015 at 15:44

      Haha I get lost in thought and realized I wrote a damn autobiography. (Aka comment reply addiction.)

      Now excuse me while I eat my orthorexia inspired meal while staring at the mirror shirtless. (Jjust kidding).

  27. Michelle on June 18, 2015 at 13:06

    I loved this article! I’ve often wondered about all the junk that is added to food, and whether or not it is safe. Good info, this. I hope it goes far and wide.

    I’ve been having fun running around trying to find wheat based products that are not enriched or fortified. Oy, what a chore.
    I could not buy white flour locally that is not enriched; I’ll have to buy it online. Whole Foods has not made it to Eugene yet but it is being built, lol. I’m looking for white to mix with whole wheat for better flavor.

    Lots of whole wheat flour that is not enriched. I did find ONE brand of store bought white bread that is made from unenriched flour: Dave’s Killer Bread White Done Right.

    As for cereal it looks like Shredded Wheat is ok but not frosted mini-wheats. Can’t tell about a lot of the granola since I buy it from the bins at Winco and the labels are too tiny to read easily!

    So what about all the added Vit D and A in milk? Is it going to turn out to be problematic down the road, like iron fortification?

    • Ann on June 19, 2015 at 08:48

      The downshot to Dave’s Killer Breads is that they add something called “vital wheat gluten” to their bread, which none of us needs to have added to our bread products.

      I’ve come to believe the only answer is to buy a grain mill and mill my own wheat, rye, etc, from organic sources, like Jovial Foods, which I have yet to do. I have a Vitamix with a grain cannister, but find it doesn’t really do a great job, and it’s tedious to mill enough for bread. The flour I have made from Jovial’s einkorn was UNBELIEVABLY good. I think even using Spelt, Emmer, Einkorn, or Kamut is a good idea, as those are older strains.

      Growing a sourdough starter and making bread that way is an even better idea.

  28. John on June 18, 2015 at 13:23

    I don’t think vitamin D levels have much to do with iron absorption. However, hemoglobin isn’t just about iron. If the B Vitamins are low, your hemoglobin could be low, even if iron stores are normal or high. A good B complex or iron free multivitamin would be the first things to try.

  29. Dr. Weezil on June 18, 2015 at 13:36

    This would explain the explosion of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes in Italy since WWII, who consume vast quantities of industrial wheat via pasta, both home-made and store bought. Remember, pasta consumption was a rare indulgence before its promotion by the fascists during the war, and as a poverty-busting food during the reconstruction afterwards.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2015 at 13:55

      My thing, Doc, is that the idea that pasta or any form of refined grains caused problems in Italy and almost everywhere is not new. We have LC, Ketogenic, Paleo and what have you diets to account for either carbs, anti-nutrients, both, or nutrient deficiency via replacement. Oh, and gluten.

      Thing is, everyone just called the French a paradox and hides their eyes any time everything does not add up.

    • Omctc on June 18, 2015 at 17:01

      Does Italy fortify their grains?

    • Dr. Weezil on June 19, 2015 at 09:01

      Speaking of Italians, yeasts, wheat, bread, and digestion, here’s an article and recipe from Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery in S.F., the king of naturally and long-rising fermented baked goods:

    • Duck Dodgers on June 18, 2015 at 20:48

      Italy does not have mandatory fortification. Rather, Italy has fairly high meat consumption, which is associated with those mentioned chronic conditions.

      However, they do have a lot of (diagnosed) gluten intolerance. Some researchers believe that yeast fermentation can help reduce the toxic effects of gluten, and very few pasta varieties are ever fermented with yeast. Whereas the French traditionally consumed wheat as slow-rise yeast-fermented baguettes.

      Therfore, unfermented pasta may explain their high reported issues with gluten, but I see no evidence that they are doing much if any fortification beyond a few marginal items (like corn flakes).

    • Dr. Weezil on June 19, 2015 at 08:54

      “Rather, Italy has fairly high meat consumption, which is associated with those mentioned chronic conditions. ”

      This is statistically across the country? Because it defies my experience there, especially with the old people in the small towns who are seeing these problems the most.

      “However, they do have a lot of (diagnosed) gluten intolerance.”

      This makes sense, too. The other thing my relations over there categorically complain about are digestive issues, from simple gas to diverticulitis.

      “Some researchers believe that yeast fermentation can help reduce the toxic effects of gluten, and very few pasta varieties are ever fermented with yeast. Whereas the French traditionally consumed wheat as slow-rise yeast-fermented baguettes.”

      It’s not just “very few,” but exceedingly rare. But, this goes back to my original point; prior to WWI and WWII, pasta consumption was an occasional practice. It was not a staple food as it became during the reconstruction, where as primary starch sources were legumes, farro, and rice. (Now where have we heard that before). Further, Italians have a history of yeast-fermented bread baking that’s just as long as the French’s. And just as with the French, Italian bread was fermented using a shared “mother” starter cultivated from wild yeasts.

      “Therfore, unfermented pasta may explain their high reported issues with gluten, but I see no evidence that they are doing much if any fortification beyond a few marginal items (like corn flakes).”

      I can check when I’m in country this summer and let you know. The made-in-Italy imported varieties for sale in the States I’ve seen are all made from fortified wheat.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 23, 2015 at 20:28

      “This is statistically across the country?”


      See: Wikipedia: List of countries by meat consumption

      Italy was at (198.4 lbs) 90.4 kg/person of meat in 2002. That’s relatively high.

      “Because it defies my experience there, especially with the old people in the small towns who are seeing these problems the most.”

      Keep in mind that some metals are inhaled from nearby mines, and this may be the case with issues seen in some regions like Sardinia. It’s an interesting theory that hasn’t been explored that closely.

      “The made-in-Italy imported varieties for sale in the States I’ve seen are all made from fortified wheat.”

      I believe many EU countries have granted manufacturers the ability to voluntarily enrich food products. And, it sounds like this allows products to be sold in Canada as apparently Canada prohibits the sale of imported unfortified white flour products:

      Canadian Food Inspection Agency: Prohibition against the sale of unenriched white flour and products containing unenriched flour

      Is that true Gab?

    • gabkad on June 24, 2015 at 03:21

      True, Duckie. But the amount of iron added is half of what is added in the USA.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 24, 2015 at 05:39

      Hmm… you sure about that? According to the official Canadian government specifications, it says that Canadian requirements are 4.4 mg of iron per 100g of flour.

      1 pound = 453.592 grams

      453.592/100 = 4.53592

      4.4mg x 4.53592 = 19.96mg of iron per pound of flour

      Here the US the FDA mandates 20mg of iron per pound of white flour.

      So, the fortification levels appear to be identical between the US and Canada. Looks like some politicians decided to make wheat product trade easier between the two nations.

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on June 24, 2015 at 21:33



      198.4 lb/year
      = 90.4 kg/year

      (assuming 3 meals/day)

      => 82.5 gm/meal
      = 2.9 oz/meal

      does not seem that much meat to me tho


    • Duck Dodgers on June 25, 2015 at 06:14

      Maybe ask Angelo Coppola if he thinks it makes a difference for him. I believe his own version of Plant Paleo is ~40 Lbs of meat per year.

      Remember that TMAO scare awhile back?

      NYTimes: Culprit in Heart Disease Goes Beyond Meat’s Fat

      “But the outcome was quite different when a vegan ate a steak. Researchers had hypothesized that vegans would not have as many of the gut bacteria needed to make TMAO, and indeed virtually no TMAO appeared in the vegan’s blood after he consumed a steak.”

      Ironically, vegans and vegetarians may be the ones best suited to eat meat.

      I suppose we can just dismiss it, ya know ‘cos association does not equal causation, but there are clear patterns between the kinds of meat (red vs white, processed vs unprocessed) and the level of consumption of those meats in the data over and over again.

      All we did was explain those patterns with a unified theory, which had never been done to this extent before. The seemingly unsolvable French Paradox was literally just the first paradox we knocked down.

      So far it’s been pretty rock solid. It’s now to take down bestselling authors with 140 characters. Of course, I didn’t even mention that total meat consumption is up since 1970.

      This is mainly about explaining patterns. We can ignore them, but I think they are becoming difficult to ignore as we get sicker and sicker while other countries seem mostly immune to the same issues.

  30. Deborah on June 18, 2015 at 14:57

    Agree that supplementation in food is a bad idea, but sometimes supplementation IS needed, depending on individual testing and symptoms. Hair falling out? Tired? Ferritin really low? Try taking some food-based iron OR vitamin C with your meat OR whatever is needed to bring it up. Feel better? great that was the right individual solution for you.

    • Emily t on February 28, 2016 at 10:38

      Oh yes I need iron due to heavy periods. vitron-c is working a miracle for me after a blood check found I was anemic. What is a better source to quickly bring up iron?

  31. Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2015 at 15:27

    Yea, me too. On the good days.

  32. Iron, Food Enrichment and the Theory of Everything | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page on June 18, 2015 at 15:44

    […] Iron, Food Enrichment and The Theory of Everything | Free The Animal Very interesting article. The hypothesis is that iron fortification in flour and food in general is causing obesity and disease. Iron fortification explains how France has relatively low rates of obesity but its people consumers relatively large amounts of bread – France does not do iron fortification. Yes, the real Dirk. Reply With Quote […]

  33. Lance on June 18, 2015 at 16:32

    After researching this for that last couple of weeks, I thought I might be suffering from iron overload. I have been cooking nearly everything in cast iron and ingesting a lot of red (muscle) meat for the last 3-4 years on a Paleo-ish diet. Absolutely no grains for 2-3 years, added rice back in for RS last year and occasionally some buckwheat. No wheat or wheat-like grains (spelt, etc) or anything with gluten since 2011.

    However, I just found my blood tests from last fall, and I don’t think I’m anywhere close to showing overload:

    TIBC 249, UIBC 188, Serum Iron 61, Iron Saturation 24%, Ferritin 118

    Now, there could be some other factor that I’m not aware of…

    • giskard on June 18, 2015 at 17:20

      Dunno about the other numbers, but I read that Ferritin should ideally be in the 40s…

    • John on June 18, 2015 at 17:35

      Yeah, overall, your iron panel isn’t that high. Possibly because you eliminated grains, which are the biggest source in the American diet. And even if your rice is fortified, you might be getting rid of the added iron if you rinse it.

      That being said, you still might see benefits from lowering your ferritin, even at your level. If you decide to donate blood, pay really close attention to your mood and energy levels. You may notice an improvement after a single donation. Look at Chris Kresser’s presentation again, I think guys with your ferritin levels still showed some interesting improvements. The Colpo articles are great as well.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 18, 2015 at 19:01

      My guess is that people get higher iron levels from eating iron absorption enhancers (Vitamin C, HFCS) with their iron-enriched meals. Iron enrichment isn’t absorbed particularly well on its own and it’s easily inhibited. So, it’s the people (and kids) drinking HFCS with their iron-enriched meals that are probably most at risk for absorbing too much iron. Many industrial wheat products actually add ascorbic acid to enhance iron absorption and many of those products even have HFCS in them too.

    • Lance on June 18, 2015 at 20:06

      My ferritin levels might be causing some difficulty with pathogens, however. My health went down the tubes last fall with bouts of shingles, pneumonia, and several nasty colds since then.

      Turns out I’ve got a latent EBV infection from having Mono 20 years ago. My naturopath who specializes in EBV/CFS/Fibromyalgia has me on anti-virals and thyroid meds, but I thought perhaps iron overload might be influencing my fatigue as well. Time will tell as I continue to take measures to reduce my iron exposure and mitigate the iron I cannot avoid.

      I’m looking forward to taking the Elixa that should have shipped out to me today. I’m hoping that vastly improving my gut biome turns my health around.

    • Jer on June 19, 2015 at 05:56

      Lance, if you’r’ active, you will sweat the iron out. One reason that liver pills are consumed by the handful by bodybuilders.

    • Paleophil on June 21, 2015 at 19:09

      Lance, The numbers that Anthony Colpo talked about for serum ferritin at the below links were 30 to 40 (higher if active):

      Hope that helps. I’m not an expert on serum ferritin and I’m not advising you what to do, but Anthony’s overall advice on it seems to fit well with what Duck, Jane Karlsson, Chris Kresser, Ray Peat and others have found.

  34. Omctc on June 18, 2015 at 16:55

    How about William Banting? He existed before food enrichment. Many people at that time cured their obesity with low carb high fat diets. This is still a paradox.

    • John on June 18, 2015 at 19:34

      Iron still existed in Banting’s time. So did meat, alcohol, and sugar. Also, Banting’s prescribed diet wasn’t high fat, and had specific prohibitions against pork, salmon, and butter. What helped Banting lose weight was a nutrient dense diet that created a caloric deficit, and also allowed him to drink up to seven glasses of wine a day.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2015 at 19:35


      More people have lost weight by plain caloric restriction than LC, and simply eating less was the very first diet BECAUSE IT’S FUCKING OBVIOUS!

      Moreover, we’re talking about epidemiology here. Obesity was hardly anything more that an old fat aunt problem back them.

    • John on June 19, 2015 at 07:19

      When I first got into LC, and developed the notion that calories are irrelevant, I heard about the Okinawan principle of eating until 80% full. At the time I thought what a crock of shit – its impossible to deliberately and consistently eat to only 80% because of Taubes’ explanation of willpower not being a factor.

    • omctc on June 19, 2015 at 11:36

      Genetics also play a big role with iron absorption. My husband and I have had the same diet for about 23 years. Half of that time on SAD, the other half paleo, lowish carb. He has hemochromatosis, and I have iron deficiency, severe enough that I had to go on heme iron supplements for a year to get my iron into the normal range. Neither diet made any difference to our iron status.

      He is of Celtic decent which is associated with a high incidence of hemochromatosis, which was likely an adaptie advantage due to the lack of iron in the soil, and I am of Portuguese ancestry, and likely have the opposite adaptation, inhibiting iron absorption, due to the red, iron rich soil in southern Portugal. Since both of us are removed from our ancestral homelands, our adaptations become a liability. Also, in this day and age, sadly, no one in the developed world eats local food, so this may be a factor as well.

    • Frank X on June 19, 2015 at 13:32

      you may be oversimplifying things. Many people who have trouble absorbing iron just have copper deficiency. Copper is needed for iron efflux.

    • Kieran on June 22, 2015 at 15:31

      Celts also traditionally consumed huge amounts of dairy, kind of like the Maasai. High dairy + low iron soil = haemochromatosis?

    • Duck Dodgers on June 22, 2015 at 17:54

      Of course, you’d want to rule out anemia of chronic disease as well, before assuming that you were just born to be a poor absorber of iron.

  35. giskard on June 18, 2015 at 17:18

    So what % of total iron intake in the SAD is from enrichment?

    Also, the food combining tricks only work if they’re taken in the same meal, right? Doesn’t work to eat meat for lunch and dairy for dinner?

    • Duck Dodgers on June 18, 2015 at 20:08

      I figure here is as good as any place to show what we found with dairy and meat…

      Thorough oven cooking transforms up to 50% of heme iron into easily-inhibited non-heme iron. Dairy inhibits a good amount (not all) of heme and non-heme iron on a single-meal basis (mostly due to the calcium) and is the only thing that can really inhibit the heme iron in meats. Non-heme from plants is poorly absorbed and easily inhibited until you add iron absorption enhancers (Vitamin C, HFCS). Some would say that heme iron is absorbed too well. Most known indigenous cultures did not rely too heavily on meat, so you can see where all the confusion has come from when people look at indigenous cultures as a guide. Anyhow…

      Dairy’s ability to inhibit iron absorption wears off after a few hours… (Incidentally, Jewish law prohibits just dairy for a few hours after eating meat, and it originates from their ancient high-dairy/low meat diets.)

      Here are two papers from 2000 clarifying how it works…

      From: Influence of goat and cow milk on the digestive and metabolic utilization of calcium and iron (2000)

      Several studies in animals have shown that calcium interferes with the absorption of iron from the diet. In most of these earlier studies, calcium has been found to inhibit the absorption of non-heme iron (3, 9). Research in humans has shown that there is a strong dose-related inhibition of the absorption of iron by calcium with a maximum inhibiting effect of 50-60% in the range of 150-300 mg Ca. Thus, giving 165 mg Ca as milk, cheese or calcium chloride reduces iron absorption by 50-60% (9). Studies on single composite meals have shown that calcium, consumed as milk or cheese, strongly inhibits the absorption of nonheme iron (10). Moreover, it has been demonstrated that calcium also inhibits the absorption of heme and noneheme iron (10, 11). These and other recent findings imply that the calcium inhibition of iron absorption might be very important nutritionally. (8, 16)

      What this is saying is that in the single-meal studies the calcium in dairy can inhibit iron absorption. The studies suggest that over time, the body will apparently adjust to this inhibition and try to absorb a bit more iron if you do this consistently (so you won’t become anemic), but the point is that it would seem highly unlikely that one could promote iron overload if they are consistently practicing iron inhibition, with dairy, like the Masai and French do.

      The calcium effect wears off after a few hours, so you can only inhibit iron with dairy alone if you are consistently consuming a 150-300mg of Ca per meal. A 4.5 oz serving of Brie has 236 mg of calcium. So, the cheese course alone is usually enough to significantly inhibit iron absorption. Coffee and tea will certainly inhibit the non-heme iron. Cooking and aging meat transforms a good amount into non-heme iron, making it easily inhibited by a cream sauce, hollandaise sauce or deviled eggs. Therefore, it does not seem conceivable that the French would have iron overload from their rich diet.

      Another review from 2000…

      From: The effect of calcium on iron absorption (2000)

      The experimental and epidemiological evidence demonstrating that Ca inhibits Fe absorption was reviewed, with the objectives of estimating the potential impact of variations in Ca intake on dietary Fe bioavailability and of providing some guidelines for predicting the effects on Fe status of recent recommendations for higher dietary Ca intake. In animal models Ca salts reduced both haem- and non-haem-Fe absorption, the effect being dependent on the amount of Ca administered rather than the Ca:Fe molar ratio; dairy products had a variable effect; factors other than Ca may have been important. In single-meal human absorption studies, both haem- and non-haem-Fe absorption was inhibited by Ca supplements and by dairy products, the effect depending on the simultaneous presence of Ca and Fe in the lumen of the upper small intestine and also occurring when Ca and Fe were given in the fasting state. The quantitative effect, although dose dependent, was modified by the form in which Ca was administered and by other dietary constituents (such as phosphate, phytate and ascorbic acid) known to affect Fe bioavailability. The mechanism by which Ca influences Fe absorption has not been elucidated. The effects of factors that modulate Fe bioavailability are known to be exaggerated in single-meal studies, and measurements based on several meals are more likely to reflect the true nutritional impact. The results of most multiple-meal human studies suggest that Ca supplementation will have only a small effect on Fe absorption unless habitual Ca consumption is very low. Outcome analyses showed that Ca supplements had no effect on Fe status in infants fed Fe-fortified formula, lactating women, adolescent girls and adult men and women. However it should be noted that the subjects studied had adequate intakes of bioavailable Fe and, except in one study, had relatively high habitual Ca intakes. Although cross-sectional analyses in Europe have shown a significant inverse correlation between Ca intake (derived primarily from dairy foods) and Fe stores, the quantitative effect was relatively small. The general conclusion is that dietary Ca supplements are unlikely to have a biologically significant impact on Fe balance in Western societies unless Ca consumption is habitually very low; however, increased consumption of dairy products may have a small negative effect that could be functionally important in pregnancy if Fe supplements are not taken. It is uncertain whether the inverse relationship between consumption of dairy products and Fe status is due entirely to increased Ca intake; substitution of milk proteins for meat may also have negative effects on Fe balance.

      It seems to be well accepted that high dairy/calcium intake will inhibit iron absorption. This likely explains why the Masai, who consume a liter of dairy per day, don’t have diseases related to iron overload. And I believe it helps explain the French Paradox as well. But, it sounds like the effect is less pronounced over time.

      Now, if we can transform some easily absorbed heme into easily inhibited and poorly absorbed non-heme, that helps a lot. Here’s how cooking helps transform some heme into non-heme.

      From: Iron availability: An updated review (2004)

      It would be useful to take into account that heme iron is transformed into non-heme iron as a consequence of heat treatment or storage (Lombardi-Boccia et al., 2002; Purchas et al., 2003). This can lead to mistakes when evaluating the content of heme iron in foods, because in most cases data provided in literature are yielded from raw food, without considering loss of heme iron during cooking. In general, the more intensive the heat treatment is, the greater the degree of transformation from heme iron to non-heme iron that occurs.

      Finally, with respect to calcium, some studies have shown that calcium chloride inhibits heme iron absorption in the same extension as non-heme iron (Hallberg et al., 1991). This shows that calcium may interact with iron absorption in a step during absorption common to heme and non-heme iron (Hallberg et al., 1992) and it has a direct effect on heme iron absorption, counteracting the enhancing effect of meat (Bendich, 2001). It has been demonstrated that this inhibitory effect depends on the dose, so a dose below 40 mg does not have an inhibitory effect while maximum inhibition is reached with intakes around 300 mg, where it ends up being 50%–60% suggesting an incomplete blockade of iron absorption (Hallberg et al., 1991; Gleerup et al., 1995; Hallberg, 1998a).

      So, the cheese course and Masai dairy definitely inhibits iron absorption (50%-60%). Tea, coffee, phytates and phenols can all inhibit non-heme absorption, which is found in plants and from oven-cooking meat…

      From: Total Heme and Non-heme Iron in Raw and Cooked Meats

      When meat was cooked in the oven (chicken and turkey meat), a substantial reduction in heme iron content was detected with losses ranging from 22 to 43% (Table 2). On the contrary, a generally high heme iron retention was found in meat cuts cooked in the pan with losses in heme iron content ranging from 1 to 24%. The decrease in the heme iron content in meat was ascribed to the oxidative cleavage of the porphyrin ring, which allows the release of iron from the heme complex (Schricker and others 1982). Han and others (1993) showed that, in cooked meat, hemoproteins did not release their heme moiety during denaturation, with most of the heme still associated with globin, and that the increase in the release of iron from heme occurred only when the temperature increased from 85 to 100 °C. Geileskey and others (1998) found a very low rate of myoglobin denaturation at temperatures up to 55 °C, but a large increase was reported at temperatures above 55 °C (Kristensen and Purslow 2001).

      As you can see, there is a full spectrum of iron inhibition in traditional French cooking. Chefs transform heme into non-heme when they cook in the oven, and the meal is then paired with things that inhibit (phytates, wine, tea, cheese course) etc. The cheese course (or fondue or cream sauce) takes care of excess remaining heme. Of course, they do this all because it tastes good that way! Our tastebuds have been guiding us all along. Amazing.

      One additional point I’d make is that high intake of processed meats are well known to be associated with some chronic diseases. Researchers have noticed that the heme iron in meats seems to interact with the other compounds introduced into cooked and cured meats (though not necessarily raw cured meats).

      Processed meat and colorectal cancer: a review of epidemiologic and experimental evidence (2008)

      The hypothesis that heme explains the link between meat intake and CRC risk is consistent with epidemiologic studies: red meat, not white meat, intake is related to the risk. However, most processed meat products are of porcine origin and contain less heme iron than beef meat. What would explain that processed meat is associated with higher risk than fresh meat? We suggest that heme form in food makes a difference. As reported above, in raw cured meat the myoglobin heme is nitrosylated. Further cooking releases nitrosylheme from myoglobin (9, 10). We speculate that, like hemin, free nitrosylheme could be more toxic than fresh meat myoglobin. Indeed, it shows weak mutagenic activity in the Ames test (86), but its promoting effect remains to be tested in vivo…

      …We think that the prevention strategy might be improved if the mechanisms of cancer promotion were better understood. We guess that non-toxic processed meat could be produced, either by removing the potential toxic agent (e.g., removing nitrite to reduce NOC formation), or by adding a specific inhibitor, e.g., calcium to block heme in the digestive tract (Pierre et al, 2007, Brit. J. Nutr., accepted manuscript). This would permit the reduction of CRC load, without putting an end to the production and consumption of traditional, nutritional and enjoyable foods.

      So, eat your processed meat with a slice of swiss cheese. (1 slice = 221mg of calcium). On the other hand, the study points out that ascorbic acid is often added to processed meat, as an antioxidant additive, which would technically help promote iron absorption. Hopefully the cheese would cancel much of that out.

      Ok, that was way more information than anybody needed to know, but thought I would put it out there for posterity.

    • Elliebelly on June 19, 2015 at 07:15

      So are you saying that the original kosher laws separating dairy from meat were health promoting at the time, when very little meat was eaten? That it was a way of avoiding anemia in the context of a low meat diet?

    • Duck Dodgers on June 18, 2015 at 19:22

      “So what % of total iron intake in the SAD is from enrichment?”

      You might be able to guess that by looking at the USDA pie charts shown above. But, as we tried to explain, the fortification is kind of a disaster. It’s very poorly absorbed and easily inhibited if you drink coffee, tea, dairy, so it may very well be that whatever isn’t absorbed is just inflaming the gastrointestinal tract. You kind of have to ingest iron absorption enhancers (vitamin c, HFCS, fructose, etc) in order to increase absorption from fortified foods.

      Non-anemic men don’t need to supplement iron, and we tend to accumulate it as we age, so it’s just not very helpful to have any supplemental iron added to our diets.

      “Also, the food combining tricks only work if they’re taken in the same meal, right? Doesn’t work to eat meat for lunch and dairy for dinner?”

      Correct. It is only effective within the same time period of digestion. Different courses are fine, but same general meal. Incidentally, Kosher law will not allow meat and milk to be consumed within a similar duration, which was our big clue that it might be related.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 23, 2015 at 20:11

      Yes, that’s the hypothesis presented here. The kosher laws prohibiting combining meat and dairy for a certain time period that coincides with iron inhibition. So, the laws may have been there to promote beneficial iron absorption at the time. The laws were likely needed to defy tastebuds that wanted to pair those ingredients. On the other hand, it could just be a coincidence.

      Nevertheless, those ancient laws may be obsolete now that Israelis eat high quantities of meat. Their prohibition against inhibiting iron with dairy might explain the Israeli Paradox.

  36. Craig on June 18, 2015 at 19:23

    So if what you hypothesize is true, and if blood tests for ferritin can show iron overload, then there should be correlations between ferritin level and prevalence of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, CVD etc. Does such data exist? Where is the Ancel Keyes of Iron?

    • Jer on June 19, 2015 at 06:23

      I think you hit the nail on the head – the gut bugs are key in this (as with other areas). Shorter breast feeding times lead to lower development of gut bugs, and higher incidence of celiac disease/gluten intolerance. Is it coincidence that modern baby formula came out in 1951 and soon spread worldwide in developed countries? Ref – The timeline matches with Duck’s for the rise in obesity rates.
      If using GMO canola oil in that formula (I haven’t checked) – it also has been tied with gluten intolerance.
      BTW – I tried your method of using a probiotic to kill hunger – stops it cold. I’m doing alternate day fasting now with little discomfort.

    • John on June 18, 2015 at 19:40

      Watch Chris Kresser’s presentation. The correlations between high ferritin/TSAT with diabetes and CHD are well established. And Hemochromatosis was originally called “Bronze Diabetes.”

    • Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2015 at 19:41

      Unfortunately not that simple, Craig. It may very well turn out that the real issue with it is the effect on the gut, which would be hard to test.

      Fortunately though, it’s clear that fortification in developed nations is unnecessary. Really the onus of proof ought to rest with the fortification advocates as to why such a policy should continue.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2015 at 19:48

      ….but, just as with the departments of electrification and helium, it will never go away.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 18, 2015 at 21:21

      The Ancel Keys of iron was Dr. Jerome L. Sullivan. He postulated that iron was the true cause of heart disease in 1981—right before the FDA raised iron levels in the food supply.

      See: The Iron Hypothesis

      He recommended regular blood donations to combat heart disease. Oddly, Dr. Jerome L. Sullivan died from complications of diabetes at the age of 68. (Not sure if he had diabetes before he realized the importance of bloodletting.)

      Anyhow, there is a fair amount of research linking iron overload to metabolic problems, particularly impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes risk. That side of the hypothesis is fairly strong.

      There is evidence both strengthening and weakening the link between iron and heart disease. So, the iron hypothesis is not a total slam dunk.

      Nevertheless, non-anemic should not supplement with iron. Excess iron does us no good and can only contribute to inflammation. Therefore, it is completely crazy that white flour is fortified with iron in this country. The policy should be reversed—particularly since it’s largely ineffective with the target populations. Anemia is still prevalent in target demographics despite there being more iron in the food supply than at any point in history.

  37. Paleophil on June 18, 2015 at 20:14

    Here are a couple Ray Peat articles for anyone interested, starting with a Q & A on the topic at hand–iron:

    Iron’s Dangers, c. 2006

    And here’s one of his articles touching on his own “theory of everything”:

    Energy, structure, and carbon dioxide: A realistic view of the organism

    Danny Roddy and I predicted some time ago that the ancestral community would eventually move in a more Peaty direction. Chris Masterjohn, Paul Jaminet and Denise Minger were some of the early people to write some Peaty stuff (I’m not trying to imply that they agree with him on everything). Perhaps this blog will join the vanguard? Just don’t go overboard and become Peat jihadists. ;-)

    • GTR on June 19, 2015 at 13:33

      Some other “old” article:

    • cool on June 19, 2015 at 07:23

      I second this! I’ve been seeing/hoping for this, as well. After enjoying some paleo-bashing with Peatards, I find it hard to convince Peatards to consider new ideas outside the Peat echo chamber.

    • John on June 19, 2015 at 10:38

      The Ray Peat Forum is an interesting place. No doubt there are people doing crazy things, but there some people on there with really useful info. For example, Dan Wich’s Toxinless site is useful if you’re concerned with supplement additives or quality. And Haidut posts some interesting studies, and makes some unique and useful supplements. I am using a few for Keratosis Pilaris, and am noticing an improvement in my skin.

      My current diet is basically Colpo’s Fat Loss Bible Plan with a few “Peaty” tweaks (little more milk, juice, fruit, and sugar), and I’m finding it great for weight loss, energy, mood, and taste.

    • Paleophil on June 20, 2015 at 12:13

      I know what you mean, Cool, yet I hope most folks will avoid wasting time with the Peatard/Paleotard/LCtard/ketotard/vegtard/…tard bashing and discuss important topics rationally. If the evidence is strong, it will speak for itself and if someone doesn’t want to consider new ideas, that’s their choice.

  38. Jane Karlsson on June 19, 2015 at 02:09

    Well Duck, you really have outdone yourself this time. I don’t know how you do it, and I certainly couldn’t have done it myself. I think this is a very, very important piece of work.

    My only problem is with Alzheimer’s in Finland. The highest dairy consumption should not go together with the most Alzheimer’s. I think eventually we will have to start talking about copper deficiency. Dairy is extremely low in copper, and some scientists (including me) think copper deficiency is a major cause of Alzheimer’s. The problem is the copper bashers, who are very loud and very influential.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 22, 2015 at 17:44

      Thanks Jane!

      But Scandinavia’s and Finland’s high prevalence of Alzheimer’s is explained by the inhaled iron and heavy metal dust from mines finely glaciated soils found at high latitudes. Finland has a long history of mining iron ore (since 1540) and those mining operations have only expanded since then.

      The high dairy consumption cannot intercept inhaled iron, which enters the lungs and goes right into the organs.

    • Jane Karlsson on June 23, 2015 at 05:50

      Duck, I need to be convinced. This is the only point, in all of your posts, on which I do not (yet) agree with you.

  39. Name on June 19, 2015 at 02:31

    Decent post in some respects. Iron overload has always been an issue in regards to iron fortification and excessive red meat consumption.

    It’s unfortunate in a sense that this blog post seems to tell people that excess iron is the cause of all our problems. Atleast It’s not as short sighted as Gary Taube’s Insulin “alternate hypothesis”.

    I really hope that Duck Dodgers wasn’t serious when he said that LDL has nothing to do with heart disease. Even a paleo and marksdailyapple fan has admitted that LDL and LDL-p is extremely important in regards to artery plaque and atherosclerosis.

    • MachineGhost on June 19, 2015 at 08:24

      I suspect that the Duck Dodgers team misspoke which is very easy to do with the confusing cholesterol issue.

      LDL per se is not the issue; it is the oxidization of LDL. All LDL is is the apolipoprotein molecule renamed when there is cholesterol on it. Apolipoprotein also transports numerous other fat soluble substances through the blood stream. So by whacking cholesterol-containing apolipoprotein (aka LDL) with a sledgehammer, traditional therapy throws the baby out with the bathwater.

    • Name on June 20, 2015 at 02:33

      I don’t agree MachineGhost. The new wave paleo/primal bloggers have repeatedly told their blog readers that TC and LDL are meaningless.

      As long as your triglercides and HLD ratio is good then you’re all good.

      Peter Attia wrote up a several part series explaining that LDL particles are the main driver of atherosclerosis.

      The oxidation theory that low carbers hang on to has been proved to be bunk. The reason that LDL oxidizes is because LDL levels are way too high. Excessive LDL particles hanging around in the blood will probably lead to their “oxidation”.

      Just google LDL-p and you’ll see how many paleo/low carb followers have an extremely high number of LDL particles. It’s a major issue.

    • MachineGhost on June 21, 2015 at 09:21

      Thanks, that was an interesting series of articles. But I have not changed my mind. Here’s why:

      “In other words, unless an apoB-containing lipoprotein particle violates the border created by an endothelium cell and the layer it protects, the media layer, there is no way atherogenesis occurs.”

      Correct. See:

      “If you want to stop atherosclerosis, you must lower the LDL particle number.”

      Typical reductionist-interventionist thought process you would expect to hear from a MD and his mentors influenced/funded by Big Pharma interests. Lets all take statins now! Kumbaya! Despite no evidence of statins ever working except slightly in post-heart attack patients. Its also been three years and Attia has yet to post Part X on “pharmaceutical interventions”. That’s pretty telling.

      Bottom line: stick to keeping your endothelium healthy. It’s far safer and effective. But that doesn’t typically go along with a diet and lifestyle that promotes oxidized LDL.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 22, 2015 at 17:50

      “I really hope that Duck Dodgers wasn’t serious when he said that LDL has nothing to do with heart disease”

      @Name, I was simply referring to what the authors of the paper said. Rather than pontificate on LDL, feel free to actually read the paper and debunk it if you like. Makes no difference to me.

  40. RS on June 19, 2015 at 05:39

    I was browsing through some studies on the interaction between fructose and iron absorbtion and it seems increased iron absorbtion was only significant when combined with HFCS, sucrose didn’t seem to have much effect (and was similar to glucose).

    What’s the deal here – does this mean sucrose sweetened foods/beverages can get a pass whereas HFCS may be bad?

    This woman ( is 104 and has consumed 3 Dr Peppers a day since she was in her 60’s, based on the information I can find (such as her location) it seems that she was consuming sucrose sweetened Dr Pepper (previously called Dublin Dr Pepper) rather then HFCS Dr Pepper.

    Maybe Doctor Pepper inhibits iron, haha!

    • Richard Nikoley on June 19, 2015 at 07:04


      Funny, but when I read that article I immediately went across the street to a convenience store that carries Mexican imported Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper sweetened with cane, not HFCS, and got a DP and enjoyed with a grin. I’ve since done so on a couple other occasions.

      Tried the Coke too a couple of times and I’m pretty sure it tastes less sweet than the American crap.

    • Charlie on June 19, 2015 at 21:00

      Funny thing, you can now get cane sugar Pepsi and DP that’s bottled in the US. Funnier, I bought the Pepsi at a local Mexican super market (I live in Long Beach, CA). The DP I saw at Target.

      I’ve also tried Mexico Crush & Squirt…I really liked the Squirt.

    • pzo on June 20, 2015 at 05:21

      Richard, soft drinks in Mexico are not imported, they are bottled in the country.

      Besides tradition, Mexican bottlers don’t have that huge tractor made corn industry that we do here. But they do have a decent sized sugar industry.

      OTOH, I have been seeing HFCS creep into the Mexican branded sodas here in the US. I guess the reach of Big Corn is too hard to resist sometimes.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 20, 2015 at 07:29

      Yes I know this. And, they get imported to the U.S. Because there’s a growing market for cane sugar sweetened. Also, there’s a growing craft soda market in the U.S. That does the same thing.

      Virgil’s is really good. The root beer tastes unlike any I’ve had, and they also have “Dr. Better.”

    • Charlie on June 20, 2015 at 08:57

      I’m a fan of XXX, Route 66 & Sioux City

      My 5 yr old grandson likes Rat Bastard and Jack Black’s Dead Red Root Beer…names and graphics are more important than flavor…

    • gabkad on June 24, 2015 at 18:43

      You can buy cane sugar soft drinks like coke etc. in Kosher stores. For whatever reason the HFCS is not kosher.

    • latke on June 27, 2015 at 15:07

      HFCS is only non-kosher during the Jewish holiday of Passover. It’s ok during the rest of the year. It’s because of the corn being one of the grains avoided during that time. So yes, sugar sweetened can be found in kosher markets.

  41. Richard Nikoley on June 19, 2015 at 06:42

    I don’t think the collection of close and loose collaborators making up “The Duck Dodgers” has any collective position on this. Individuals might, but I think one thing we do agree on is that generally (perhaps with some environmental exceptions, such as Finland and Sadinia, as mentioned) a person out have no problem by eating real foods, and especially in particular parings mentioned and perhaps in some cases, avoiding certain pairings.

    Remember, evolution equipped us pretty well and iron problems within the context of a whole real food diet ought to be very rare and unlikely.

    For myself, I don’t intend to get an iron panel or anything, just eat mindful about these things. Also, I plan to donate blood four times per year, which of course is a decent thing to do anyway.

  42. John on June 19, 2015 at 07:28

    You don’t want to get rid of that excess iron too quickly…

  43. Duck Dodgers on June 19, 2015 at 08:35

    We have no position as we are not giving out medical advice here. However I have seen a paper that speculated that there may have been a selective advantage to being slightly iron deficient as it would make it difficult for pathogens to thrive.

  44. v on June 19, 2015 at 08:35

    RN said: “Remember, evolution equipped us pretty well and iron problems within the context of a whole real food diet ought to be very rare and unlikely.”

    i already eat a whole foods diet, so I guess being slightly anemic is not a problem?


  45. gabkad on June 19, 2015 at 13:29

    v: liver, kidneys, brains, pancreas, spleen, tripe? Whole animal, snout to tail? Is it that?

  46. Mike T. on June 19, 2015 at 14:24

    So… Does this mean that Uncle Ben’s is no longer a viable choice for RS? There’s added iron and it’s about 10% DV.

    • tatertot on June 19, 2015 at 17:15

      Mike T. – I have been avoiding the “enriched” rices for quite some time. Just looked at a box of Uncle Ben’s Parboiled, you are right…loads of added iron, as “Ferric Orthophosphate”. I will no longer buy it. FWIW.

    • Mike T. on June 20, 2015 at 11:22

      tatertot – Thanks for the +1. What do you suggest as a replacement as far as rice is concerned? Wild, brown, jasmine, basmati? I live in the city and I’m trying to formulate my diet off of personal economic viability first and foremost (the lower the cost the better) and simplicity.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 25, 2015 at 18:06

      I believe Tamanishiki Super Premium Short Grain Rice isn’t fortified. The product appears to be intended for consumption in Japan (an unfortified country). That specific rice is said to be popular in Japan, but is grown in California.

      You can zoom in on the nutritional label, most in Japanese, and it says in English, “Not a significant source of saturated fat, trans fat, dietary fiber, sugars, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron.”

      I do recommend getting a cheap rice-washing bowl as all rice should be washed to remove the talc and any residue or fortifications. Thorough rice washing is standard practice in Japan and there are many YouTube videos showing the proper technique with the bowl.

    • Elliebelly on June 25, 2015 at 18:09
    • Nick on June 25, 2015 at 17:36

      I feel extra dumb eating this since I have actual iron overload. I have been searching high and low online for converted unenriched rice and I am coming up empty-handed.

      Anyone have a source for this apparently nonexistent product?

    • Duck Dodgers on June 26, 2015 at 13:46

      Hemp manufacturers claim that the product can last for 14 month after production, which admittedly seems a bit long but I doubt you’ll have poor health from a tablespoon of slightly old hemp seed. You don’t need much hemp to get a lot of benefit. You are encouraged to keep them in a cool place and away from light/heat.

      Plus, as we researched this article we found that even the idea of always eating “fresh” is a pipe dream. Many cultures harvested seeds and kept them for months before processing. And some even processed their seeds and then stored them for long periods.

      For instance, with all the talk of the supposed health benefits of “freshly ground flour,” the Hunza were known to store ground flour in large chests. This should have caused rancidity for their whole wheat flour, but they did it anyhow.

      Even hemp seeds—which is composed of fragile fats that seem less than idea for heating—are pressed and then used for their main cooking oil in the Bama, China longevity village. They consume a significant amount of hemp this way.

      It’s difficult to get so obsessed about the freshness of hemp and flour when we see some of the healthiest cultures not being overly concerned about it. Obviously if it smells totally rancid don’t use it. But, if you have the nose of a bloodhound, I don’t know what to say.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 26, 2015 at 15:58

      Fun facts about hemp…

      If you get eat hulled hemp seeds, they are very palatable, they’re mostly protein, and you’ll get a lot of micronutrients often lost in refined grains.

      If you get the whole hemp seeds, they’ll be crunchy and they are a source of fiber and some carbohydrates. But, they have a heartier taste and they are more likely to get caught in your teeth or dental work.

      That manufacturer recommends the whole hemp seeds if you don’t mind the taste and texture. But even if you get the hulled hemp seeds, they are still a very micronutrient-rich superfood.

      Interestingly, they also say, “Whole hemp…is much more stable out in the air then hulled seed.”

      See: Hulled Hemp Seeds Vs. Whole Hemp Seeds

    • Duck Dodgers on June 26, 2015 at 08:46

      Btw, the rice I recommended is white rice. However, white rice is devoid of the minerals and phytochemicals that our bodies require to manage our internal antioxidants and sugar signaling. Studies have linked a diet of white rice and increased meat consumption to higher rates of diabetes and colon cancer in the modern Japanese. Decades ago, the Japanese ate less meat and their consumption of seaweed and whole cereals (buckwheat, etc.) kept their micronutrients in balance.

      Eating brown rice is a simple way to consume the necessary micronutrients. However, brown rice cannot be stored for long periods and some people don’t like the taste if the rice isn’t fresh. Asian markets and some grocery stores will sell brown rice in vacuum packs to avoid rancidity. Store in the freezer or refrigerator upon opening and the harvest dates from brown rice should always be within a few months of use.

      If you prefer white rice, which has a much longer shelf life, then you will need to supplement with (super)foods that are rich in the micronutrients that are lost to the milling process. One easy way to do this is to eat seaweed with your white rice. Another easy way is to sprinkle a tablespoon or two of hemp seeds on top of your white rice.

      Hemp seeds are a superfood with very high quantities of naturally occurring micronutrients. And hemp seeds have virtually no taste and are easily digested. Incorporating hemp seeds into your diet is an excellent way to get the micronutrients you need if you should happen to prefer white rice or (gasp) refined grains. Chocolate/cacao works too, but not sure I would recommend that on top of white rice. :)

    • diane on June 26, 2015 at 08:50

      I am curious about hemp seeds. I had heard that they go rancid fairly quick. is that not true?

    • Duck Dodgers on June 26, 2015 at 09:10

      They do go rancid quickly. You’re supposed to store them in the fridge after opening. Should be fine that way.

    • Wilbur on June 26, 2015 at 13:17

      One thing I’ve developed since starting my experiment is a greatly improved sense of smell. There’s logic to this as the immune system and smell are connected.

      Anyway, I cannot eat brown rice or hemp seeds because they always smell rancid to me. Every single bag. Even fresh from the store. I did not know that hemp seeds turned quickly until you mentioned it.

      I used to like brown rice. Now I can only eat white.

    • MissMcGillicuddy on June 26, 2015 at 13:57

      I was under the impression that these seeds (chia, hemp, etc.) that contain fragile oils are less prone to turning rancid the longer they remain whole – since many grind them.

    • Wilbur on June 26, 2015 at 14:37

      The smell turns my stomach, so I can’t eat it. I am reading a book about old Tibet, and they’d drink lots of tea with rancid butter. I don’t think I could.

    • Sam P on June 26, 2015 at 14:45

      I agree with Duck on this. Freshly ground is simply nitpicking. There is a huge difference between “rancid,” and being slightly stale.

      The fragility of the oil in grain has nothing to do with your ability to digest it as a food. This is largely determined by your tolerance to grains. Also, I imagine the heat of an oven or stove has a much larger effect on the oils in the grains then storing them.

  47. S on June 19, 2015 at 15:44

    Nice post. I agree with you on this and have been working to reduce my iron ever since reading some of Anthony Colpo’s stuff.

    Also, you imply (hypothesize?) that gluten intolerance is a problem due to iron fortification.

    But some of Denise Minger and Ned Koch’s analysis using the China study suggest that wheat was a robust independent predictor of chronic diseases in China. Did the Chinese fortify their wheat flour at the time and if not, then it seems that keeping wheat consumption down might be a good idea in general?

    I know this is only one study, but it’s quite something to have such a robust variable especially when the lead researcher was out to show meat was bad not wheat. So there couldn’t have been any stacking of the deck in the research design against wheat.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 22, 2015 at 17:08

      I don’t think Minger was ever truly convinced that wheat causes heart disease. In her own review she points out that these wheat-eating regions were folate deficient, which confounded the data.

      Denise Minger wrote

      “In northern China, about 40% of the population qualifies as folate deficient (compared to only 6% in the south)—a geographical trend that corresponds nicely with wheat consumption. Being low in folate tends to elevate homocysteine, which—you guessed it—is an independent risk factor for heart disease. So maybe it’s not the wheat itself causing mischief, but the fact that low-vegetable, wheat-centered diets in China tend to breed folate deficiency and hike up homocysteine.”

      Secondly, the idea that wheat causes heart disease isn’t repeated or confirmed anywhere else, as far as I know—certainly not with the French, who eat significantly more wheat than we do but have lower CHD rates. And studies have consistently shown that consumption whole grains reduces the incidence of CHD. So, it’s difficult to believe the idea that whole wheat is bad when nearly every study that’s ever been done on whole wheat or whole grains shows the opposite.

      Thirdly, the wheat-eating regions were in Northern China, which also happens to be where much of China’s iron ore is mined.

      Additionally, as we discussed in our article, above, higher latitudes are more likely to be exposed to higher and finer levels of airborne inhaled iron from glaciated soils. This would explain why Norther regions have poorer health, and it may put doubt into latitude-based observations normally attributed to Vitamin D and sunlight.

      Finally, in the off chance that the Chinese do get heart disease from eating their wheat, it’s likely from poor milling standards and iron impurities introduced by their cast iron roller mills. See the following Chinese study on the very subject:

      From: Investigation of the wear failure mechanism of a flour milling roller (1993)

      “Milling rollers, the primary components in a flour milling machine, are multi-centrifugally cast with white cast iron outside and grey cast iron inside. The white iron, with pearlite matrix and eutectic cementite, sup- plies the roller with wear resistance against the wheat ground, and the grey iron enables the roller to bear a large radial load. In the Chinese countryside, the rollers now used in flour mills have very poor wear resistance, which results in lower efficiency and great waste…few papers have discussed how and why a harder surface can be worn by softer abrasives, for instance an iron roller by wheat.”

      Developing nations, like China, tend to have problems with their milling machinery and the cast iron industrial roller mills often contaminate flour with dangerous iron filings. Slow stone ground flour has always been the gold standard for milling, and the standards in developed nations require roller mills to be equipped with electromagnets to remove the iron filings deposits in flour introduced by modern equipment. Ironically, the “FDA-approved” supplemental iron filings are then added to the clean finished flour in approved doses.

      So, cast iron roller mills will contaminate the flour with iron dust, and it’s a common problem in developing nations. Developed countries with high milling standards remove this dust with electromagnets. But, of course, we all know that China is not exactly a beacon of high standards for anything food related.

      So, between the airborne iron dust from mines in the North and their finely glaciated iron-rich soils, along with their iron-contaminated wheat, I’m not at all surprised that Northern Chinese populations have health issues. I’d be surprised if they didn’t.

  48. Jane Karlsson on June 20, 2015 at 06:01

    Here’s one of Zumin Shi’s papers. It shows that anemia in China has very little to do with iron.

    Strong Negative Association between Intake of Tofu and Anemia among Chinese Adults in Jiangsu, China

    The prevalence of anemia was 18.3% in men and 31.5% in women. Mean hemoglobin values increased by quartiles of tofu intake (men: 14.1, 14.0, 14.5, and 14.8 mg/dL [141, 140, 145, and 148 g/L]; women: 12.4, 12.5, 12.6 and 13.3 g/dL [124, 125,126, and 133 g/L]), and the prevalence of anemia decreased concomitantly. Comparing first and fourth quartiles of tofu intake, the prevalence of anemia was 23.9% vs 10.7% in men, and 38.1% vs 16.8% in women. Tofu intake was inversely associated with serum ferritin levels in women. In multivariate analyses, the odds ratio of anemia for men in fourth compared to first quartile of tofu intake was 0.30 (95% confidence interval 0.17 to 0.50), and the corresponding odds ratio for women was 0.31 (95% confidence interval 0.20 to 0.47). The association between tofu intake and anemia was independent of iron intake.

    • gabkad on June 20, 2015 at 14:47

      Jane, maybe these people were protein deficient and tofu topped them up? Red blood cells need protein for manufacture.

    • Jane Karlsson on June 21, 2015 at 05:57

      Hi Gabkad
      This chart seems to show a high protein intake in China. Not nearly as high as the US and UK, of course, but it’s not like India. So I don’t think it’s the protein. The anemia is associated with inflammation, so this is anemia of chronic disease. That raises questions about how tofu could fix inflammation. My money is on the very high manganese and copper content.

  49. John on June 19, 2015 at 17:08

    I understand your theory, but I really think you’re reaching. There are many anemias (and they can happen in the face of high body iron stores), but none related to vitamin D (at least none yet discovered). On the other hand, Pernicious Anemia and Pridoxine-Responsive Anemia are well established and caused by B12 and B6 deficiency, respectively. They are also very responsive to supplementing those vitamins. From my own experience, I can tell you that, as I was donating a lot of blood to lower body iron stores, a B complex helped me to boost my hemoglobin as my ferritin declined.

  50. John on June 19, 2015 at 17:21

    By the way, that’s part of the reason dessicated liver is a better option than iron pills for anemia. Not only does it have a safer, more easily absorbed form of iron, it also contains the B vitamins needed to make hemoglobin.

  51. Richard Nikoley on June 19, 2015 at 17:41


    Are you egging to get banned again, based on solipsism?

  52. Richard Nikoley on June 19, 2015 at 17:44

    Don’t you know?

    V is the quintessential Solipsist.

  53. Paleophil on June 20, 2015 at 12:06

    Anthony Colpo cautioned: “I ALWAYS recommend any iron reduction intervention be preceded and regularly monitored by a blood work-up that includes, at the minimum, the following measurements:

    –Serum ferritin
    –Transferrin saturation

  54. gabkad on June 20, 2015 at 03:51

    What the husband eats does not help with v’s anemia since they are not conjoined twins.

  55. Jane Karlsson on June 20, 2015 at 04:26

    I believe white flour in China is not fortified with iron. They fortify the soy sauce instead.

    I once had an email conversation with a Chinese scientist called Zumin Shi, who says white flour in China has twice as much iron as white rice. Perhaps that explains what Minger and Kock found.

    • cool on June 22, 2015 at 05:42

      Why does it contain more iron, if not fortified? What is it about their agricultural process? Would it be possible to pick up the email conversation and inquire further? Thanks!

    • Jane Karlsson on June 22, 2015 at 06:27

      Hi Cool
      I don’t know. Zumin Shi mentions it in one of his papers, quoting Chinese government figures. I’ve been trying to find the paper again and can’t. I’m not sure Zumin would know the reason. He works in Australia now.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 22, 2015 at 19:31

      Soil contamination and environmental effects are also known to increase iron concentrations in Chinese wheat.

      See: Mineral element concentrations in grains of Chinese wheat cultivars

      The soils of Northern China are known to be rich in iron ore (where most of their iron ore mining is located), so this would explain higher iron in their wheat.

  56. pzo on June 20, 2015 at 05:44

    It appears that there is no video on that Chris Kessler link behind the display shot. Darn.

    I think this research is timely, valuable for some individuals and for all nations and their food policies. However, some of the discussion is definitely orthorexic. As in “Right eating.”

    Barring your own individual possible situation that is problematic, I think the answer is obvious: Don’t eat much fortified white flour or the products of, (the occasional Ding Dong, no problem!) don’t eat fortified rice, don’t take iron supplements, then, don’t worry about it!

    And all this Ancient Culture Wisdom crap; come on, they ate whatever they could grow or kill. They didn’t know shit about counterbalancing nutrients, eat more of B if you eat a lot of A. This type of “thinking” should be kept where it usually is: New Agey, Vegan-y, Woo Woo sites.

    Ancient Israel was high dairy and low meat? Really? Where did all that dairy come from? Hint: Mammals. Israelis were pastoralists, mostly sheep and goats, some bovines. The admonition against combining meat and dairy was a way of setting themselves apart from the non-Hebrews, who would boil a kid in it’s mother’s milk. This I got from one of America’s pre-eminent rabbinical scholars. It had nothing to do with iron. Heck, they were barely in the Bronze Age! :)

    I give blood every 58 days, the minimum interval. So, that’s six times a year. Last summer when I went in, my hemoglobin was too low! We waited a week, same result. Got the doc to do some blood work, we couldn’t find anything wrong. At the time I was recording my foods, and all the usual iron/hemoglobin ticklers like folate were great. A week or two later, my hemoglobin was fine. Ah, the mysteries of the human organism.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 20, 2015 at 07:36

      I think you’re missing the point.

      Nobody is saying these various pairings were intended to counter-balance iron. They probably grew out of taste, feelings of well being, etc. Or, potentially the gut-brain connection.

      We’re just attempting to explain why they may have stuck as cultural practices…because they made people better off.

    • Marie on June 20, 2015 at 08:55

      People will intuitively eat what is good for them. The body will crave what it needs. And yes we seem to crave some self destructive stuff, but we may not know the wisdom of that, what the body is trying to accomplish.

      People who make good choices will survive better as a group and the practice will be continued.

      It’s like people who liked to eat poison ivy would’t survive long i the gene pool nor would their children.

      It’s not a conscious thing, choice, knowledge.

    • gabkad on June 20, 2015 at 14:40

      Marie, I think supermarket displays and shelves plus fast food outlets all over the place play havoc with intuition. :)

      Don’t go grocery shopping when hungry. Write a list. These can help.

    • pzo on June 20, 2015 at 16:01

      Can’t say I ever ate poison ivy, but there is a lot of evidence that eating a tiny bit to start with and upping to dose builds an immunity.

      Where I grew up there was huge amounts of poison ivy, all my friends were always needing Calamine (??) lotion. It never effected me. Maybe something like how birds and lizards aren’t susceptible to hot peppers.

    • Marie on June 21, 2015 at 06:51

      They do! That’s why I think it’s so interesting to study traditional ways people ate around the world, because it shows what people evolved to eat, symbiotically in their environment, without the pressures of modern fast food, marketing, etc. I think in the US we’ve lost a lot of that. Other countries, like France which we are discussing, seems to have been better at holding onto it (for who knows how long).

    • Duck Dodgers on June 22, 2015 at 18:42

      pzo said: “Ancient Israel was high dairy and low meat? Really? Where did all that dairy come from? Hint: Mammals. ”

      Gee pzo, are you being obtuse on purpose? Or are you just too lazy to click on the links we provided?

      From our references, above:

      Wikipedia: Ancient Israelite Cuisine

      Goats, and to a lesser extent, sheep, provided milk for part of the year, and milk and dairy products were a significant source of food. The Israelites usually ate meat from domesticated goats and sheep… For most people, meat was eaten only a few times a year when animals were slaughtered for the major festivals, or at tribal meetings, celebrations such as weddings, and for the visits of important guests (1 Samuel 28:24). Only at the king’s table was meat served daily, according to the Bible.

      So, yeah.. They were high dairy and low meat. Now they are high meat and are forbidden from pairing their meats with dairy. And this explains the Israeli Paradox.

      pzo said: “And all this Ancient Culture Wisdom crap; come on, they ate whatever they could grow or kill. They didn’t know shit about counterbalancing nutrients”

      No, but their tastebuds did. Any wine connoisseur or Masai warrior knows that tannins taste good with iron-rich meats (duh). Burgers and steak sandwiches just taste better with cheese on them. You don’t need a degree in nutrition to know this.

      It feels like you didn’t read this article very carefully. Perhaps try reading it a little more closely next time.

    • GTR on June 24, 2015 at 14:18

      @Duck – “For most people, meat was eaten only a few times a year […] Only at the king’s table was meat served daily” – notice it’s the richer people, that ate meat daily that are likely to be modern’s ancestors, rather than the poor from the past.

      Greg Clark got numbers like 90% of English at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution descendant from just 10% subpopulation of Medieval times… And you are writing about even further times! Basically looking from ourselves now into the direction of the past along the path of our ancestors you are likely to mostly see meat consumers, rather than almost-vegetarians, with perhaps occasional dip to semi-vegetarianism here and there, but quickly going back on the meat-eating track.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 24, 2015 at 14:38

      I’m no fan of vegetarianism. I love eating burgers. But it’s getting harder and harder to dismiss the semi-vegetarianism of Blue Zones and longevity villages. It’s certainly fun to think of rich ancestors (I come from poor peasants) but unless you have evidence of excellent health in distant royals with their high meat diets, I’m not sure how one can assume that a few dozen rich ancestors changes our ability to regulate iron. But, as always open to hearing about it.

    • Jer on June 25, 2015 at 10:51

      I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but the Blue Zone diets have one major thing in common: They eat on the low end of the caloric density scale:

  57. Mr Mammoth on June 20, 2015 at 07:08

    Concerning the French, they still rank among the leanest European (with the Danish and the Dutch). However, obesity is also becoming a public health issue in France with 32 % of overweight adults and 15 % of obese adults (stats 2012). Crisis, consumerism and loss of taste have made Industrialized cheap crappy foods more and more appealing for an ever growing number of (young) people. However taste is still an obsession for many people, and for this category, taste prevails over quantity. If you consider pastry, that’s right, you can find in Paris the best pastries in the world. The pastries sold in shops like la “patisserie du Panthéon”, la “patisserie des rêves”, “Michalak”, “Pierre Hermé”, “des gâteaux et du pain” to name a few are everything but industrial products ; they are prepared with the best butter chocolate, cream, fruits or whatever. The price of these exquisitely crafted treats is high, somewhere between 5 and 10 euros (and you wil not have 15 for the price of 10). Enjoying these cakes or entremets is usually like a sensorial experience. And I can’t think of having two of these consecutively, it would be a “’faute de goût”. The bottom line ? Develop taste, enjoy and forget glutonery.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 20, 2015 at 07:51

      So very true. It’s perhaps my chief disillusionment with the LC and Paleo movements…the wanton gluttony. Essentially: let’s look for foods we can literally pig out on, often (bacon, for instance) and then gloat and chortle about what a bunch of fucking pigs we are.

    • tw on June 20, 2015 at 09:34

      If one is doing these eating strategies in a gluttonous manner, it seems to me they are doing them incorrectly.

      Only shitty food requires copious amounts to satisfy.

  58. Jonathan on June 20, 2015 at 11:08

    Richard, great post! Just checking in to see how your sinuses have been treating you lately? Have the improvements you experienced since adding the potato starch and probiotics sustained?

    • Richard Nikoley on June 20, 2015 at 13:51


      Good question. Was just thinking about this. For months, my need to keep a wadded up paper towel in my pocket, bedside table drawer, etc., has diminished and now, I don’t have any at all. 90-95% clear all the time.

      Added benefit is I’m not mouth breathing while sleeping as much, and so I’m not waking up thirsty every couple of hours.

      Good deal. And plus, today it’s quite windy, as it was a couple of days ago, and usually wind kicking up dust and various pollens is what can really kick something off for me but now, zero difference.

    • cool on June 22, 2015 at 05:48

      Try taping your mouth with 3M micropore tape when you sleep. Serious. Look up Buteyko breathing.

  59. Trevor Tanner on June 20, 2015 at 11:57

    Just curious if you have any quantitative suggestions, perhaps in terms of milligrams, as to the maximum/minimum daily iron consumption for an individual?

    • John on June 22, 2015 at 16:41

      The Tolerable Upper Limit for iron is set at 45mg a day for most people, 60mg for pregnant women and those with anemia. But it’s really easy to blow past that limit- just eat a cup and a half of Total Cereal, and take an iron containing mutlivitamin. BOOM! You just ate 54mg of supplemental iron before you factor in any other meals of the day. Gonna have a hamburger for lunch? Steak or pasta for dinner?

  60. Tyler on June 20, 2015 at 13:55

    This post reminded me of an interview of Ronald Krauss from a couple of years ago… just to throw some more ideas about iron into the mix:

    P.S.: I personally love adding a hearty amount of lemon juice to most of my food. Has anyone seen any data on how citric acid, or other acids like in vinegar, affect iron absorption?

    • Richard Nikoley on June 20, 2015 at 15:16

      That interview reminded me of a Jimmy Moore interview, egging the guest on to huck-huck cover LDL particle size ad nausium, with all the buzzwords, in order to excuse fat gluttony.

  61. Gordon on June 20, 2015 at 15:59

    Do we know if all of these iron chelators/inhibitors (tea, chocolate, dairy, phytates, etc) protect the body from the effects of iron on the gut microbiome? For example when phytic acid prevents iron from being absorbed in the intestines or whatever it does, does it also prevent microbes from using the iron to ill effect, or is that iron still available for microbes to utilize?

    If you have a high iron diet obviously you’ll want to eat a lot of chelators/inhibitors and do other iron-reducing activities. But most of us have a choice of diet, and some of us might want to eat to optimize our iron status and gut health rather than trust that things will be generally all right if we eat unfortified foods and follow our instincts and taste buds. So I’m curious what the arguments would be as to whether it is better to eat a low-iron diet low in iron chelators/inhibitors or a higher-iron diet high in iron chelator/inhibitors.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 20, 2015 at 16:15

      My understanding is that the inhibitors inhibit absorption in blood. Iron micro-meteorites are going to the colon anyway.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 22, 2015 at 18:57

      From what I’ve read, it’s both. Phytates bind to minerals in the gut and can chelate minerals from the body via persorption into the bloodstream.

      Gordon said: “I’m curious what the arguments would be as to whether it is better to eat a low-iron diet low in iron chelators/inhibitors or a higher-iron diet high in iron chelator/inhibitors.”

      My guess is that it depends on the person and their own tastes. Cultures that had little access to meat tended to avoid antinutrients—likely because they thought it tasted better that way. Some also tended to combine fruit and iron-rich plants, which increased iron absorption. Conversely, cultures that relied on meat as a staple tended to crave antinutrients.

      So, it depends on the individual. Just as a technical example (not advocating), eating vegan may be a way for some low-meat individuals to improve iron status—since they aren’t inhibiting with eggs or dairy.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 22, 2015 at 18:59

      Also, it’s been suggested (but I haven’t been able to confirm) that phytic acid doesn’t steal iron from the mitochondria, but rather chelates free iron that would otherwise cause harm. I couldn’t tell you if that’s true or not though.

  62. Gordon on June 20, 2015 at 16:41

    a person out have no problem by eating real foods, and especially in particular parings mentioned and perhaps in some cases, avoiding certain pairings.

    Remember, evolution equipped us pretty well and iron problems within the context of a whole real food diet ought to be very rare and unlikely.

    For myself, I don’t intend to get an iron panel or anything, just eat mindful about these things.

    Barring your own individual possible situation that is problematic, I think the answer is obvious: Don’t eat much fortified white flour or the products of, (the occasional Ding Dong, no problem!) don’t eat fortified rice, don’t take iron supplements, then, don’t worry about it!

    I don’t relate to these sentiments. It seems to me that iron status could be a powerful explanatory variable for long-term health outcomes. The effect of iron is obviously not binary, where one either has iron overload or not, so that one could say “I’m not obese, therefore I have optimal iron status.” What if the optimal iron status level is low, near the minimum? One might not be able to expect to just hit that level by casual avoidance of fortified foods and regular blood donations.

    This article presents a decent argument that the reason women live five to eight years longer than men on average is due to higher iron levels in men. So it is possible that a man who exerted conscious control over his iron status in order to keep it merely at the level of a woman who exerts no conscious control over it might earn five to eight more years of lifespan. That’s not chump change. But what if women also are higher in iron than is optimal? If iron is so critical with regard to infectious processes, heart disease, alzheimer’s, etc, it is not hard to imagine that the difference between middling iron status and optimal iron status might be the difference between dying at 72 and at 92. And that’s with a better quality of life to boot.

    Most advice designed to increase lifespan via dietary manipulation have had a Puritan edge of sacrifice or self-denial: don’t drink, eat lean meats and low-fat dairy, eat your vegetables, don’t use salt. So usually it’s like I’d rather die at 72 than live that kind of sad life. But what is the penalty for optimizing iron status? Get your iron panels to see where you’re at, then drink red wine, drink green tea, eat cheese, eat 2 pounds of chocolate a week, go to hot yoga and sweat it out, donate blood, live longer. Sign me up!

    • Richard Nikoley on June 20, 2015 at 17:12

      Take note:

      Gordon a tout comris.

    • pzo on June 21, 2015 at 06:34

      Gordon, I see nothing in my comment that is counter to anything you say. I am in full concurrence with the findings here and elsewhere that excessive iron appears problematic and for the most part, not accepted. My quip is an attempt to say, “Simplify, simplify.” Don’t eat the worst offenders, then don’t worry.

      BTW, a serious contributing factor to the shorter life of men is trauma. Workplace, war, crime, and just the presumption of society that we will step forward when the situation gets hinky.

  63. bioking on June 20, 2015 at 16:50

    Toke for Jesus! Richard you’ve nailed it.

  64. Andrew H on June 20, 2015 at 19:05

    Hello Duck Dodgers,

    Do you have any insight on the supposed connection between an ice-chewing habit and low iron/anemia? I have had the habit of ice-chewing for almost my entire life. The only time I have had it subside was when I ate a relatively high wheat diet for a few months last summer (though that eventually lead to some other poor health outcomes…). I currently do not eat grains and the ice-chewing habit is back despite eating large quantities of meat (sometimes up to ~30 oz raw) per day (about half of it is red meat). However, I do eat a large amount of dairy and plant ‘toxins’ (oxalates from sweet potatoes, goitrogens from chard, the various substances in cacao) regularly, so maybe that is affecting my iron absorption?

    • Richard Nikoley on June 20, 2015 at 23:10

      Andrew, do you ever eat what you actually really feel like eating, or is life a problem to be calculated, adjusted, accounted for, red inked and solved in some way?

      Ever thought about just living a human life?

    • Andrew H on June 21, 2015 at 08:01


      I’m a big believer in eating intuitively, but this usually has me eating pretty similarly from day to day, making food intake pretty easy to quantify.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 22, 2015 at 18:28

      Andrew H,

      No idea. Ice chewing is technically a form of pica. Certainly pregnant women, who commonly practice pica, are traditionally known to eat soils as a mineral supplement. But pica is sometimes theorized to be related to a variety of minerals. There’s one interesting theory that pica is sometimes just a silica deficiency. So, hard to definitively link to iron.

  65. Justin on June 21, 2015 at 03:37

    That was some seriously interesting shit to read. Kokos to the authors!

    On a side note…driving back from from our honeymoon in France, my wife and I stopped at a bakery and got a “real” French baguette. That was the best bread I ever tasted. If you ever have the chance, try fresh bread from a bakery in France. It will change your life.

  66. Elizabeth on June 21, 2015 at 13:40

    Great article! However, I just ate some beef and decided to make myself some hot cocoa to combat the iron in the red meat (calcium in milk)- holy moly! It said 40 grams of ditched Valrhona cocoa was 85% of the daily value for iron!!

    Can someone explain whether the iron in dutched cocoa is ok or not?

    I would love some simple language guidelines.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 21, 2015 at 13:49

      I sure as hell hope you made the hot cocoa with milk, not water!

    • Elizabeth on June 22, 2015 at 14:48

      Yes, I did.

      Is that ok? I wonder why it is so high!!

    • Duck Dodgers on June 22, 2015 at 18:03

      Cocoa is known to be an inhibitor of iron absorption—you’ll only absorb a little iron.

      Inhibition of non-haem iron absorption in man by polyphenolic-containing beverages (1999)

      Inhibition by black tea was 79–94 %, peppermint tea 84 %, pennyroyal 73 %, cocoa 71 %, vervain 59 %, lime flower 52 % and camomile 47 %. At an identical concentration of total polyphenols, black tea was more inhibitory than cocoa, and more inhibitory than herb teas camomile, vervain, lime flower and pennyroyal, but was of equal inhibition to peppermint tea. Adding milk to coffee and tea had little or no influence on their inhibitory nature. Our findings demonstrate that herb teas, as well as black tea, coffee and cocoa can be potent inhibitors of Fe absorption. This property should be considered when giving dietary advice in relation to Fe nutrition.

      I wouldn’t expect “adding” a little milk to coffee or tea to have an effect on iron inhibition. You need to consume about a cup or more of milk to get enough inhibiting calcium (min 150mg). But, if you made the cocoa from a cup of milk, I would expect there to be added inhibition.

      It’s tough to really worry about iron from chocolate. Jeanne Calment consumed 2 Lbs of chocolate per week and lived to 122. Runner up Sarah Knauss lived to 119 eating lots of chocolate turtles.

    • Elizabeth on June 22, 2015 at 20:25

      Thank you, I really appreciate the thorough reply.

    • Elizabeth on June 22, 2015 at 20:27

      Ok, so I think I’m one of these fat Americans with iron in my hypothalamus. I would like to lose about 40 pounds. So my question is, if I do things like exercise vigorously and use the sauna (to sweat iron out) and stop eating enriched foods, will that undo the damage to my brain/hypothalamus? Can you get the iron out of there?

    • Duck Dodgers on June 22, 2015 at 20:52

      I for one will not be giving medical or health advice here. This is all just a theory that seems to explain a lot.

      However, I don’t believe that sweating or exercise can remove iron from the brain. My understanding is that you would need chelation for that. Only specific chelators can cross the brain barrier to chelate metals from the brain, and I can point you to this thread where we discuss compounds like those found in green and white teas, which are believed to chelate metals from the brain. Others (like Wilbur) here have found success with fibers that may also chelate iron.

      Green tea is often believed to promote weight loss by speeding up the metabolism, but if our theory is correct, there may be much more to it than that. Whole grains (unfortified of course) may have some similar chelation effects and seem to promote weight loss as well.

      It seems like many natural fibers/antioxidants that are believed to promote weight loss also seem to have the ability to chelate iron (yacon root, or curcumin, for instance). Of course, that would also be an oversimplification for these complex foods/compounds, so we are talking about one piece of the puzzle.

      Iron chelation has been shown to reduce adiposity in mice, so there is some evidence that the iron-reduction theory is on to something. But, on the other hand, one should not embark on iron reduction without knowing their iron levels and ferritin (see the Colpo link, at the end of the article).

      And, again, this is not medical advice and I encourage you to do your own research.

  67. diane on June 21, 2015 at 17:51

    super interesting and thought provoking. thanks!

  68. Jack on June 22, 2015 at 06:17

    Wow, thank you for sharing such a fascinating post! Although a question does remain; if vegans tend to have higher circulating levels of iron than vegetarians, than do they suffer from the effects of iron overload more frequently? Also, between gut flora, iron overload, hormones, and other factors, it certainly seems like there’s not a whole lot of room for CICO as the underlying cause in obesity and other forms of metabolic derangement

    • Bret on June 22, 2015 at 15:54


      Also, between gut flora, iron overload, hormones, and other factors, it certainly seems like there’s not a whole lot of room for CICO as the underlying cause in obesity and other forms of metabolic derangement

      I think it would be hard to disavow CICO completely. It is certainly associated with obesity/weight gain. Whether it is causal, and if so, how much, are infinitely complicated questions. As I’m sure you know, often it appears that a phenomenon is a stimulus in a problem, but in reality it is at least partially an effect of another stimulus.

      I am mid-fast right now (24-36 hrs), and I notice my drive to eat is rather muted after the initial hump of not eating when my body expects me to through routine conditioning. I’d call that relevant.

      No one can say for sure, but not eating a shitload of food willy nilly seems a wise call.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 22, 2015 at 18:17

      We think this post actually validates CICO. As we mentioned in the post, obese people have iron in the hypothalamus of their brains, possibly increasing their appetite. In fact, the study speculates this..

      Brain Iron Overload, Insulin Resistance, and Cognitive Performance in Obese Subjects: A Preliminary MRI Case-Control Study (2014)

      “Although it remains unclear whether [Brain Iron Overload] at the hypothalamus is involved in the pathogenesis of obesity or is a biomarker, it seems reasonable to anticipate that damage to a brain area critical for body weight control might play a role in obesity.”

      It’s a cruel and vicious cycle because in a way, adipose tissue appears to be a protective mechanism to store excess iron away from the blood. With all the excess iron coming into the body, the hypothalamus gets overloaded with iron and becomes inflamed, possibly resulting in increased appetite.

      In a sad twist of irony, they end up consuming even more iron as they increase their iron-rich eating habits.

    • Jack on June 22, 2015 at 19:03

      In that case, what about the obese American toddlers vs. non-obese German toddlers who drink similar amounts of fruit juice? Or the Pima Indians, who became obese and diabetic in a time when both were exceedingly rare in this country? Does absolute caloric intake go up as iron-enriched foodstuffs become a staple of a regional diet?

    • Duck Dodgers on June 22, 2015 at 19:44

      It’s a great question, Jack. I think if Brain Iron Overload is a feature of obesity, then it’s certainly plausible.

      And the funny thing that occurred to me is that food enrichment probably fools the tastebuds. When you consume refined grains, your brain probably thinks its just consuming an easily digestible source of energy with relatively poor nutrition.

      I’m very thin, but personally I find it harder to eat a lot of whole grains than refined grains. So, I suspect the body is completely confused when one consumes refined enriched products that taste nutritionless. The body thinks it’s probably consuming a safe starch and just ends up getting more unopposed iron in the process. But that’s all just a speculation.

      Mind you, we aren’t ashamed to admit that this is all a theory. It’s just that it’s the first theory I’ve ever come across that explains so darn much.

  69. Kathy Princess on June 22, 2015 at 12:06

    I’ve never posted here before, but have been reading the blog for awhile.

    I have thought for years that I am gluten intolerant, and maybe I am. But it occurs to me that it seems many people who have trouble with modern wheat do better with heirloom varieties like spelt, farro, or einkorn.

    Maybe the lack of fortification has something to do with it…

    Future experiment after finishing the course of Elixa…

    • Duck Dodgers on June 22, 2015 at 20:04

      I don’t doubt that true gluten intolerance exists. It does. And should iron even play a plausible role in promoting true gluten intolerance, then we must recognize that all the iron inhibition and iron avoidance in the world will not reverse such conditions once the damage is done. Some things are irreversible.

      Nevertheless, I now suspect that some perceived “gluten sensitivities” that have become popular in iron-enriched countries are actually just sensitivities to the enrichments.

      By the way, this theory was all realized on a recent trip to France. I’ve avoided gluten for the past few years in the US, and there I was seeing all these French gorging themselves on the same modern Winter Wheat that we eat in the States. Meanwhile, the American tourists looked like round blobs and all the wheat-eating French looked rail thin. It was then that it occurred to me that the food supply is not the same. Americans actually look sick and poisoned next to Europeans. Once we looked at it from that perspective, everything just fell into place. It was scary.

      As a disclaimer, I began eating stone-ground whole wheat and did notice some effects the first few days. Some minor joint pain and dull brain fog. But these went away after a few regular doses of gluten. I don’t think our ancestors were easily turned off by such effects and your gut flora needs time to adjust to metabolizing such toxins. Your mileage may vary. Always best to go slow when making big changes.

    • FrenchFry on June 22, 2015 at 21:29

      That’s my experience in reverse: when I was travelling in the US, I was shocked by the sick look of most people. The West coast fared better in that department but I was on business trips and got to stay at non-touristic locations, shopped in the local supermarkets, etc. Truly shocking: people seemed to be older than they should, bad skin conditions, odd way of moving around like they were not used to walk … that last one was very strange to see. I had to eat the weirdo stuff I found in the supermarket (seedless veggies, oversized fruits, weird tasting dairy, bread so refined I actually almost burned the apartment where I stayed because the toaster caught fire while toasting a slice of it, I kid you not!) … I ended up sticking to sushi boxes …

    • Michele on June 23, 2015 at 04:29

      I totally know what you both mean. I moved to Germany from the US in 1998 when I was 23. Nowadays when I go “home”, I truly notice what I feel is a difference in health between people in the US and Europe. I do EVERYTHING I can to help my family with eating whole food when I come to visit but it is a challenge. One example is that I wanted to make a “tagliata di manzo” for my family. It is basically sliced beef over arugula and covered with Parmesan. The *organic* arugula I bought was giant and had no taste at all. Beef also tastes different. So frustrating. It takes my husband and myself two weeks to get our guts back in order when we return.

    • FrenchFry on June 23, 2015 at 04:40

      When an arugula has no taste, you know something’s wrong. I am actually serious, not joking. I went to the US a few times in my younger days (haven’t been there since early 2004) and my health always got crappy as a result. I was even cooking half of the time from what I could buy, trying to emulate what I was doing in France. Everything tasted off. The only time I could enjoy food was when we had a business dinner in some highly rated gourmet restaurant in major cities … I don’t know, maybe it’s me, but I never got the same taste shock when travelling in Europe (except the UK, but you know, for a French UK food is literally “evil” :D :D).

    • Michele on June 23, 2015 at 05:37

      ah oui…le mari est francais….pour lui le pire aux E.U. et en Angleterre c’est le CHOCOLAT….trop aromatisé et trop sucré!

      Anyway…I have my six day Elixa course waiting for me to start and will post over on that thread when I have the results!

    • FrenchFry on June 23, 2015 at 05:53

      Haha, don’t start me on US chocolate. I remember buyng a couple of hershey bars at a 7/11 … The US guy that was with me happily ate one … I did not try to swallow even the first bite, it tasted so awful, kind of rancid / puky, I’ll never forget it … You can’t turn chocolate that evil unless you’re evil yourself!

      • VF on August 21, 2016 at 18:28

        American candy companies take the cocoa butter out of chocolate and replace it with PGPR, so it’s pretty much brown wax now.

  70. Jer on June 23, 2015 at 11:01

    I have no doubt whatsover that iron can be a problem. The simple fact is that we are consuming many more calories than we did in 1950: (sorry it stops at the year 2000)
    Per capita consumption:
    Meat up 57 pounds
    Cheese up 22.1 pounds
    Milk down 13.8 gallons – (cheese much denser calorically than milk anyway.)
    Added fats & oils – 29.9 pounds
    Fruit & veg – up 1/5 from 1970 – 2000 alone
    Total grain products – up 44 pounds.
    If your asking why – it’s because we can! Culturally encouraged even(clean your plate, don’t waste food). Food is easier than ever to get, cheaper to buy, fast food practically on every street corner.
    The French paradox? I believe it all comes down to caloric density of foods. Bread is less dense than meat/cheese/fats. Fast food is less dense/higher calorie than real food. Fill up on good French bread, I guarantee you will eat less meat and everything else.

  71. Fred Sonoma on June 23, 2015 at 07:48

    So would soaking / fermenting beans actually make the iron more bio-available? (Since it reduces anti-nutrients?)

    How about something like soy sauce – there’s a decent amount of iron in it, would it be even more bio-available than just eating soy beans?

    • Duck Dodgers on June 23, 2015 at 09:00

      It’s a bit more complicated than just iron bioavailability. At first glance, I see some evidence that fermented soy products, like soy sauce, will greatly enhance the absorption of iron from other foods. On the other hand, soy flour greatly inhibits iron absorption. It will require a bit more investigation.

      I’m not sure I see that soy sauce is a tremendous source of iron though. Most people don’t guzzle soy sauce (I believe it’s used more like a condiment or ingredient) and Asian countries are now fortifying soy sauce with iron because they believe there isn’t enough iron in it to begin with. Is it possible you are looking at the nutritional information for a bottle of fortified soy sauce? NutritionData claims that 1 Tbsp of soy sauce only has 0.4mg of iron.

      While soy sauce is used in most/many Asian dishes, in Japan it’s considered an insult to the chef to douse your sushi with soy sauce—it implies that the fish isn’t fresh and needs to have the taste masked). You’re only supposed to use a teeny bit.

    • Fred Sonoma on June 23, 2015 at 09:14

      Thanks for the in-depth reply Duck (and the amazing article). I’m Taiwanese and I use it really often – I’m particularly concerned because I have Reactive Arthritis and I find when I eat too much iron it causes major issues for me (but I crave THE SHIT out of iron).

      So this iron hypothesis has been life-changing for me, especially in terms of eating food combinations that just intuitively feel right to me – only issue is that I would just pig out on dates and raw steaks and then feel like shit the next day.

      What about soy sauce would greatly increase iron absorption?

    • Fred Sonoma on June 23, 2015 at 09:16

      My gluten-free tamari sauce (very similar to soy sauce) has 4% RDV of iron per tbsp. Doesn’t say anything about fortification in ingredients – it’s probably safe then right?

  72. Fred Sonoma on June 23, 2015 at 08:16

    So would soaking / fermenting beans actually make the iron more bio-available?

    How about something like soy sauce? Would the iron in that be very bio-available then?

  73. Tom Hennessy on June 24, 2015 at 03:43

    It seems the ‘Iron, Food Enrichment and The Theory of Everything hypothesis’ is a reiteration of my 1996 ‘Herbivore Hypothesis’, in that, meat eating by the obligate frugivore-herbivore/human is the cause of all disease, due to its’ ability to cause iron excess/age-related iron accumulation.

    • GTR on June 24, 2015 at 13:31

      Also consider that heme iron absorption is somehow regulated based on iron stores, while non-heme iron absorption is not regulated, you can get any amount of iron from plants, tablets or “enriched foods” thus causing toxic buildup – in an easy way, for which the organism has no defences.

      “These suggest that heme iron absorption is dependent on iron stores and there is a remarkable decreased of heme iron absorption in iron replete subjects. “

    • Duck Dodgers on June 24, 2015 at 08:22

      If only we had known about it. Would have saved us a lot of time. :) Cheers.

    • GTR on June 24, 2015 at 13:18

      The fact that humans absorb iron from meat easily and reliably, while absorption from plants is low and unpredictable is point against “herbivore” hypothesis. Besides to understand who we are biologically you’d need to concentrate at people below 40 – the majority of pre-industrial world. At such ages – without fortification – people don’t tend to suffer from iron overloads.

    • jhnycmltly on July 8, 2015 at 20:15

      “Adaptation in iron absorption: iron supplementation reduces nonheme-iron but not heme-iron absorption from food.”

  74. flyingv on June 23, 2015 at 15:16

    The link on “How did this individual lose 50kg eating whole grains, fibers and herbs? Every aspect of the diet inhibited and chelated iron.” goes to the wrong place I think..

    • Duck Dodgers on June 23, 2015 at 17:51

      When I click on the link I see this:

      An opportunistic pathogen isolated from the gut of an obese human causes obesity in germfree mice (2013)

      “The endotoxin-producing Enterobacter decreased in relative abundance from 35% of the volunteer’s gut bacteria to non-detectable, during which time the volunteer lost 51.4 kg of 174.8 kg initial weight and recovered from hyperglycemia and hypertension after 23 weeks on a diet of whole grains, traditional Chinese medicinal foods and prebiotics”

      That’s what we were referring to.

    • flyingv on June 23, 2015 at 22:50

      Whoops, one would never guess “An opportunistic pathogen isolated from the gut of an obese human causes obesity in germfree mice” as the headline involved a 50kg weight loss by the human. Thanks!

    • Fred Sonoma on June 24, 2015 at 06:28

      This really resonates with me – according to GDX Comp Stool Analysis I have an overgrowth of Enterobacter cloecae (and klebsiella oxytoca).

  75. Jesrad on June 23, 2015 at 15:27

    May I publish a french translation of this article (with attribution of.c) on my blog ?

    • Richard Nikoley on June 23, 2015 at 16:06

      Publies, stp. Donnes moi le link.

    • Jesrad on June 24, 2015 at 06:54

      Still in writing at the moment, but I thought I’d let you know: the link about French doing less sport than americans because gyms are a niche market there, is painfully wrong in its conclusions, and admits to misunderstanding and misassessing the whole thing in the very first lines, so I removed it entirely.

      Ignoring the “associations sportives” to assess the state of fitness enthusiasm in France is like ignoring wine sales while assessing our alcohol consumption – it belongs in some outer-space zone far far beyond the ridiculous.

      These not-for-profit associations account for 3.5% of the national GDP. Sport-oriented associations count for a good part of it, they total 16 million members (that’s a QUARTER of the entire population that is regularly practicing some sport), constitute the main circuit for selecting our Olympic athletes, and that does not even account for the just-as-numerous cultural associations which almost always do entail some form of sport into their activity (to illustrate: I’m a member of a Breton cultural association which among other things holds twice-weekly traditional/folk dancing lessons, and those are quite physically demanding).

      It’s a deep cultural thing: we simply do NOT “go to the gym”. Instead, nous “allons au forum des assoces pour s’inscrire au tennis, à l’escalade, au volley,” whatever…

    • Duck Dodgers on June 24, 2015 at 07:06

      We never said the French weren’t active. We just said they have no interest in “exercise” (i.e. running just for the sake of running or sweating just for the sake of sweating or burning calories).

      In the US we have a lot of plump people that run in place for hours every week and track their caloric intake/output. They are still quite plump no matter how hard they try. I see overweight people jogging all the time. They are still overweight even though they do this practically daily. Their bodies seem permanently stuck in a pudgy state.

      I think it speaks volumes that forcing ourselves to go to the gym isn’t solving the problem here in the US. That’s what we were trying to convey. Yes, by all means, it’s wonderful that the French stay active. I have no doubt. But you do not ritually climb on to mundane machines to do so.

    • FrenchFry on June 24, 2015 at 07:18

      Hey DD,
      Yeah, I see your point now that you are explaining it better, because I agree with jesrad and the point you just made is not particularly clear in the article you wrote.

      On some side note, my older brother and I used to go to the gym lifting weights when we were teenagers. I did not keep up as I heard that it was stunting growth (height, not muscles) and I was still 14 y.o. at the time. I did not grow that much taller anyway … should have kept the gym habit because I turned into a skinny fat young man for like almost 20 years after that … I fixed all of that and more but I can’t help regretting a little listening to urban myths at the time …

    • Duck Dodgers on June 24, 2015 at 07:26

      Yep, you’re right. We were trying to keep the article as short as possible—it’s too long as it is. So I would have explained that better if I wasn’t already concerned about the length of the text. If you make things too long, few will read it.

      I’m grateful for Jesrad taking the time to translate this. We want as many people as possible to see this theory and encourage Jesrad to clarify what we were trying to convey, if he so wishes.

    • Jesrad on June 24, 2015 at 12:40

      I will readapt the passage now that it is clarified, thank you.

  76. Duck Dodgers on June 23, 2015 at 19:02

    One thing we didn’t mention in the post was that Americans were often brainwashed into believing that they would have more energy if they only consumed more iron.

    Beyond the iron propaganda from Popeye—who was introduced when iron intake was much lower (and never mind that iron from spinach is poorly absorbed due to the oxalates)—Madison Avenue later began pushing us to consume Geritol during the 1950s.

    Wikipedia: Geritol

    Geritol was introduced as an alcohol-based, iron and B vitamin tonic by Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in August 1950 and primarily marketed as such into the 1970s. Geritol was folded into Pharmaceuticals’ 1957 acquisition of J. B. Williams Co., founded in 1885. J. B. Williams Co. was later bought out by Nabisco in 1971. The Geritol product name was formerly owned by the multinational pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline. Geritol was acquired by Meda Pharmaceutical in 2011. The earlier Geritol liquid formulation was advertised as “twice the iron in a pound of calf’s liver,” and daily doses contained about 50–100 milligrams of iron as ferric ammonium citrate. The Geritol tonic also contained about 12% alcohol and some B vitamins.

    Good lord. Eventually the FTC went after Geritol…

    Wikipedia: Geritol

    Geritol was the subject of years of investigation starting in 1959 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In 1965, the FTC ordered the makers of Geritol to disclose that Geritol would relieve symptoms of tiredness only in persons who suffer from iron deficiency anemia, and that the vast majority of people who experience such symptoms do not have such a deficiency. Geritol’s claims were discredited in court findings as “conduct amounted to gross negligence and bordered on recklessness,” ruled as a false and misleading claim, and heavily penalized with fines totaling $812,000 ($4,313,826 as of 2015), the largest FTC fine up to that date (1973). Although subsequent trials and appeals from 1965 to 1973 concluded that some of the FTC demands exceeded its authority, Geritol was already well known and continued to be the largest U.S. company selling iron and B vitamin supplement through 1979.

    Since then, supplemental iron products, including Geritol, have been contraindicated because of concerns over hemochromatosis, and serious questions raised in studies for men, postmenopausal women, and nonanemic patients with liver disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or cancer.

  77. Michael44 on June 23, 2015 at 21:32

    Thank you the Duck Dodgers team and Richard.

  78. A Dane on June 24, 2015 at 04:49

    Wow, jeeze am I glad I live in Denmark then!
    I still think Danes eat way too much meat. There has been a fascination for the US lifestyle, “american dream” kind of crap, propaganda in favour of the US is quite systemic here, Denmark is basically a vassal state that gave allegiance to the US some time ago. But anyway, no fortified foods here.

  79. CoolBeans on June 24, 2015 at 07:56

    I’m trying to advise a close friend with health issues who’s seeking further medical oversight to manage iron.

    These are labs from a few years ago.

    Any comments/feedback/insight?

    Any further suggested blood work they should request when re-testing these below parameters to get a more complete picture?

    IRON, TOTAL: 135 (45-170 mcg/dL)
    TIBC: 399 (250 – 425 mcg/dL)
    IRON SATURATION: 34 (20-50% calc)
    FERRITIN: 210 (20-345 ng/mL)

    Many thanks. If I haven’t explicitly stated it before, this blog is SO appreciated. I read the comments almost daily, love the crowd-sourced brainstorming.

    Thank you Richard, thank you “Duck Dodgers” and TaterTot, et al.

    [And I’m not looking for “medical” advice, just ideas for my friend to discuss with their doctors.]

    • jhnycmltly on July 9, 2015 at 04:45

      They’ve concluded a ferritin below 50 pretty much guarantees no cancer, sooo, one might think the, FERRITIN: 210, may be a bit high, and as evidenced below, can be effectively kept low by consuming a vegetarian diet.

      “Lacto-ovo vegetarians had lower body Fe stores, as indicated by a serum ferritin concentration (microg/l) of 35 (95 % CI 21, 49) compared with 72 (95 % CI 45, 100) for meat-eaters”

  80. GTR on June 24, 2015 at 14:02

    I disagree with the recommendations and sugesstions to combine red meat, dairy and tea/coffee together. This looks like a combination designed to fry the brain with excitotoxicity:
    1) Meat has both a lot of glutamate, and glutamine that can be converted to glutamate. Glutamate stiumulates neurons.
    2) Meat contains aspartic acid that is yet another substance that stimulates neural activity.
    3) One of the ways they stimulate is by allowing more calcium into the neurons. More calcium – more stimulation.
    4) Caffeine present in tea and coffee increase this kind of stimulation.
    Basically a perfect storm for excitotixicity, which is based on too much calcium killing neurons, mediated by those excitotoxins, and increased by caffeine.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 24, 2015 at 15:23

      Oh noes!

      Dihydrogen monoxide rears its ugly hydra-head again!

    • John on June 24, 2015 at 15:04

      Ha, good one! Meat, milk and tea/coffee all contain water, so maybe it’s a perfect storm for drowning as well.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 24, 2015 at 16:12

      C’mon GTR. If you can’t handle a real French meal then I don’t know what to say.

    • Bret on June 24, 2015 at 20:20

      a real French meal

      Which reminds me, low carb apologists tend to point to “the French paradox” as proof that saturated fat is not the cause of heart disease it gets credit for being. And it’s a fair point. But it’s ever so slightly incompatible with their insistent claim that lots of bread will cause heart disease.

      Naturally, they only refer to the French paradox in passing, after emphasizing the other paradoxes that are less famous for bread consumption.

    • GTR on June 25, 2015 at 00:25

      I haven’t mentioned 2 additional factors:

      5) Casein in dairy – has some excitatory effect too.
      6) High thermal processing (advised here to convert heme to non-heme iron) creating more and faster absorbable free glutamate by denaturing proteins.

    • Jane Karlsson on June 25, 2015 at 03:34

      GTR, what you say is not correct, according to my understanding. Dietary glutamate does not cross the blood-brain barrier and I believe aspartate doesn’t either.

      Caffeine can actually protect the brain. ‘Caffeine and uric acid mediate glutathione synthesis for neuroprotection’

      Excitotoxicity is much more plausibly caused by refined carbs, which lack magnesium and manganese. Mn activates the enzyme which detoxifies excess glutamate, and Mg prevents entry of excess calcium and makes the ATP which pumps it out.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 25, 2015 at 08:09

      “Casein in dairy – has some excitatory effect too.”

      Oh yeah.. That warm glass of milk before bed makes people sooo excited. :)

      I’m pretty sure casein reactions are due to gut flora issues.

    • GTR on June 29, 2015 at 14:55

      @Jane – It looks like you are right about this blood-brain barrier protection from the glutamate.

      So in order for my reservation to the simultaneous meat & calcium intake to be valid I need to add some additional conditions? Like these would be only valid for:

      – People with leaky blood-brain barrier, eg from using cellphones ner their heads, rather thany with headphones?

      – People with head inuries and so – the classic case of internal release of internal glutamate from neurons. In this case a lot of glutamate in the blood slows down pumping the glutamate out of the brain.

      “Glutamate pumps are also present on the outer surface of the brain’s blood vessels, the surface facing the brain tissue. The fact that glutamate is being pumped from the brain into the blood circulation was demonstrated more than 45 years ago. […] The hypothesis was that a larger difference in glutamate concentration would enhance the driving force for the chemical’s removal, and more glutamate would flow out of the brain and into the circulating blood. That was indeed what happened.”

      As for the protection from magnesium – unfortunately magnesium competes with calcium for absorption, so the advices to consume a lot of calcium (in order to avoid iron overload) might result in the depletion of available magnesium.

      The advice to consume calcium (the main killer of neurons in excitotoxicity) with meat still looks suspicious, from the excitotoxicity point of view.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 29, 2015 at 17:20

      “As for the protection from magnesium – unfortunately magnesium competes with calcium for absorption, so the advices to consume a lot of calcium (in order to avoid iron overload) might result in the depletion of available magnesium”

      GTR…. It’s not exactly “advice” but rather an observation as to what cultures actually did—whether they knew it or not. Cultures that are the healthiest consume calcium. Whether you like it not, there’s no way around that.

      Incidentally, many of the longevity villages and Blue Zones have very high calcium and magnesium in their water supply. The Great Rift Valley has similar properties in its water. Make what you will of that.

    • Jane Karlsson on June 30, 2015 at 04:57

      I agree, I don’t think calcium pills are a good idea. I don’t expect Duck does either.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 30, 2015 at 07:54

      “I don’t think calcium pills are a good idea. I don’t expect Duck does either.”

      I’m not a pill guy. I prefer a glass of Gerolsteiner or a serving of dairy. :)

  81. John on June 24, 2015 at 14:59

    Here’s an interesting study that supports this hypothesis that found that lactoferrin supplementation produced a reduction of body weight and visceral fat, while placebo did not-

    • John on June 26, 2015 at 18:04

      As a follow up to this, I just got some Lactoferrin to experiment with. Most interesting to me is the claim that it shields the gut from iron, shifts gut flora in a positive direction, and protects from endotoxin and removes biofilms.

  82. Eric on June 24, 2015 at 18:14

    So this is why I always have to have an espresso or some dark chocolate after my main meal which usually has a good amount of meat. Maybe it also explains liqueur as a digestive? They often use clear grappa in Italy which is just straight from the still so I don’t imagine it has any tannins or minerals. Combining coffee with liquor is also a popular option. They call it “correct”.

    • Wilbur on June 24, 2015 at 19:20

      Who calls it “correct”? I’d love to know more. I LOVE Grappa combined with coffee! Or coffee plus red wine plus grappa. Or coffee and scotch.

    • Eric on June 24, 2015 at 21:11

      The Italians call it correct, correct coffee, caffè corretto.

      You mix coffee, red wine and grappa in the same cup?

    • Wilbur on June 25, 2015 at 10:35

      Oops, I thought you meant in separate cups at the same time. I’m going to have to try putting the grappa in the coffee. Thanks for the suggestion.

  83. gabkad on June 24, 2015 at 18:41

    In the alternative, you could always ban yourself. It’s easy. Just go away and don’t come back. Done!

  84. CoolBeans on June 25, 2015 at 04:56

    I’ve been gravitating away from red meat the more I read sources like this blog, Stephan Guyunet, the Blue Zone literature, and surveying older immigrants with vitality and longevity (who rarely ate meat and used to laugh at the Paleo/caveman concept and revisionist history of historical cultures’s consumption) and so forth.

    But having been conditioned to eat meat so regularly, I find it hard to make the adjustment, without under-eating eat calories and protein. But I want to!

    When Duck Dodgers and others are referring to low “meat” consumption (like a few times a month), are you referring to beef/red meat? Or ANY meat (fish, seafood, fowl, etc.)?

    I believe we are omnivores, I believe we need animal-sourced B12, etc.

    I also love burgers and red meat.

    But I can’t afford to have blinders.

    How does a dude who wants to maintain his 170+ pound, 6 foot frame get enough calories and sustenance as he tries to shed the meat habbit? Especially considering long-term gut healing (iron-fortified pizza doughs wouldn’t make sense even as I hope to eventually eat a little of everything like the French)?

    Are daily eggs (2) reasonable? (Is it true that the egg white mitigates the iron in the yolk?)

    Would high quality Milk, kefir, yoghurt, etc. be permissible to make up the protein/caloric needs?

    Anyone wanna take a stab at a rough meal plan example (3 meals, snacks)? It’s hard enough to get to 2000-2500 calories eating broths, eggs, potatoes, fruits, yogurt, kefir, raw cheeses, meat/potato/salad lunches, and similar dinner.

    Just looking for ideas and brainstorms, not expecting anyone to come up with a precise answer for my unique physiology.

    Thanks a lot! I hope this post remains the top one for a while, as I’m really enjoying all the comments and discussion.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 25, 2015 at 06:20

      Also Angelo Coppola over at Humans are Not Broken is in the process of refining his low meat Plant Paleo approach, and he’s updating it all the time.

      But, I think the point in this is that everyone can choose the culture that works best for them and try to emulate it. You could just try a non-enriched French diet and you wouldn’t have to give up a lot of meat. You could also try a high dairy/meat/honey Masai diet, but their blood and plants for their recipes would be difficult for a Westerner to source. :)

    • Gemma on June 25, 2015 at 05:33


      “How does a dude who wants to maintain his 170+ pound, 6 foot frame get enough calories and sustenance as he tries to shed the meat habbit?

      Just looking for ideas and brainstorms”

      Nomen omen :-)

    • Jane Karlsson on June 25, 2015 at 06:12

      Coolbeans, eat bread! It’s coming back into fashion. I eat bread (not white bread of course) instead of meat, and my gut bugs love it.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 25, 2015 at 06:24

      I’m kinda thinking Ancient Mayans had it good. Lots of legumes and they hunted small animals. They didn’t have cows or goats so no dairy and not much red meat, as far as I know. Honey was their only sweetener and they had so much they exported it. They drank their hot chocolate with water and sweetened it with honey.

    • MachineGhost on June 25, 2015 at 06:40

      What’s with the recent conflation of all meat with red meat? Take 500mg of calcium with each red meat meal if you’re so bloody worried about the iron!

      Re: calories. Inverse relationship between fat and carbs. Give up one, gotta take in more of the other. Modern humanity seems impossible without calorie-dense foods. Add the fat if you have to, i.e. butter, ghee, EVOO. It doesn’t always have to be attached to meat.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 25, 2015 at 06:42

      Jane said: “eat bread!…my gut bugs love it.”

      I do think people will find that not everyone can tolerate whole wheat when they try to reintroduce it. If you’ve grown up on iron-enriched SAD and have tried a number of wheat-avoidance diets in recent years, your gut may not have the gut bugs to metabolize the wheat toxins right now. So, my recommendation would be to go slowly if wheat is something that interests you.

    • MachineGhost on June 25, 2015 at 06:45

      That’s fine for a diagnosis. How about a cure? Elixa is only transient non-human probiotics, so how is that going to help?

    • Duck Dodgers on June 25, 2015 at 06:51

      Good point, MG. Though you know I just prefer some cheese or raw milk or a cheeseburger. ;)

      In explaining some of these paradoxes, I made the mistake of saying things like Australians just eat a lot of meat—when in actuality they eat a lot of red meat and kangaroo meat, which has an insane amount of iron in it.

      I think the low meat Blue Zones are interesting, but the intention of the article was to be diet-agnostic. It’s possible to be healthy with various quantities of meat in the diet. I just think that there is wisdom in the food pairings of various cultures. People would do well to follow the actual customs of the cultures they want to emulate, rather than using a culture (like the Masai) to justify a diet and then ignore the food pairings and customs.

    • CoolBeans on June 25, 2015 at 07:09

      Gemma — touche! lol

      Great suggestions, Duck.

      I guess I’m trying to reconcile the ideas of
      -FreeTheAnimal/Blue Zones
      -and Ray Peat-ish science.
      -And my poor gut/skin reactions. (Never mind the back drop health conditions I won’t get into here).

      So I’m tweaking a lot, all the while trying to get enough calories to avoid feeling “bleh.”

      Is the suggestion that real whole wheat bread (organic, I guess), devoid of fortification is actually gut healing? Even if there’s history of antibiotics, IBS palliated by broths, probiotics, trigger food avoidance?

      I don’t necessarily notice effects from eating real sourdough white bread w/o additives but still likely having glyphosate (maybe some skin inflammation), but I’m more concerned with long-term effects. I don’t wanna ever go back to how I felt on SAD, and wheat (along w/ processed food abstention really set things straight). I realize there are lots of confounders to what fixed me up.

      So….push through w/ beans, legumes, lentils, real unfortified wheat? I’m ok with that, I just hope I don’t get burned. Lol.

      Thanks again for the ideas and discussion!

    • Gemma on June 25, 2015 at 07:53


      Here some tips
      for you :-)

      “history of antibiotics, IBS palliated by broths, probiotics, trigger food avoidance”

      Eat curds and honey.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 25, 2015 at 07:54

      “Is the suggestion that real whole wheat bread (organic, I guess), devoid of fortification is actually gut healing? Even if there’s history of antibiotics, IBS palliated by broths, probiotics, trigger food avoidance?”

      Personally, I doubt whole wheat is “gut healing.” I suspect you need a good level of proper gut flora to achieve the benefits of whole wheat.

      But, I only say that from my own personal experience of ramping up to grains too quickly as I currently seem to lack the gut flora to tolerate wheat/grains in high quantities—not exactly surprising since I haven’t eaten them in years. So, I’ll be backing off a bit and will experiment with smaller amounts of grains over time. I think gluten sensitivity is a bit like lactose intolerance—something that can be tweaked with work. On the other hand, some of the people we talked to, like Jane, do very well on wheat.

      “So….push through w/ beans, legumes, lentils, real unfortified wheat? I’m ok with that, I just hope I don’t get burned. Lol.”

      I think the gluten is something that requires a particular kind of flora to tolerate. If you don’t have that flora, I would imagine that wheat could make your gut a bit leaky since it wouldn’t be able to metabolize the gluten properly. Also, in France the traditional baguette is slow fermented with yeasts, which help metabolize some of the toxins. On the other hand, some of their pastry dough, like choux pastry, have no yeast or fermentation at all (they are steam puffed).

      The main point of the article is that there are definitely cultures that have thrived on wheat, so wheat itself cannot be the main cause of our modern health issues. That doesn’t necessarily mean that those of us with messed up guts can always tolerate wheat though. Everyone’s mileage will vary. I know that’s confusing, but hopefully it makes sense. We also wanted to make this article applicable to a wide range of diets and not be dogmatic about what the proper way to eat was.

      You don’t have to give up meat if you don’t want to. I think you just need to be aware that cultures did various things to ameliorate overexposure to iron.

    • Bret on June 25, 2015 at 08:29

      CoolBeans, I suggest you try out freshly ground grains, based on the following fascinating experiment discussed in Chapter 15 of Nutrition & Physical Degeneration. Emphasis mine:

      In Fig. 95 will be seen three rats all of which received the same diet, except for the type of bread. The first rat (at the left) received whole-wheat products freshly ground, the center one received a white flour product and the third (at the right) a bran and middlings product. The amounts of each ash, of calcium as the oxide, and of phosphorus as the pentoxide; and the amounts of iron and copper present in the diet of each group are shown by the height of the columns beneath the rats. Clinically it will be seen that there is a marked difference in the physical development Qf these rats. Several rats of the same age were in each cage. The feeding was started after weaning at about twenty-three days of age. The rat at the left was on the entire grain product. It was fully developed. The rats in this cage reproduced normally at three months of age. The rats in this first cage had very mild dispositions and could be picked up by the ear or tail without danger of their biting. The rats represented by the one in the center cage using white flour were markedly undersized. Their hair came out in large patches and they had very ugly dispositions, so ugly that they threatened to spring through the cage wall at us when we came to look at them. These rats had tooth decay and they were not able to reproduce. The rats in the next cage (illustrated by the rat to the right) which were on the bran and middlings mixture did not show tooth decay, but were considerably undersized, and they lacked energy. The flour and middlings for the rats in cages two and three were purchased from the miller and hence were not freshly ground. The wheat given to the first group was obtained whole and ground while fresh in a hand mill. It is of interest that notwithstanding the great increase in ash, calcium, phosphorus, iron and copper present in the foods of the last group, the rats did not mature normally, as did those in the first group. This may have been due in large part to the fact that the material was not freshly ground, and as a result they could not obtain a normal vitamin content from the embryo of the grain due to its oxidation. This is further indicated by the fact that the rats in this group did not reproduce, probably due in considerable part to a lack of vitamins B and E which were lost by oxidation of the embryo or germ fat.

      I think this speaks volumes about why America’s modern fare of ultra processed foods is taking us nowhere, despite overcompensatory attempts at “fortification.”

      Switching to only freshly ground grains and assessing results would be worth trying, I’d say.

    • edster on June 26, 2015 at 19:13

      “they eat a lot of red meat and kangaroo meat”
      Not so sure about the kangaroo thing, it’s not a very common meal for most Aussies. You often have to pre-order it at butchers and the supermarkets bung it in with the dog bones and cheap cuts. It’s rare to find it on restaurant menus other than the tourist places or the high end establishments. This is the reality in the big metropolitan areas, it may be different up north but I doubt it as Australia is pretty homogeneous regarding food culture.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 26, 2015 at 19:56

      Ah.. sorry. I see that kangaroo is quite new in Australia. It seems that they eat a lot of red meat though. One source claims that in 1998, before kangaroo became popular, Australians consumed 185/pounds of beef per year, per person —twice as much beef as Americans did.

      So, it sounds like they eat a lot of red meat. Though, the Economist link, above, claims they eat roughly the same amount of red meat as the US does today, but more goat and mutton (also red meats), and it’s unclear if kangaroo is included in those recent numbers.

      Anyway, the point is that they eat a lot of (red) meat compared to other countries.

    • Gordon on June 27, 2015 at 11:50

      I’m also 6 feet tall and was not able to break through my 172 pound ceiling until I started supplementing with potato starch. Now I’m up into the 180’s. I’d guess that the trick to a lower meat diet that would allow you to hold onto or gain weight would be to eat high-fodmaps, which the beans lentils etc would be. Or you could kick it up 10 notches and by eating the Wilbur diet.

    • Catherine H. on June 28, 2015 at 11:34

      I’ve learned not to make absolutist claims about diets anymore, but I am willing to say that from everything I’ve read, the GAPS diet seems to give a fair chance at restoring healthy gut flora. I’m too cautious to call it a cure, but … I would be very interested to know what the Duck Dodgers thinks about it. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to me to think I may someday be able to eat wheat again. Thank you, Richard et al.!!

    • Duck Dodgers on June 29, 2015 at 11:37

      Thank you.

      I see GAPS as being therapeutic over the short term, not the long term. Chris Kresser has discussed this. Eventually you need prebiotic fibers to grow the good flora. But, I imagine you already know that if you read this blog! Good luck to you.

    • Duck Dodgers on July 17, 2015 at 09:46

      For what it’s worth, after my initial reactions I dialed back my wheat intake last month and then slowly built back up. And now I’m doing quite well on unfortified whole wheat from a local baker who does their own fresh-ground flour. Kind of fun eating wheat again and having it actually make me feel quite good.

      I was looking around for studies showing that the gut microbiota play a key role in digesting gluten. Sure enough…

      Identification of Rothia Bacteria as Gluten-Degrading Natural Colonizers of the Upper Gastro-Intestinal Tract (2011)

      Gluten proteins, prominent constituents of barley, wheat and rye, cause celiac disease in genetically predisposed subjects. Gluten is notoriously difficult to digest by mammalian proteolytic enzymes and the protease-resistant domains contain multiple immunogenic epitopes… Oral microorganisms with gluten-degrading capacity were obtained by a selective plating strategy using gluten agar… Importantly, the 33-mer and 26-mer immunogenic peptides were also cleaved… The major gliadin-degrading enzymes produced by the Rothia strains were ~70–75 kDa in size, and the enzyme expressed by Rothia aeria was active over a wide pH range (pH 3–10)…

      …While the human digestive enzyme system lacks the capacity to cleave immunogenic gluten, such activities are naturally present in the oral microbial enzyme repertoire. The identified bacteria may be exploited for physiologic degradation of harmful gluten peptides.

      So they found just one family of gluten-degrading gut bugs. I’m sure there are many that play a role.

    • Jane Karlsson on July 18, 2015 at 04:05

      “…While the human digestive enzyme system lacks the capacity to cleave immunogenic gluten…”

      Interesting that the authors believe this. I don’t think it’s true. I once had a conversation with Peter at Hyperlipid about it. He had a paper apparently showing that only celiac patients have gut bacteria which can break the tricky proline-proline bonds in gluten. Here’s what we said.

      Peter said…
      Jane, I think that only microbial gliadinases can deal with double prolines in gliadin. The presence of this enzyme in the gut (and presumably its microbe) is positively associated with coeliac disease… The links are in this post:

      Jane said…
      Peter, you said in that post ‘Particularly difficult to deal with are pairs of adjacent prolines. In fact there are only a handful of mammalian enzymes known which can act at this point.’ The paper you were discussing says one of them is dipeptidyl-peptidase II, and another is prolyl oligopeptidase. I can’t understand why the authors didn’t find these enzymes. Enterocytes have a lot of prolyl oligopeptidase. ‘In the duodenum, intestine, and colon, high PREP [prolyl oligopeptidase] immunoreactivity was seen in the enterocytes facing the lumen..’

      Dipeptidyl-peptidase II is a lysosomal enzyme with a very low pH optimum, so I suppose it might have been inactive in the zymogram. Otherwise we have to say the only people in the world who can cleave Pro-Pro in gliadin are coeliac patients.

      Peter said…
      Hi Jane, thank goodness for mammalian proline splitting enzymes! Perhaps we really are all free to play with oral tolerance failure to gluten, no bacterium needed…

      Something else that might be relevant is that some gut peptidases are activated by manganese. Meaning, if you remove the manganese from flour, you might not be able to degrade the gluten.

      ‘The activation of intestinal peptidases by manganese’

    • MachineGhost on July 18, 2015 at 08:15

      FWIW, when I tried the DPP-IV enzyme it made the negative symptoms from [fortified] wheat an order of magnitude worse, not better. So it could be true celiac patients have more of those kind of enzymes? Perhaps non-celiacs don’t actually digest gluten all that very well as a protective mechanism? Why is the assumption that everything we eat must always be bioavailable?

    • Duck Dodgers on July 18, 2015 at 16:00

      Interesting. But, I wasn’t so much suggesting that it needed to be bioavailable as much as suggesting that we have specific tools/flora to at least degrade the problematic metabolites. These days people make careers scaring people away from various aspects of grains, when we seem to have specific ways of handling them—at least when we are healthy.

      Here’s a comment Jane left this past November on gluten:

      Jane Karlsson wrote:

      There shouldn’t be any problem with wheat, even modern wheat, as long as gut bacteria and detoxification systems are working well. Detox systems depend on gene activation by MnSOD as I expect you remember. Here is the paper.

      Some of the genes activated by MnSOD are autophagy genes…It depends on proper functioning of lysosomes, and I suspect lysosome malfunction lies behind many of the problems with wheat. For instance, lectins normally get taken into enterocytes and (probably) degraded in lysosomes. And protease inhibitors have S-S bonds which can only be broken in lysosomes. The very tricky 33-mer peptide of gluten probably gets its Pro-Pro bonds broken in there too.

      Gluten is notorious for opening tight junctions in the gut, but actually opening tight junctions is necessary for induction of oral tolerance. The protein has to get inside the gut wall to access the immune system. Loss of oral tolerance seems to be due in large part to malfunctioning gut bacteria, which you probably know more about than I do.

      BTW I’ve never tried either Emmer or Einkorn. I eat a lot of bread but it’s modern wheat. Organic stone ground wholemeal of course.

      Actually, it was that very comment that first got our wheels turning on the subject of wheat.

      I also wonder if temporarily loosening of the tight junctions helps with persorbing phytic acid, for purposes of chelation.

    • MachineGhost on July 18, 2015 at 17:22

      That seems to be the crux of the problem. Fooling around with colon cleansing and all that pseudo-science alternative ilk, low carb diets, resistant starches, parasite infestations, taking soil-based organisms and/or high doses of dairy probiotics isn’t quite the same thing to me as specifically restoring the irrevocable loss of the microbiome diversity (or what you never acquired in the first place if you weren’t breastfed and exposed to allergens as a toddler).

      So are we really doomed to eventually incorporate human breast milk and fecal transplants from all those incredibly lucky, supremely healthy people?

    • Jane Karlsson on July 19, 2015 at 04:44

      Thanks for posting this again Duck. I found out after I’d posted it that there’s a mistake in it. The ‘very tricky 33-mer peptide of gluten’ doesn’t actually have any Pro-Pro bonds, they’re somewhere else in the molecule Sorry. I thought it wasn’t important enough for a follow up comment at the time, but I’m glad to have been able to correct it now.

  85. MissMcGillicuddy on June 25, 2015 at 07:20

    Current study – link between saturated fat and CVD….what about the Bulletproof coffee? could this have been a Seth Roberts issue?

    • John on June 25, 2015 at 09:56

      Well, drawing any conclusions from that study wouldn’t be a great idea. Let’s call that study what it is- a mish-mash of trials of various quality, some of which went to great expense to provide food, others which took the cheap and easy route and simply “gave advice,” with no guarantees that any trial actually lowered saturated fat in the intervention group.

      I doubt saturated fat was a factor for Seth Roberts. Much more relavant were his family history of heart disease, and that he tested “high” for mercury in July 2013. Did he pay any attention to his iron levels? I don’t know.

      That said, I think adding for tablespoons of fat to your coffee is ridiculous.

    • MissMcGillicuddy on June 25, 2015 at 10:30

      I’d have to go check the references, but I thought somewhere I read that Seth was eating a stick or nearly a stick of butter every day.

  86. MissMcGillicuddy on June 25, 2015 at 07:57

    At this point in my life, I find myself surrounded with many anecdotal reports of the dietary differences and related impacts between US residents people in other parts of the world, whose diets are less processed.
    Again, anecdotal but many of my North American associates who have retired to Ecuador report spontaneous weight loss and can’t nail down the cause. Some say they walk more, some say consume less processed foods, purchased mostly at farmers markets.
    Again, anecdotal but my Ecuadorian and Peruvian friends and family are often disgusted by the foods sold and served here. They are shocked by the lack of flavor and poor quality of produce and refuse to eat anything from a box or handed to them at a fast food window. I find them living off avocados, potatoes and the freshest bread they can get from a bakery. How ironic that people from under developed countries would the find the food in the first world to be so adulterated.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 25, 2015 at 14:25

      “The Expat Diet”

      That would be a fantastic book. A quick search on the topic brings up some excellent examples.

      I’m kind of sad I didn’t mention this one…

      The Baffling Dutch Diet

      The author was mystified as to how the Dutch could eat sweets, carbs and dairy and stay so slender.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 25, 2015 at 08:15

      Well, finally an opportunity to weigh in on that score.

      MissMcGillicuddy says:

      “Again, anecdotal but many of my North American associates who have retired to Ecuador report spontaneous weight loss and can’t nail down the cause. ”

      Perhaps fucking hot heat and bugs? Here about a month now and I must have dropped 10 pounds. I just never have much of an appetite.

      Here’s a pic of where I am. Perhaps another 15-20 and I won’t want to be shedding any more.

    • MissMcGillicuddy on June 25, 2015 at 08:31

      They’re in Cuenca, Ecuador, at about 8,000 feet above sea level or as they call it “land of the eternal spring”.

      They don’t mention impacts on appetite (too busy crowing over cheap restaurant prices!)…. but just keep losing weight.

      I think a scouting trip is in order to gather data for an upcoming book “The Cuenca Diet” LOL – you know, vegetables, beans, fish, meat and fruit, some grains.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 25, 2015 at 09:03

      Well, initial looking, American has the cheapest flight at $850 round trip. What’s cool is it takes me from Cabo to Phoenix, to Miami and finally Ecuador. 24 hours travel time.

      Alternatively, for another 50 bucks, I can pop for the boring Aeromexico flight that only stops in Mexico City. :)

    • MissMcGillicuddy on June 25, 2015 at 10:25

      Yes, it’s cheaper from Florida. They write about and show photos of a different lifestyle…really nice rentals in the $500 range, casual lifestyle…historic architecture, culture, etc. Medical clinics offering quality services where you pay in cash at reasonable rates. etc. Some move directly to the Pacific beach towns. I understand there are bargains there too but of course, warmer and buggier.

    • Mycroft Jones on June 25, 2015 at 13:08

      Another anecdotal report to back up MissMcGillicuddy. My landlady’s son went to Vietnam last year to be a school teacher. Within a few months his entire body recomposed itself, to a lean and Asian looking physique. Even his face altered and looked more Asian (he’s British). And all he did was live there and eat like they ate.

    • MissMcGillicuddy on June 25, 2015 at 13:33

      New book coming up: “The Expat Diet” basically, you eat anything not grown, raised or produced in the US :)

    • MachineGhost on June 25, 2015 at 15:42

      That is an awesome diet! But I wouldn’t get too excited:

    • Duck Dodgers on June 25, 2015 at 16:13

      Looks like they are doing pretty good compared to the US:

    • maurile on June 25, 2015 at 19:08

      A nice Expat Diet story (Brazil) leads off in Daphne Miller’s book, The Jungle Effect. (It’s a terrific book along Blue-Zone lines.)

    • Charlie on June 26, 2015 at 07:45

      They need to stop smoking, not change their diet…

    • Bret on June 26, 2015 at 09:05

      Re: Expat Diet

      This reminds me, when troops arrive in Afghanistan, almost all of them spend upwards of two weeks shitting their pants while adjusting to the food (not literally, but the farts are relentless and there is often diarrhea to accompany). And a whole lot of them lose weight and feel really healthy (provided no injuries of course) over the course of their time there.

      The popular theory to explain the weight loss is that they simply eat less and move more. And while I don’t doubt that has something to do with it, I am beginning to wonder whether it has more to do with the unsterilized, nonindustrialized, gut-friendly food over there.

  87. Mycroft Jones on June 25, 2015 at 12:55

    Don’t know if anyone is still reading this thread, but here goes:

    Has anyone else noticed that the bodybuilders diet is high in oatmeal and egg whites? Both of these foods lock up iron. No wonder they can reduce their fat so much!

    Also, does beef liver powder, another bodybuilder staple, have the matching antagonists of copper and manganese and zinc?

  88. Mycroft Jones on June 25, 2015 at 13:03

    Duck Dodgers, Richard Nikoley; another piece of the puzzle I don’t have skill or ability to chase down.

    Neo-nicotinoids. Good bug spray for crops. But… bees are overdosing on it and it is fingered as the likely cause of Colony Collapse Disorder where honeybees vanish.

    See, plants naturally produce caffeine and nicotine in their nectar… and bees LOVE it.

    Connection? If the Neo-nics are giving honeybees the overdose, just like a heroin overdose… what are these neonics doing to us? Is the nicotine content of our wheat and other foods causing us to over-eat by causing addictive cravings?

  89. Sam P on June 25, 2015 at 13:47

    Thank you for this. I feel like my story might be relevant.

    A few years ago, I tried the low carb diet as meat based, supplemented with plant and dairy fat. Thankfully, my senses are pretty sensitive to excess or imbalance, and I was never able to consume meat in any considerable quantity, without feeling sick to my stomach.

    I never did the low carb diet to lose weight, but rather to deal with fatigue and stress from work and school. Before I tried this diet, I was eating cafeteria food, with commercial wheat and rice products along with vegetables and meat. I transitioned to Low Carb and began cooking all my meals, avoiding vegetable starches and grains. Low carb paleo actually made my energy levels worse, along with dehydration every single morning I woke up, despite drinking a lot of water and getting enough salt and electrolytes. I finished school and went home(to CA) to visit my family for a month, and just ate normally.

    I came home, and just ate what was available-bread, cookies, cakes and pasta along with standard meals(vegetables, meat, dairy) that my mother prepared by hand. I would always feel better eating these foods. Digestion and energy was great. At the time, I thought it was probably due to finishing school, but I was starting a new business, paying off loans, and in a terrible financial situation. I was eating foods that were and still are demonized by a lot of bloggers, and I was still lean(I have always been lean). My stress and fatigue resolved, and I pretty much let go of the diet bullshit.

    I still read some of the blogs from the paleo days out of curiosity, and I stumbled on the first iron fortification article. After reading the first article, I recalled the my mom exclusively bought flour, grains, cookies, and cakes that were imported from France and Italy, refusing to buy American flour and snacks. As a kid, my siblings and I would complain about not getting american snacks like the other kids, rather we got european and turkish snacks. My dad would always suggest that we could save some money buying the American flour products. But my mom missed Europe, so she continued to buy those products. Interesting enough, my 4 other siblings, my parents, and I are all lean with no serious health issues.This could also be because we still ate legumes, vegatables, meat, fish, and fresh fruit with most of our meals. This could also be because we still had family meals twice a day. This could because my parents enforced a bed time, and we grew up with a single television set at home. I don’t know. There are so many things that may have influenced the way I am, but I am sure there is a synergistic effect of multiple things that are wrong in the way we live in the USA that may be harming us.

    I look forward to reading more of these articles.
    PS Sorry for the long comment.

  90. maurile on June 25, 2015 at 18:43

    After reading this post (and the previous one on the same topic), I started reading a bunch of other stuff about iron overload and became pretty convinced that my iron levels must be high. I have many of the symptoms of hemochromatosis, and I’ve also had more than my fair share of red meat and alcohol over the past few decades. I was actually pleased to have a tentative self-diagnosis because the underlying condition is treatable. I ordered a blood test (FeGGT LifePro) to confirm it, and started making plans to donate blood.

    Then my test results came back and my iron levels are at the low end of the normal range by all measures that were part of the test. (Very slightly outside the normal range by one measure, actually.)

    I guess it’s good news that I don’t actually have hemochromatosis. But now I’m wondering whether I should still try to avoid iron-enriched foods (or even just iron-rich foods like red meat). Should I forego my plans to increase my tea consumption? My IP-6 supplement came in the mail today. Should I just throw it out?

    • Jer on June 26, 2015 at 10:03

      Same symptoms of hemochromatosis also apply to iron deficiency – get more iron in your diet

    • Jer on June 26, 2015 at 10:23

      Update – Go see a doctor, don’t rely on home tests and don’t take advice off of blogs

    • Jer on June 26, 2015 at 10:32

      Except for seeing the doctor part, of course. LOL

    • Duck Dodgers on June 26, 2015 at 10:49

      “get more iron in your diet”

      She already claims to eat a lot of meat. People who eat lots of iron but aren’t absorbing it are likely either chronically inflamed (anemia of chronic disease) or have an absorption issue that may be linked to micronutrient deficiency, such as copper.

      If chronic inflammation is to blame, then “getting more iron” is counterproductive and even dangerous.

      If micronutrient deficiency is to blame, then eating more copper-rich foods may help improve iron absorption.

      (Disclaimer: This is not medical advice.)

      “Go see a doctor, don’t rely on home tests and don’t take advice off of blogs”


    • Marie on June 27, 2015 at 05:08

      What are good copper rich foods?

    • Ironthumb on July 14, 2015 at 11:22

      As a Nurse, I have experience closely monitoring diabetic (type 1) patients.

      And yes you would be right, it is similar to glucose count. High glucose count means that they are not absorbed. Low-normal means they are being utilized properly and consumed by your organs and not just freely roaming and swimming around in your system

    • maurile on July 14, 2015 at 11:10

      People with the flu often have low iron levels in their blood. Apparently when some doctors noticed this and prescribed iron supplements, the results were disastrous. Our bodies reduce circulating iron on purpose in the presence of viral infection because viruses thrive on the stuff.

      I’m guessing that people don’t suddenly excrete iron when they get the flu. Rather, circulating iron is sequestered in organs such as the liver.

      If my guess is right, the fact that my blood test indicated moderately low circulating iron levels does not necessarily mean that I don’t have excess iron accumulation in my organs, right? There’s probably more to it than that?

      I’m not asking for medical advice, obviously. Just thinking out loud about how this stuff works.

  91. giskard on June 26, 2015 at 11:12

    What’s a good food to combine with liver dishes (e.g. liver with onions, yum!), to reduce excess iron absorption from the liver?

    • Duck Dodgers on June 26, 2015 at 12:25

      We discussed this above. Read this comment for more details.

      Other sources of calcium include high-calcium mineral waters (like Gerolsteiner) or I suppose you could do supplements. Other aspects of raw dairy may also have inhibitory effects.

    • Jane Karlsson on June 27, 2015 at 04:05

      Yes liver is a bit of a problem. It has a very high iron-manganese ratio (beef liver: 20, not as bad as beef muscle which is 100, but consider that whole wheat has a ratio of 1) which means calcium supplements might not be a good idea because calcium can inhibit manganese absorption too. Perhaps eating liver with legumes or brown rice is the answer. You get a lot of manganese and also phytic acid, which as far as I have been able to find out, does not inhibit manganese absorption nearly as much as it does iron absorption.

    • Kyle on July 3, 2015 at 20:21


      How long after beginning manganese repletion w/supplements should one begin seeing results?

    • Jane Karlsson on July 4, 2015 at 02:58

      @ Kyle
      I have no idea. I have never taken supplements of any kind.

      Manganese is very easily excreted. Here is a paper showing that manganese supplementation prevents diabetes in mice caused by a high fat diet. The manganese had to be injected, because putting it in the drinking water didn’t work.

      ‘Manganese supplementation protects against diet-induced diabetes in wild type mice by enhancing insulin secretion’

      “In our studies, we delivered Mn by injection. In pilot studies, targeting the same total daily dose in the drinking water did not result in changes in GTT, insulin levels, or MnSOD activity. Plausible explanations include that the slow, continuous delivery of lower concentrations of Mn may be more efficiently excreted or that a critical concentration is not reached wherein Mn-binding sites, on albumen, for example, are sufficiently saturated so as to allow free Mn to enter cells. We hypothesize that increasing Mn through dietary supplementation would likely require a longer period of time to achieve protective levels in cells than the 8 weeks of injection used in our studies.”

    • Kyle on July 4, 2015 at 11:42

      Thank you for the response Jane.
      The 4mg/kg seems a bit much.
      I’m finding US adequate intake of 2.3mg and excretion rate of 4mg., upper limit of 11mg, average body stores of 12mg with most stores found in the bones and liver. The excretion rate above AI of 2.3mg doesn’t make sense. Is the European literature also as confusing? Also, given the excretion rate, it would be surprising the response to increased Mn in the diet would take so long in effect, the body is definitely processing it. Iron interference (iSOD vs. mSOD)?

      A long time ago I’d read a paper on sequestration of minerals in response to infection/inflammation. They were iron, copper and manganese. Have you noticed anything in the literature that addresses the sequestration of manganese via this mechanism (interleukins)?

      Another interesting fact I found is that phytate has an effect on PEPCK activity (lowering), a gluconeogenesis enzyme with a manganese cofactor.

    • Kyle on July 5, 2015 at 10:07

      “Where do you get excretion rate of 4mg?”

      Why, from a controversial source; where else would I get such ideas (Townsend Letter)? I’m on dial-up so out of frustration I’ll sometimes grab something I shouldn’t, but you may have an interest in what she wrote. Contact details are given.

      Also, a comment by Pauling in his Unified Theory – which you might find of interest.

      After going back and reading your previous posts, I’ve finally got that entero-hepatic circulation may be a factor and possibly in conjunction with the microbiome for absorption. In “Manganese Supplementation Protects Against Diet-Induced Diabetes in Wild Type Mice by Enhancing Insulin Secretion” the supplement was manganese chloride, both fed and IP. Yet you state that your diet of whole grain bread and brown rice were effective for you. Phytate’s main mineral associations from food are magnesium and potassium. Perhaps the same can be said of manganese and this is an absorption factor?

      Interestingly potato starch sucks up manganese bisglycinate rapidly into solution whereas it just floats on top of water and milk. Electro-negativity? I’ve been splitting 10mg capsules for a 5mg dose.

      “No, I haven’t seen anything on manganese sequestration. Copper in the blood does not go down with inflammation, it goes up, and I’ve seen suggestions that manganese might do the same. Iron goes down, and zinc goes down too.”

      Thanks for that but doesn’t resolve anything for me. Reason for the question – After my bile ducts became unplugged (cholestasis), my urine was turning my toilet bowl green for months. Plus I found pin-head sized chunks of green-turquois colored granules in my stool. I actually caught the plug. I assumed copper given the liver is a storage organ for it. Iron is excreted from the liver in pellets in the bile also, though quite smaller, so the pattern fits though I suspect cell lysis given the size of the granules. I was getting fat granules the same size. Additionally, I had numerous black spider angiomas on my sides and back associated with the areas of the liver and pancreas. Had a big one beneath the point of my right shoulder blade. Copper is involved in neoangiogenesis. Really ruined my day at the time.

    • Jane Karlsson on July 5, 2015 at 07:09

      Where do you get excretion rate of 4mg?

      The Adequate Intake for manganese in the US, according to the Linus Pauling Institute, is nothing more than the average intake. The experts think the average intake is enough.

      If everybody stopped eating refined carbs and ate only unrefined ones, the Adequate Intake would suddenly be a lot higher. Health would improve, and the experts would be very puzzled.

      No, I haven’t seen anything on manganese sequestration. Copper in the blood does not go down with inflammation, it goes up, and I’ve seen suggestions that manganese might do the same. Iron goes down, and zinc goes down too.

    • Jane Karlsson on July 6, 2015 at 04:49

      OK, I’m prepared to believe 4mg excretion. Never heard of Townsend letters but I do think this woman knows what she’s talking about.

      Pauling thought manganese intake should be reduced, did he. He also thought people should take vast doses of vitamin C, now known to cause copper deficiency.

      Yes I do think it’s possible that iron can displace manganese from phytic acid, so Mn is absorbed and Fe is not. Klevay says this happens with zinc and copper.

      You’re taking manganese, are you. What’s wrong with eating high manganese foods?

  92. giskard on June 26, 2015 at 14:26

    I saw this monstrosity at a diner (in San Jose, California), and remembered this thread. In Paris it would be finger-sized and would cost the same, $5.

  93. giskard on June 26, 2015 at 14:27

    I saw this monstrosity at a diner (in San Jose, California), and remembered this thread. In Paris it would be finger-sized and would cost the same, $5.
    Needless to say, I wanted just one bite, so I bought it and took it back to work to get my bite and watch the piranhas (cube dwellers) attack it.

  94. James N. on June 27, 2015 at 08:04

    Since wheat germ agglutinin still gives me problems, I am going to try a sourdough starter with Hodgson Mill unbleached unenriched wheat flour:

    with a New England sourdough starter:

  95. Kevin Harrell on June 27, 2015 at 06:03

    Richard, I hadn’t been to your site in a while (not much time to browse Internet these days) so I had no idea you were working this angle. However, I had already been convinced that iron was bad for me. My 23andme results indicated that I carry one hemochromatosis gene and my ferritin was around 375.

    I donated blood (several times over many months of course) and now have a ferritin of 70. Furthermore I’m off all my meds that even paleo didn’t work for. Blood pressure meds and lexapro for anxiety. All gone now.

    Much of my info I got from this website (lots of links about high ferritin and many modern diseases):

    • John on June 27, 2015 at 11:16

      That’s really interesting! I found out a few years back my ferritin was 440 (and I have since lowered it to near deficiency). I had considered doing the genetic test for informational purposes, but didn’t bother because of the cost (few hundred bucks), and it’s iron that’s the problem, not the gene per se. But for only 99 bucks? I’d pop for that.

  96. pzo on June 27, 2015 at 06:52

    Richard, you MUST put the photo on this NYT page into your cycling photos you use. This one photo is better than ten thousand words showing the stupidity of religion.

  97. CoolBeans on June 29, 2015 at 06:12

    This German organic rye bread was $4.99 at Whole Foods. What do people (Duck, everybody) think of it?

    Thanks for all the dietary suggestions and opinions, much appreciated.

    Organic whole wheat pizza (unfortified, but did contain a crappy PUFA oil) did give me digestive discomfort, some rough BMs, and an itchy red rash on my skin upon recent testing.

    I’m guessing wheat is a no-no for me, with my history of gut issues, but I am trying to see if the rye bread is different.

    In the name of medically-injured health (not weight loss), I set out to clean up my diet years ago, and it’s crazy where this trip has taken me. Right back to Pollan, sort of. I’m so sick of “dieting,” of having to read every label to avoid some unsuspecting toxin (folic acid, iron, pufa, whatever). Maybe that will be the new label, “Unfortified!”

    • MissMcGillicuddy on June 29, 2015 at 06:18

      Just eat close as close to nature as possible and use common sense. I keep reading and learning, but have come to see every new tweak as possibly being motivated by other interests. That said, would love to read a Duck Dodgers book.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 29, 2015 at 11:56

      CoolBeans, I think that looks great. And it is a good source of fiber.

      Funny, I literally just had two slices of that type of German rye bread this morning—from a different company though. They are often from sour-doughs too. So far no issues and tasted fine. I believe those rye breads are actually pasteurized, and so have an extremely long shelf life. But, I think they are definitely worth experimenting with.

    • FrenchFry on June 29, 2015 at 12:11

      Instead of wheat, try spelt (farro). It tastes very nice and should give you much less discomfort. Usually, spelt is organic (I’d be surprised if you found non organic spelt) and even though I don’t live in North-America, I doubt it would be fortified (but you have to check). Prefer whole spelt (spelt groats are really nice, just like buckwheat groats – a very good alternative to rice or quinoa) or freshly ground spelt flour for bread. Toasted spelt bread tastes fabulous!

    • MachineGhost on June 29, 2015 at 12:25

      Spelt IS wheat.

    • FrenchFry on June 29, 2015 at 12:54

      An ancient strain with a different gluten structure if gluten is the problem. It is more brittle and easily breaks down with heat and mastication, unlike standard wheat gluten.

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on June 29, 2015 at 19:05

      i found a traditional sour dough spelt bread,
      (only 3 ingredients)
      nutty, & crunchy. i like it better than rye bread.
      i dont’ seem to have any problem.

      there’re also some “sprouted bread” maybe those are less problematic

      still have to be careful. cause some of them have nasty oil.

      i think the Swiss village that Dr. Price visited ate sour dough bread (slow rising).


    • Duck Dodgers on June 29, 2015 at 19:27

      Berlin Bakery Spelt bread is found in many grocery market organic freezer sections across the US—including Whole Foods. Berlin Bakery grinds their flour daily with a stone mill and bakes that freshly ground flour within 24 hours. Then the bread is frozen to maintain freshness. It thaws like fresh bread, though the bread falls apart a little easier than wheat, likely due to the different gluten structure. They offer a wide range of spelt breads, including sour dough, which is fairly hearty.

      Spelt flour is not fortified (only US wheat flour is supposed to be fortified), not to mention that true “whole grain” breads shouldn’t be fortified anyway. My son eats the Berlin bread regularly and seems to thrive on it. I do ok on it, but I think I may be a rye bread guy myself.

      My son prefers Berlin’s sprouted spelt bread, which is similar to a mild whole wheat. They offer a white bread that tastes exactly like a true sandwich white bread should, but it’s obviously fairly nutritionless.

      Do take a look at their Testimonials page and notice how some people who claim to have wheat sensitivities have no problem with their Spelt breads. Either it’s the lack of fortification or it’s the different gluten structures (or both).

    • Duck Dodgers on June 29, 2015 at 19:43

      Alvarado Street bakery freshly grinds their own wheat berries and it too is sometimes found in the freezer section or fresh depending on your location. But I find their bread a bit too chewy. Trader Joe’s sells Alvarado breads under their own label.

      Funny thing about Trader Joe’s is that they are actually a German company and they sell a lot of European products under their own name. Should you ever want some packaged foods, you can find a few international products there. They tell you which country a product comes from on the label (France, Netherlands, etc).

      Though keep in mind that Canada apparently requires all imported wheat flour products to be enriched. Since Denmark has banned enrichments, it would appear that European exporters who want to sell to both Denmark and Canada would seemingly have to produce two versions (unfortified and fortified). Trader Joe’s doesn’t exist in Canada, as far as I know, and so technically it doesn’t really need to purchase enriched products from Europe.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 29, 2015 at 20:39

      Canada ought have no reason to keep being Americ’s poor stepchild.

    • Robert Ross on July 10, 2015 at 07:12

      Agreed. No one deserves to be a “resource extraction colony” for anyone.

      Although we did once burn the White House down, so maybe there’s hope for our polite people.

    • gabkad on July 10, 2015 at 16:59

      Sorry Robert, I think it’s hopeless. A sports reporter on CBC radio referred to us ( including himself I assume) as ‘supine colonials’.

      I’ve given it some thought and concluded that since the biggest employer in the country = government, so long as so many people have their guaranteed pay cheques, they don’t need to pay attention to what’s really going on in this world. They are blissfully ignorant and comprise a huge percent of the population.

      Oh sorry, this is about iron. :-/

  98. KT on June 29, 2015 at 07:32

    Interesting theories, but regarding gluten, you’re wrong on several counts. Europe, in general, has always had a higher rate of celiac disease than the United States, and that continues to be true.

    Celiac disease is NOT uncommon in the Netherlands. In fact, that was where the mechanism by which gluten causes celiac disease was first described, during and after World War II. Gluten free products are readily available in Dutch grocery stores.

    Second, there was no ending of the ‘gluten epidemic’ in Sweden in 1996 – they still have one of the highest rates of celiac disease in the world.

    What you don’t find in Europe is so much of the fad-diet version of being gluten free. But, while you may not see ‘gf’ on every product or restaurant menus, it doesn’t mean that the actual rate of people with a real disease is any lower. It just means only the people who need to eat gluten free are buying the products.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 29, 2015 at 12:20


      We misspoke. We should have said “gluten sensitivity” rather than gluten intolerance. Richard can edit the article if he wishes.

      Let us assume for a moment that true gluten intolerance is just as high in Europe as it is in the US. That still does not explain the explosion of gluten free products here in the US.

      In the US, just about every restaurant, bakery and grocery you can imagine has gluten free options. This is astounding considering how few people should actually have gluten intolerance in the US. Yet, a significant number of people here claim to feel better when they avoid gluten. Since our gut bugs metabolize some gluten toxins, we hypothesized that something in the US food supply (like enriched iron) may be disrupting flora responsible for metabolizing gluten.

      In France, even though true gluten intolerance is theoretically the same as the US, gluten free options are just not very popular there—and there is no major health issues from their diet high in modern wheat.

      “there was no ending of the ‘gluten epidemic’ in Sweden in 1996”

      If you say so. Here is an article pointing out how Swedes have a high prevalence of HLA genes which contribute to gluten intolerance. Notice what they say about 1984 to 1996:

      High rates of gluten intolerance in Sweden

      According to the New England Journal of Medicine article, Sweden experienced an epidemic of celiac disease between 1984 and 1996. This led researchers to begin considering the environmental factors contributing to the development of the disease, with Sweden being a case study.

      We are merely suggesting that ingesting large quantities of enriched iron are not beneficial to the gut flora. If your gut flora are related to metabolizing gluten, then it stands to reason that iron enrichments may exacerbate gluten metabolism—whether that be true gluten intolerance, or perceived gluten sensitivity.

      Mind you, gluten free options are extremely popular in the developed countries that fortify with iron. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. And as the New Yorker article points out, gluten wasn’t a problem in the US until 1950, soon after iron fortification started.

      Italy is known to have a lot of true celiacs, and they don’t have mandatory fortification. But as we discussed, they consume a lot of pasta, and pasta is not fermented—which would help metabolize some of the gluten. In France, the “baguette de tradition” is supposed to be a slow-rise fermented sourdough from what I understand.

      Our main point is that the “fad” avoidance of gluten in the US, Canada and Britain seems to coincide with enrichments. Sweden’s “epidemic” abated in 1996 according to NEJM.

      This is not a clear cut issue. We were merely hypothesizing.

  99. KT on June 29, 2015 at 07:35

    You also mix up a disease being ‘rare’ with being underdiagnosed. And, it’s unclear if you’re talking about ‘gluten intolerance’ or if you actually mean celiac disease. These are two different things that you are conflating. So, maybe some more research next time?

    • Duck Dodgers on June 29, 2015 at 12:23

      “So, maybe some more research next time?”

      Gee, thanks KT. We only put two months of research into this. Maybe you could give us less attitude next time?

      Mind you, there is debate about whether under-diagnosis is real or not. Nobody really knows.

  100. Mike Knickerbocker on June 29, 2015 at 10:24

    I thought hemp seed and oil were no-noes due to the extremely high omega-6 content.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 29, 2015 at 12:26

      Didn’t they say that about eggs? One does not need to consume very much hemp to get the benefits. A Tablespoon of hemp will probably not kill you. Pick your battles I suppose.

  101. Free the Animal on Iron | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page on June 29, 2015 at 11:47

    […] Iron, Food Enrichment and The Theory of Everything | Free The Animal An interesting read. Correlation does not equal causation, but there is a bit of method to this. M. 茶 Reply With Quote […]

  102. noctilux on June 29, 2015 at 12:51

    This is a very interesting article. There is an Italian researcher. Dr. Zamboni, whose reasearch involves iron buildup in the brains of MS patients.

    He believes that iron buildup occurs when the brain’s outgoing blood flow is restricted and so his procedure involves endovascular surgery to open up the brain’s veins.

  103. beerme on June 29, 2015 at 14:25

    Just got my DirectLabs panel back
    TIBC 313
    UIBC 223
    Iron, Serum 90
    Iron Saturation 29
    Ferritin, Serum 285

    From what I’ve been reading the ferritin is high, but is there anything I need to know about interpreting the other numbers?

    • CoolBeans on July 1, 2015 at 05:29

      I’d appreciate some talking points guidance for the doc visit as well. I’m re-posting several year old labs.

      IRON, TOTAL: 135 (45-170 mcg/dL)
      TIBC: 399 (250 – 425 mcg/dL)
      IRON SATURATION: 34 (20-50% calc)
      FERRITIN: 210 (20-345 ng/mL)

      Let’s say you get Ferritin down to 30-40 depending on your athletic activity levels. What about the other numbers? Is there any resource for guidance on those numbers?

      Thank you all!

    • John on July 1, 2015 at 06:55

      Other than ferritin, the only number I’ve seen mentioned is Iron Saturation (aka TSAT), and the recommendation in the Weinberg and Garrison book was to keep it below 40%. Serum Iron, and therefore TSAT, varies throughout the day, especially in response to a meal, so it’s more a concern if it’s chronically high, like at 70-80% or above. Otherwise, the listed lab values are probably good guides. If TIBC is low, it would indicate low transferrin, and is likely a sign you’re not eating enough protein.

    • Kevin Harrell on July 1, 2015 at 07:00

      I think the only value worth looking at is Ferritin (assuming you have no cause of active inflammation). If your CRP is low, Ferritin is a pretty good sole marker of iron status. Though Ferritin in the 200’s is relatively “normal”, that doesn’t mean it is healthy, especially with a US population providing the reference value. Personally, I would get the value below 100, preferably 40-60, by regularly donating blood every 8 weeks. I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. :)

    • CoolBeans on July 1, 2015 at 07:35

      Thanks for the ideas, guys.

      TIBC as a marker for protein intake? Interesting.

      While we’re myth busting, I recently read that the idea that one NEEDS animal protein is a fallacy — that EVERYTHING has protein in it.

      Now, I’m not an extremist, not gonna completely abandon “meat” or red meat, just going to migrate to more of a Blue-Zoney food intake coupled with Peaty ideas.

      But does anyone have anything to add to this? Do we need a certain amount of animal byproduct protein (milk, cheese, yoghurt), or just an overall amount of protein intake that doesn’t have to be animal-sourced? Again, just trying to translate this into practical meal ideas, and not wanting to create some new deficiency.

      I always scratched my head when paleos warned against B12 deficiency (I get it, we need it), but also conceded that it takes 7 years or something to deplete stores. Meaning, how in the hell would you have a deficiency if you ate meat even semi-regularly? Seems more prudent to heal the gut, feed the microbiome, make sure your digestion/absorption is optimal, rather than overdose on meat/b12 and get collateral damage like iron buildup.

    • MachineGhost on July 1, 2015 at 08:08

      There’s more deficiencies than just B12 when not eating animal meat: carnosine, carnitine, EFA’s, iron, zinc, all the fat soluble vitamins, etc..

      The problem with plant protein is it is very poorly bioavailable so it will take a lot more plant protein to get the net equivalent of bioavailable meat protein. It’s just not economically efficient to do so.

    • FrenchFry on July 1, 2015 at 08:08

      See if you can be 3 – 4 days a week without meat. Assess how you feel. I bet you’ll feel just fine :)

    • Duck Dodgers on July 1, 2015 at 08:21

      The average human consumes ~10-15 % protein… and it is really remarkeble how constant this figure tends to be globally from very different food cultures and diets.

      Where it gets interesting is that ancient grains like Amaranth has 16% protein and Quinoa is like 13-18% protein.

      Human milk only has 7% protein and babies seem to be able to grow a fair amount on it.

      You can kinda see why humans may have gravitated to certain staples.

    • Duck Dodgers on July 1, 2015 at 10:03

      “There’s more deficiencies than just B12 when not eating animal meat: carnosine, carnitine, EFA’s, iron, zinc, all the fat soluble vitamins, etc..”

      Well, not sure iron needs to be on that list. :)

      I personally wouldn’t give up mean anytime soon. After all, we have omnivorous teeth, which is a clue that at least we evolved eating a good amount of meats. We just think that iron homeostasis needs to be considered when figuring it out.

    • CoolBeans on July 1, 2015 at 10:11

      Yes, I think most everyone tuned into this blog would agree that we’re omnivores and need to eat a little bit of everything.

      So…for you, MachineGhost, how does all this info translate into YOUR meat consumption. How much daily or weekly to avoid zinc or carnosine, cartinine deficiency?

      ‘Cause certainly, daily muscle meat consumption, aside from iron overload, also seems inflammatory due to excess methionine and imbalanced amino acid ingestion.

      This is where “head-to-tail” eating makes sense. The organs provide a surplus of a lot of these things.

      So, again, MachineGhost, Duck, and others. Give us a sample of what your revised beef/chicken/turkey/pork consumption might look like over a week/month. Just for discussion/brainstorming/comparison. And where does shelfish consumption fit into this? Outside of “meat” or does it count as meat?

      Please understand (I’m addressing this to all readers), I’m not a hopelessly clueless newb. I’m just humbly soliciting opinions and ideas. I can recite talking points too, I just want to see what people who are transitioning to more sensible traditional data-supported nutritional practices are gravitating to, and how they are faring. Especially interested in those who do this while balancing sensitive guts (lactose, wheat, sensitivities, pharma damage).


    • MachineGhost on July 1, 2015 at 13:40

      Well, vegetarians and vegans tend to have higher rates of anemia from iron deficiency. If iron intake is not exactly the proper way to resolve anemia, what is?

    • MachineGhost on July 1, 2015 at 14:02

      Here’s the deal about protein intake. Your biggest enemy in undereating it — beyond nutritional deficiencies — is sarcopenia. The solution is to pulse feed 30g protein at each meal throughout the eating window so it totals at least 90g by the end for maximal protein synthesis.

      I eat 36.8g of beef protein powder for breakfast and 25g of any meat (4oz cooked) for each of the next two meals. The minuscule plant proteins in the starches and fibrous vegetables make up the difference to 90g+.

    • MachineGhost on July 1, 2015 at 15:07

      This site doesn’t seem to allow posts with URLs in it. Anyway, sarcopenia is what is worrysome beyond nutritional deficiencies with suboptimal protein intake. So its best to pulse feed equal amounts of protein throughout the eating window at 30g per meal for a total of at least 90g by the end for maximal protein synthesis. I eat 36.8g protein isolate for breakfast and 25g protein from any meat for the next two meals.

    • Jane Karlsson on July 2, 2015 at 05:44

      CoolBeans, you won’t get zinc deficiency if you don’t eat meat every day. Or even if you eat none at all.

      “Studies show vegetarians have similar serum zinc concentrations to, and no greater risk of zinc deficiency than, non-vegetarians (despite differences in zinc intake).”

    • Duck Dodgers on July 1, 2015 at 20:49

      “If iron intake is not exactly the proper way to resolve anemia, what is?”

      In our research, we found that when chronic inflammation or disease was not to blame, copper deficiency was likely the cause for iron deficiency anemia, as copper is necessary for iron transport. I believe too much zinc can also contribute to anemia.

      This would explain why iron deficiency still exists when iron is more prevalent in our food supply than ever before.

      Anyway, the point is that it can far more complex than, “oh you need to eat more iron.”

    • Duck Dodgers on July 1, 2015 at 21:05

      “Give us a sample of what your revised beef/chicken/turkey/pork consumption might look like over a week/month”

      No idea. I’m mainly interested in eating good food and not worrying about things too much. But perhaps I won’t overindulge in red meat as much as I have.

      Please don’t ask me beyond that—I’d feel uncomfortable giving out dietary advice, particularly when this information on iron and traditional food pairings can be incorporated into virtually any diet. We want this to be diet-agnostic.

      If you want to eat like the Masai, go for it. If you want to eat like a Blue Zoner, go for it. Either way, it can be done if the traditions are followed.

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on July 1, 2015 at 23:07

      do you have an iron overload?
      why do you need to suppress you “instinctive feeding preference” by eating less red meat? if your “instinct” is to eat red meat? don’t we need to “listen to bodies”

      just wonder.

    • FrenchFry on July 2, 2015 at 00:24

      Our instinct is to eat the most rewarding foods in terms of calories and nutrition. The problem today is not the instinct but how we made a plethora of foods easily accessible. Our instinct is still the same, our food environment isn’t. That is the latter that we should change, should our instinct remain the same. Not being able to change our bountiful artificial environment, one is pushed to go against this basic instinct. It is a very simple “anti-correlation”.

    • CoolBeans on July 2, 2015 at 04:38

      , I appreciate all your responses. I was able to hit my caloric and protein goals yesterday eating broths, egg, grapes, melon, yoghurt, 4 baked potatoes, mixed greens, 6 slices rye bread, 2tbs butter, raw cheese, shrimp, milk, plum, 2 bananas, dark chocolate.

      All throughout the day. All tracked w/ an app. All sourced from most organic/wild/clean/raw/blahblahblah sources as possible.

      Roughly 2500 estimated cals, 14% protein, 53% carbs, 32% fat.

      Seemed to work for me.

      I can definitely do less red meat, less meat.

      But I haven’t yet scrutinized the aminos, zinc, carnitine, things that were mentioned as potential deficiencies if one went to the other extreme of too little red meat.

      I just wanna be sure I don’t create some obvious deficiency, so I’m trying to figure out what “meat” frequency is necessary, how to not miss on any necessary building blocks, certain aminos, zinc. Can I get sufficient daily zinc w/o daily meat intake? ‘Cause if zinc is bound to phytate in some of the food I’m now incorporating, how do I know how much zinc I’m ingesting using cronometer?

      I’m struggling to find a way to word this to make it clear I’m not looking for some perfect individualized “medical” diet plan, not looking to lose weight. JUST enjoying the ideas people have on how to fill in the calories and hit all the nutritional needs.

      Still also wondering how many eggs per week. Trying to knock the daily habit of 2.

      NOTE: I’m only using caloric/macro/micro nutrient tracking tools to periodically tweak things and ensure I avoid a deficiency before it’s too late. I, too, wanna be done with “dieting,” and just enjoy and celebrate food. Just wanna have my bases covered before I move on and stop obsessing as much. And I really do have a lot riding on my health issues, so it’s not some random thing I decided to preoccupy myself with or some unhealthy desire to be rail thin.

      Anyways, thanks again for all the helpful feedback, clarification, ideas, and wise caution on gluten/gut flora Duck. It was helpful to explore different bread companies’ products, and to have options and ideas to explore.

    • Jane Karlsson on July 2, 2015 at 06:02

      MachineGhost, that sounds like an enormous amount of protein. Aren’t you concerned about the ammonia?

      I used to love meat, to the extent that I could not stop eating it. I am wondering whether I might have had an ammonia addiction.

    • John on July 2, 2015 at 06:47

      “Well, vegetarians and vegans tend to have higher rates of anemia from iron deficiency. If iron intake is not exactly the proper way to resolve anemia, what is?” There are actually lots of anemias, and many of them can happen in the face of high iron, like sickle cell and thalassemia. Two of the more common, and easy resolved, involve deficiencies of vitamins B6 and B12. While I’m sure iron deficiency is a problem for some vegetarians, my guess is lack of B12 plays an even bigger role, especially for vegans that don’t supplement.

    • MachineGhost on July 2, 2015 at 07:02

      That’s not an “enormous” amount of meat. It’s only an ounce more than the standard serving size. I bet plenty of those old school “nothing but meat and potatoes” guys eat way more than that! As people get older, they naturally have less stomach acid production (if not shut off with proton-pump inhibitors) and digest relatively less protein plus eat less protein in general, hence the oncoming epidemic of sarcopenia. 30g protein per meal is the magical threshold. Granted, it may take some getting used to, especially when you’re not really hungry due to a smaller stomach and/or lowered thyroid but have to eat anyway to keep up the protein synthesis. If you’re IFing, doing so is even more critical to maximum your limited window of a feeding opportunity.

      Ammonia isn’t an issue at this level of intake with healthy functioning organs. I’d start worrying past 150g of protein a day which only deluded bodybuilders would be doing. Homeostasis (nitrogen balance) is somewhere between 90g and 150g, depending on activity level. Most current old people don’t even reach the RDA but their body compensates by being more thrifty. But what is good for survival is hardly optimal for preserving or growing muscles.

    • MachineGhost on July 2, 2015 at 07:12

      Wow, that’s a LOT of food. The planning must be a nightmare. Do you really need to be eating 2500 calories? Are you an athlete?

    • CoolBeans on July 2, 2015 at 08:02

      Yeah, MachineGhost, tell me about it. I need at least 2,000 calories a day to feel satiated. I get tired of trying to fill up. Paleo/fat-heavy eating used to fill me up, but then I gravitated towards the pro-metabolic/pro-thyroid advice of the Ray Peat folks. Which, by definition, revs up your metabolism and is predicated on an increased demand “higher octane fuel”, but it seems one can barely keep up! And now I’m trying to tie it all together: real food, full amino acid profile, predominantly carbs for brain/thyroid/gut/overall health, non-wheat bread I can tolerate/enjoy, dietary freedom, Blue Zone concepts, lots of probiotics and fermentable fibers and prebiotics, etc. All in the name of moving on from fussing over food, really. I wanna set it and forget it. Sick of the echo chambers and religious food zealotry, that’s why I love this blog so fucking much.

      No, I’m not an active athlete at this time, but if I lift weights, I easily put on muscle and have weighed a healthy, muscular athletic 15-20 more pounds. I mostly walk for exercise, and am 33 year old. I’m hungry all the freakin’ time, seems like I can’t keep up with work/life/stress/energy demands, I’ve got to hit the calories as soon as I wake up before I get foggy/lightheaded. Yeah, I’m sure adrenals have been torched, and all that jazz. I have less “reserve energy” than an average person trying to dial in basic diet/weight, due to my larger health situation deficit.

      So I’m trying to keep a healthy-looking weight, not have a leaky gut or butt, recover gut flora, optimize thyroid/hormones. Simple stuff, right? lol.

      Thanks for the ideas and feedback guys, appreciate it all.

    • Gemma on July 2, 2015 at 08:16


      ” I’m hungry all the freakin’ time,”

      “I’ve got to hit the calories as soon as I wake up before I get foggy/lightheaded.”

      I am telling you for the second time: eat some honey regularly. Before bed, perhaps?

    • Jane Karlsson on July 2, 2015 at 08:35

      Glad you’ve got healthy functioning organs, MachineGhost. But if have, why do you need so much protein? You are not growing, I assume, so all you need to do is replace damaged ones. If (growing) infants can manage on 7% protein as Duck said, why do adults need so much? I am genuinely puzzled, I’m not trying to trick you.

    • MachineGhost on July 2, 2015 at 09:16

      I thought I explained all that? If you ain’t anabolizing, you’re catabolizing. Do you want to turn into a frail, helpless, elderly old woman like the current S.A.D. generation? Muscle mass has the strongest correlation to life expectancy. Most people are lazy bums and don’t do anything to specifically preserve or build up their muscles, never mind optimize their protein intake to preserve what they do have. Again, I’m talking only about 3% more calories from protein above the standard 15%. It’s not “so much protein”.

      Speculation: Protein synthesis and nitrogen balance are achieved at much lower levels in rapidly growing children; they’re primed for it. Post-growth older adults? Not so much. Takes more to get an effect.

    • Jane Karlsson on July 3, 2015 at 02:22

      MachineGhost, I’ve been thinking about this overnight, and I’ve remembered some things.

      Did you know that the highlanders of Papua New Guinea eat almost nothing but sweet potatoes, but are well muscled? Apparently, eating large amounts of protein is not necessary. The sweet potato protein is short of lysine, and their gut bacteria make it for them.

      “In an attempt to clarify the nutritional enigma of the healthy strong physique of Papua New Guinea (PNG) highlanders who have a protein-deficient diet mainly composed of sweet potato…”

      As you say, if you’re not anabolizing, you’re catabolizing. Cycles of protein synthesis and breakdown are regulated by a pair of master control enzymes called mTOR and Vps34. Vps34 controls autophagy, and mTOR controls protein synthesis. You will know about mTOR and its role in preventing sarcopenia. It’s activated by amino acids, which I expect is the reason you eat all that protein.

      Vps34 and mTOR are members of a family called PIKKs. They are all master control enzymes, and some of them are involved in arresting the cell cycle so DNA can be checked for faults. These enzymes are important in preventing cancer.

      All PIKK family members have a preference for manganese over magnesium for their catalytic activity. In some cases (eg Vps34) there is hardly any activity with magnesium, only manganese. They all act at or in membrane bound compartments which concentrate manganese.

      The relevance of this to your case, and the cases in the papers you linked, is this. First of all, muscle meat has very little manganese. Second, refined carbs have very little manganese. Third, muscle meat and many refined carbs have a lot of iron, some of it added of course, and iron antagonises manganese. The more iron you eat, the more manganese you need, but the less you are likely to get, because iron inhibits manganese absorption.

    • MachineGhost on July 3, 2015 at 07:50

      That’s pretty interesting about the PNG Highlanders (are they the same as the Kitavans?). They appear to be some kind of genetic or epigenetic freaks, ostensibly to adapt to a low protein environment.

      That’s good to know about iron and manganese. I’m a big believer in supplementing since our food is so nutritionally deficit, especially in minerals.

    • Gemma on July 3, 2015 at 08:23


      ” They appear to be some kind of genetic or epigenetic freaks, ostensibly to adapt to a low protein environment. ”

      Why freaks? Their microbiome is caring for them.

      A lesson from fruit flies:

      Microbes Promote Amino Acid Harvest to Rescue Undernutrition in Drosophila (2015), full text

      “Microbes play an important role in the pathogenesis of nutritional disorders such as protein-specific malnutrition. However, the precise contribution of microbes to host energy balance during undernutrition is unclear. Here, we show that Issatchenkia orientalis, a fungal microbe isolated from field-caught Drosophila melanogaster, promotes amino acid harvest to rescue the lifespan of undernourished flies. Using radioisotope-labeled dietary components (amino acids, nucleotides, and sucrose) to quantify nutrient transfer from food to microbe to fly, we demonstrate that I. orientalis extracts amino acids directly from nutrient-poor diets and increases protein flux to the flyThis microbial association restores body mass, protein, glycerol, and ATP levels and phenocopies the metabolic profile of adequately fed flies. Our study uncovers amino acid harvest as a fundamental mechanism linking microbial and host metabolism, and highlights Drosophila as a platform for quantitative studies of host-microbe relationships.”

      P.S. This special microbe responsible for such a magic is a yeast: “I. orientalis, also known as Pichia kudriavzevii or Candida krusei.”

    • CoolBeans on July 6, 2015 at 05:33

      Adding in breads, more food choices, has helped a lot with satiety. I keep forgetting the honey at bedtime trick. On its own, has done nothing in the past, but bread at night (plus butter) seems to satiate longer. I’ll try bread/honey. Thanks, Gemma!

    • jhnycmltly on July 9, 2015 at 05:14

      Gooseberry juice.
      “anemia in young working women can be reduced by increasing the consumption of cereal-based fermented foods or gooseberry juice at the workplace”

    • jhnycmltly on July 9, 2015 at 06:00

      Sarcopenia is thought to be caused by increased iron, age-related iron accumulation.
      “Iron Accumulation with Age, Oxidative Stress and Functional Decline”

    • Duck Dodgers on July 15, 2015 at 14:10

      Ok… so it turns out that there are different classifications that are being used to categorize the differences between serum ferritin and transferrin-iron saturation.

      See: DIOS: dysmetabolic iron overload syndrome

      They explain the differences but there is a simple table on the first page that shows the following classifications:

      Hemochromatosis = High ferritin + High Transferrin Saturation
      DIOS = High ferritin + Normal Transferrin Saturation
      Anemia of Chronic Disease = High ferritin + Low Transferrin Saturation
      Iron Avidity = Low or normal ferritin + High Transferrin Saturation

      Incidentally, Dysmetabolic Iron Overload Syndrome (DIOS) has had doctors scratching their heads in recent years. It’s been unclear if DIOS patients are truly iron overloaded or not. That is, it was unclear until earlier this month when researchers announced, “The present study demonstrates that total body iron stores are indisputably increased in patients with DIOS.”[1]

      So, this is really cutting-edge stuff. And now we have different classifications for these abnormal combinations of iron levels.

    • GTR on August 12, 2015 at 10:40

      “Vps34 and mTOR are members of a family called PIKKs. They are all master control enzymes, and some of them are involved in arresting the cell cycle so DNA can be checked for faults. These enzymes are important in preventing cancer.”
      – Isn’t mTOR a cancer “enhancer”, making it grow? The papers talk about mTOR and cancer speak mostly about inhibiting it.

    • GTR on August 12, 2015 at 11:12

      @MachineGhost – “Muscle mass has the strongest correlation to life expectancy.” – but is it overating proteins, or the process of weightlifting itself?

    • Jane Karlsson on August 13, 2015 at 01:38

      Hi GTR
      Yes, they do. They also talk about copper deficiency as a cancer treatment, because copper controls angiogenesis and they think stopping blood vessel growth into the cancer will starve it and kill it. This is madness, for two reasons. First, anoxic cancer cells are more malignant. Second, copper is well known to have anti cancer, anti mutagenic, and anti metastatic properties. It actually makes cancer cells in culture revert to normal.

      It’s the same with inhibiting mTOR as a cancer treatment. It’s insane, because mTOR inhibitors are immunosuppressants.

      What you want is something that will make your immune system seek out and kill cancer cells. Guess what? That’s part of the immune system’s normal function. You don’t need drugs or biotech nonsense to make it do that. Just feed it properly.

    • GTR on August 14, 2015 at 13:45

      @Jane – Cancer can evade immune system, by using various signals that prevent it from being attacked. Likely we don’t even know all of them yet. Two known examples would be PD-L1 and nagalase. So in order for the immune system to work, first some immunotherapy needst to be given, to allow it to get through the cancer mechanisms that disactivate it.

      About PD-L1:

      About nagalase:

    • Elliebelly on August 15, 2015 at 13:03

      Oh, there’ s more

    • Jane Karlsson on August 15, 2015 at 04:19

      Thanks GTR. Very interesting indeed. I haven’t been keeping up with this field.

      I expect the immune system has its own ways of circumventing PD-L1 and nagalase. But they might not be functioning in cancer patients. So you are probably right.

    • Gemma on August 15, 2015 at 08:56


      interesting hits when searching for nagalase / GcMAF…

      Dr. Bradstreet (dead), Dr. Gonzales (dead, 3 days later)…


    • GTR on August 16, 2015 at 02:24


      Looks like you were right about the need to fight the hypoxia. In the link below it’s claimed that 3 things should be there for immunotherapy:
      1) Braking immunosuppression (like in the post above, there article adds CTLA-4 antigen, and PD-2 as the mechanisms to target)
      2) Stimulation of immune system (including anti cancer vaccines)
      3) Normalizing hypoxia in cancer cells.

      Number 3 is important because it is a good environment for cancer stem cells, that “account for just a fraction of tumor cells, sometimes small one, but they drive growth of tumors, metastasis and are resistant to all known therapy methods. Cancer stem cells feel great in a tumor because there is hypoxia there and acidic environment which activates immunosuppression and elimination of armed immune cells, by activating PD-1 and PD-2.”

  104. CoolBeans on July 1, 2015 at 07:58

    Duck -and everybody — thanks for the spelt/real bread info.

    I’ve been doing OK digestively with the German spelt bread. And I appreciate the difference between “ancient spelt gluten” and modern wheat gluten.

    Still concerned and keeping a watchful eye with long-term gut lining health, don’t want to ADD anything that will increase intestinal permeability.

    But the impression I’m getting is that the very things we need for optimal overall health (manganese, copper), prebiotics for the Elixa or equivalent, and so forth, are these “formerly off-limits” foods containing phytic acid and “anti-nutrients.” Like quality Spelt bread and similar products.

    So no modern wheat for me, but I’ll keep experimenting with imported non-fortified breads for pleasure (food diversity) and as replacement calories for meat and other foods.

    On a lighter note: which is better when eating out with friends?
    -fortified pizza (has cheese!)


    -CAFO meat


    • Duck Dodgers on July 1, 2015 at 09:36


      Some people just don’t do well with wheat. Beyond true gluten intolerance, that is now being referred to as “gluten sensitive” which is basically a loose term for someone with a messed up gut. However, if you are generally healthy, I wouldn’t totally give up wheat until trying a traditional unenriched sourdough, where the yeasts break down most of the toxins. That is how the traditional French baguette was, and still is, made.

      For what it’s worth, I don’t subscribe to the “modern wheat” theory that has become popular in recent years. I think it’s mostly bullshit. Other than food enrichment, it’s sort of like saying I don’t do well with “modern potatoes”. Most of the of the scientific claims about “modern wheat” have been debunked—not to mention that some premodern wheats were actually more reactive than “modern” wheats. And as GTR pointed out in an earlier thread, durum wheat found in many pastas is an ancient wheat. However, pastas aren’t fermented with yeast, so they retain some reactivity that yeast would ordinarily degrade.

      If you look around, you’ll find plenty of articles discussing how weak the “modern wheat” theory is. Some have suggested that modern baking practices are more likely the problem. All we did was add enrichments to the list.

      There is also an interesting review paper that was published in the Journal of Cereal Science, two years ago, that covers some of those misconceptions with wheat.

      Journal of Cereal Science: Does wheat make us fat and sick?

      I’m not suggesting that you should eat wheat if it makes you feel lousy. I’m just saying that there’s nothing particularly extraordinary about the modern Winter Wheat we see in the US and Europe, as some authors would have us believe. Try sourdough if you have an urge to eat wheat. Or just avoid it if you prefer. Just don’t buy into the whole modern wheat theory, as it’s quite weak according to the literature.

    • CoolBeans on July 2, 2015 at 04:50

      I wholeheartedly understand where you’re coming from, what you’re saying, and the complexity of the issue. I think we’re getting fed a lot of bull on all these matters, I get it. That article is very informative, thanks for sharing!

      Unfortunately, I’m very unhealthy, to address your question. I (along with countless hundreds of thousands of others) have been medically injured by a pharmaceutical drug and so have a complex endocrine/immune situation on top of gut pathology. I’m not trying to derail the topic of Iron and Blue-Zoney diets or wise traditional food prep with my personal issues.

      But I’m disclosing these things so you can appreciate my dilemma: I’m sick of diet orthorexia but also have to contend with gut/skin reactions and do not want to do anything to compromise long-term health recovery efforts.

      Again: trying to meat caloric/protein/nutritional needs without doing damage to my long-injured gut. It’s challenging!

      So I’m experimenting. That german rye may be ok for me. I have mixed reactions from my wheat experiments of mixed ancient grains (kamut, etc) cereal, local sourdough bread w/o fortification or fillers (but not organic), etc. It’s hard to tease out what’s an adjustment, what’s a sign that wheat may not be for me. I’m not celiac, but I, like most, have not done the full battery of testing to see if I’m allergic to other proteins. And, oh yeah, my gut flora are likely obliterated.

      Rambling on, I guess I’m still scared of mostc ommercially available American wheat products, so I’ll probably lean towards the most pristine stuff I can find: organic, no pesticides, no pufa, traditional fermentation, and likely imported….rye/spelt and combinations thereof. And maybe wheat. Because I THINK that less red meat/iron and more veggies/lentils/starches/carbs/prebiotics/fiber in conjunction with ferments, loads of random probiotics (Richard’s shotgun approach instead of anally scheduling all these pills and supplements) is probably a better path than an “autoimmune paleo protocol” and life of dietary asceticism, isolation.

      Thanks for your well-written, well thought out responses, Duck, very helpful!

    • CoolBeans on July 2, 2015 at 07:18

      Oh yeah, Duck, and to clarify, by “modern wheat”, I’m not remotely talking about hybridization or genetics or anything like that.

      What I’m referring to is the industrialization of the food supply, including, as you guys have obviously picked up on, the iron stuff:

      -synthetic vitamin fortification*
      -glyphosate/pesticides (designed to “explode insect’s guts” — what do they do to ours? If I’m misstating the claim, please correct me)
      -man-made PUFA oils
      -other questionable ingredients, fillers, preservatives, gut-irritants
      -refined/non whole (nutrition) grains
      -quick fermentation process

      *This goes beyond wheat/flour/bread/cereals…Vits A & D are added to lower fat milks, something I avoid, etc, etc.

  105. CoolBeans on July 1, 2015 at 09:56

    Richard/Duck Team: any chance you can post “stickies” of some of the best comments from you guys and others at the end of the article (but above the comments section) as an addendum?

    Stuff like calcium inhibition of iron, that great explanation that Duck posted. And other things like clarification of iron mining practices in certain countries, the Israelite milk/meat stuff, etc.

    Just an idea. Can’t get enough. Sorry for dominating the comments today, lol. Hope there are even more articles in this series, as well as articles on synthetic vitamins/supplements/fortification.


    • FredSonoma on July 1, 2015 at 10:26

      I second this idea! Would be great if it was just like a big ass star next to them or hyperlinks to all them at the top or something.

  106. Gordon on July 1, 2015 at 17:00

    As a reminder of the importance of getting tested before messing around, got my lab results today:

    TIBC: 316 (250-450)
    UIBC: 204 (150-375)
    Serum Iron: 112 (40-155)
    Iron Saturation: 35 (15-55)
    Serum Ferritin: 22 (30-400)

    Ferritin is low. That’s despite red meat being my primary protein. Might go see an MD for a checkup in addition to internet research.

    • John on July 2, 2015 at 07:00

      If it turns out supplementation is right for you, Cardiovascular Research makes a product that’s isolated ferritin, which seems to be better absorbed and is gentle on the stomach. Iron Bisglycinate also seems to have those properties.

  107. MissMcGillicuddy on July 2, 2015 at 05:13


    Would you mind sharing, more or less, what your meals consist of on a daily basis? obviously not in detail, but generally? I might have a missed a post or two, but don’t recall you mentioning whether you have any health issues you are trying to address through diet. It was my assumption you are overall, in good health.

    • CoolBeans on July 2, 2015 at 10:27

      I hear ya, MachineGhost.

      Here’s another point of view on fish oil from the one, the only, the Ray Peat. The guy who’s been covering iron/copper for a while, along with interesting takes on estrogen, stress hormones, thyroid/metabolism, carbon dioxide as a nutrient (which is low on a low carb diet), etc, etc. Disclaimer: I do NOT follow a “Peatatarian” diet, but I do appreciate free thinkers like Ray Peat and a lot of his arguments make sense, a lot of other things seem untested, based on incomplete knowledge of human physiology, especially given that we have data on Blue-Zone-type healthy peoples and healthy peoples, but we don’t have studies on what drinking loads of OJ and Milk and cheese and non-fatty fish as most Peat disciples do.

      The Great Fish Oil Experiment

      I also, am realizing that maybe a shotgun approach to back-filling missing microbiota with ferments and various purportedly colonizing probiotics and gut-soothing glycine-rich chicken/bone broths might be the best way to try to do SOMETHING for gut and general health. Without endless obsession, just following cravings/whims, along with reheated food, beans, lentils, legumes, prebiotic fibers and resistant starches and all that.

      Separately, here are some other healing modalities that I’ve explored with some success:
      -Buteyko breathing
      -Hydrogen Peroxide (food grade 3%) — mostly topical applications, antifungal, cleaning agent, etc.
      -Cannabis — can’t say enough. whatever your bias, this seems to be a “homeostasis-achiever” for MANY ailments (eplieptic seizures, cancers, crohn’s, accutane and pharma damage). There are differences between the raw whole plant (and different parts) vs. heating/smoking/vaping/ingesting or sublingually taking a concentrated oil. And there’s a lot more to it than the simplistic “psychoactive THC” vs. the “non-psychoactive anti-inflammatory CBD” constituents (cannabanoids). BOTH are healing and access different parts of the body. And there are a LOT more constituents than these cannabanoids, including antioxidants, etc. In fact, there is an MD, Dr. William Courtney, that believes we co-evolved with the cannabis plant, because we have receptors in all our cells that interact with cannabanoids.

      Some cannabis resources:
      Leaf Documentary — Autoimmune Disease Reversal
      Cured: A Cannabis Story (A film by David Triplett)

      Terminal Crohn’s Survivor (you may have heard about a woman having her medicine and child taken away from her)

      Dr. William Courtney, MD

    • Duck Dodgers on July 2, 2015 at 08:01

      I’m a lean and averagely healthy American. I weigh about 160Lbs and I’m 6’1″. I don’t “exercise” much, but I try to stay active, plus I walk about two miles every day. I eat somewhere between a PHD diet+legumes and am experimenting with a bit of whole grains and a French diet that is slanted towards reduced red meat consumption and a bit more fish/pork/chicken. I’ve done a 1/2 pounds of meat per day for quite awhile, but no idea what I’ll do in the future. You gotta live, and food should taste good.

      I’m actually a bit sick of thinking about the finer points of food. My goal is to just enjoy eating real foods from now on and will give blood a few times per year.

    • MissMcGillicuddy on July 2, 2015 at 09:02

      Thanks for the additional details. I too don’t have any conditions to treat, except I remain concerned about CVD due to family history and metabolic syndrome but only because I live in the US with a modern lifestyle.
      My gut (ah! pun intended) tells me we’re coming full circle with dietary vice (whole foods in moderatio) and some of this could border on orthorexia should I continue to remain focused on every story that hits the news. Wishing you continued wellness and thank you for all that you share with us.

    • CoolBeans on July 2, 2015 at 09:03

      Thank you, Duck. I’ve got a similar build/weight/activity level as you (don’t know your age, guessing 40s or 50s, don’t know why, lol) and agree on the food-science fatigue! But it’s all means to an end for many of us who cannot rely on the medical institutions to treat our iatrogenic/pharmaceutical conditions.

      Some people on these blogs obsessively chase ideals. Some people (like me), were forced to figure out what the fuck was going on with their bodies. I guess I’m explaining WHY I’m so into this blog, this thread.

    • MachineGhost on July 2, 2015 at 09:25

      I too was forced to figure out what the fuck was going on with my body and its been 21 years of endless everything. At this time, I’ve arrived at a Holy Trinity to pursure:

      1. Get rid of excess ferritin with IP6.
      2. Bomb dose my cells with EPA only fish oil for 3-6 months to actually fix the 6:3 imbalance. DHA negates and equal amount of EPA during absorption as well as kicks it to the dirt in a race for cell membrane incorporation. DHA bad. EPA good.
      3. Bomb does my gut with Elixa and maintain “homeostasis” with PrescriptAssist and DGL (to preserve the mucus layer).

      If that doesn’t fix everything that can be fixed, I’m out of ideas other than immune system derangement.

    • Bret on July 3, 2015 at 08:55

      I’m a lean and averagely healthy American.

      I thought you were several people…

      I’m actually a bit sick of thinking about the finer points of food.

      Ditto. I’ve realized that there is no way to know everything about diet, because the world is too complex. There is no perfect diet, and no matter how many hours I spend obsessing over whatever details I’m actually aware of (and pretending there aren’t thousands of others I’m unaware of), I can’t change the fact that one day, my body will stop working and I will die.

      I’d rather spend my limited time enjoying food with reason and just avoid recklessness. I will end up happier in the long run that way, rather than dedicating my entire life to figuring out how to live longer. It’s kind of like saving money. It’s important to do, but you can carry it to such an illogical extreme that you end up going through your entire life without ever enjoying it.

  108. GTR on July 6, 2015 at 13:51

    I’ll add an example of a notable person, perhaps the first supercentenarian (has died at 111 years) that practiced a conscious life extension, while spending his young years among multiple wars, and last years in longevity-unfriendly USA: Alexander Imich. (On a professional side he was kind of into woo, paranormal etc. but his health-related practices were reasonable).

    So what was his diet: “Dr. Imich says his diet consists of whole grain bread, fruit (except grapes), vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, soy products including tofu, fowl without the skin, fish, and a minimum of six glasses of alkalized water daily. He does not eat any red meat, cheese, eggs, white flour baked goods, potatoes, sugar, or fried foods, nor drink cow’s milk, coffee, or alcoholic beverages, except red wine. He also does not drink tap water or smoke.”. All at low calories.

    Plus supplements: ” vitamins: A, C, D, E, B1, B2, B6, and B12; minerals: calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, and chromium; and supplements: inositol, ginger, hosphatidylcholine, bromelain, milk thistle seed extract, grape seed extract, flaxseed lignan, ellagic acid, bilberry extract, olive leaf extract, apple polyphenol, bromelain, lutein, panthetine, lycopene, sulforaphane, resveratrol, zeaxanthin, sunflower seeds, coenzyme Q10, garlic, mangosteen, pomegranate, noni complex, ashwagandha, hyaluronic acid, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, seaweed vegetable complex, and turmeric extract.”

    This helped extend his life from 90s that his relatives died (genetics) to 111. This is a very important information, because it shows us that we can do conscious stuff to improve our longevity, and it looks like working. We don’t have to be born in a longevity village and follow local practices we don’t understand to extend life. And right now we have more information (but also more noise) than he had.

    Back to iron – looks like his diet was low in iron in the first place, because of no red meat, no white flour (just whole grain with phytates), and lower volume than average. On the other hand it didn’t contain the full list of iron inibitors: tea, coffee, diary excluded (exception – supplental calcium, manganese, copper); while a lot of product with Vitamin C helping iron absorption were on the allowed list.

    • MachineGhost on July 6, 2015 at 19:56

      Walford died of Lou Gehrng’s disease which predated his biodome CR experiment.

      Here’s a human CR study:

      CR actually enhances metabolism so it is more efficient.

    • GTR on July 6, 2015 at 14:30

      Correction – this diet was not quite low in non-heme iron: “nuts, legumes, soy products including tofu” are high in non-heme iron: around 6 mg/100g for some nuts, 2,7mg for tofu, almost 4 mg for legumes. So it was only avoidance of lots of heme iron – no red meat. Additional protection from non-heme iron come from red wine, and supplements “apple polyphenol”, as well as resveratrol.

      The point about being example of conscious life extension working stays.

    • Duck Dodgers on July 6, 2015 at 16:26

      “…It didn’t contain the full list of iron inibitors…while a lot of product with Vitamin C helping iron absorption were on the allowed list….So it was only avoidance of lots of heme iron – no red meat”

      Good stuff, GTR.

      Yes. I’m not surprised. We never said that everyone had to avoid iron. In fact, what we said that in cultures that didn’t have much access to meat, iron inhibition was counterproductive and iron absorption enhancement was typically favored.

      The French eat a good amount of meat (almost as much as the US) so it makes sense that they use a lot of iron inhibitors in their diet (tea, phenolics, eggs, dairy, coffee, etc). Conversely a near vegetarian might need to enhance their iron absorption (beans and fruit… or beans and meat).

      Iron homeostasis is the name of the game.

    • John on July 6, 2015 at 19:23

      While Dr. Imich certainly had a long life, I’m still very wary of the idea that “caloric restriction” will extend your lifespan. It’s never been documented in humans, and for that matter, never been documented in any animal living outside a controlled laboratory environment. Other proponents of CR, like Roy Walford, didn’t fair as well as Dr. Imich (Walford died at 79 of respiratory failure).

      I personally don’t believe in the rate of living theory, and think a high metabolism is much more important.

      That said, Dr. Imich certainly did something right.

    • Bret on July 6, 2015 at 19:41

      I take issue with the phrase ‘calorie restriction’ in regards to people we observe. The word restriction means someone is purposefully holding his food intake down and implies he is tolerating nagging hunger in doing so.

      How do you know he wasn’t simply accustomed to eating less? That he’s not simply satisfied on less food than someone else might be who is not firing on all metabolic cylinders?

      I used to eat a good bit more food when I was 20 lbs heavier years ago. Now I eat less and am satisfied on less than before, but I would not attribute that contrast to ‘calorie restriction,’ because I am not purposefully restricting anything. Rather, I am satisfied on less because I don’t eat junk and I exercise regularly.

    • MachineGhost on July 6, 2015 at 20:01

      Dr. Imich was likely hypothyroid. Hypothyroidism and calorie restriction go together. The lower the thyroid, the less you’re hungry, the less you’re hungry, the less you eat and the less calories overall you consume. Chicken and egg.

    • John on July 7, 2015 at 07:03


      The respiratory failure was indeed partially due to ALS. As for the study you linked to, it is only a 2 year study, hardly long enough to document life extension in humans. Such a study would have to last several decades at least, and ideally, start with infant subjects randomized to CR and control groups, and last a century or more. This won’t happen in our lifetime, and likely ever.

      As for CR making metabolism more “efficient,” I don’t know what that means other than ingesting fewer calories will cause fewer to be burned. I believe that there are benefits to having a “wasteful” metabolism. Machines will last longer the less you use them, but we aren’t machines, and a high metabolism is useful for keeping humans in good working order.

      As to whether Dr. Imich was hypothyroid, that’s pure speculation. Actually, even his caloric intake is pure speculation, as we don’t have detailed food logs. Did he eat 1000 calories a day? 1500? 3000? We don’t know. My personal, very limited, experience with people older than 90 is that they eat little, and aren’t very active, spending quite a bit of time resting and sleeping.

    • jhnycmltly on July 9, 2015 at 05:24

      Holding to just one study which shows the opposite of what is accepted as fact, which is, heme iron continues to be absorbed whereas nonheme iron is controlled, seems to be leading you to advise people to continue eating meat to lower their iron stores/ferritin.
      One hopes nobody listens to your lack of research skills.
      “Lacto-ovo vegetarians had lower body Fe stores, as indicated by a serum ferritin concentration (microg/l) of 35 (95 % CI 21, 49) compared with 72 (95 % CI 45, 100) for meat-eaters”

    • John on July 9, 2015 at 07:48

      First, I wonder how someone could “listen” to “a lack of research skills.” I prefer to listen to music, personally.

      Second, I don’t see how discussing a maximum absorption rate could somehow be misconstrued as a mechanism that will lower iron stores or ferritin. It still implies that iron is being ABSORBED.

      Lastly, it’s very possible to reduce ferritin while including meat in your diet. I personally used blood donation, IP6, and yes, I did shift protein intake away from meat toward eggs and dairy somewhat, but I still ate meat a 4-7 times a week. Results will vary, so you should continue to test your iron levels during any sort of iron reduction strategy.

    • jhnycmltly on July 9, 2015 at 08:50

      How about listen to your stupidity. Is that more succinct for ya? Do you understand that phrasing?

    • John on July 10, 2015 at 18:07

      Ha! Dude, you crack me up. I think what you mean to say is “You sound stupid,” or “You sound like an idiot.”

      At this point, however, I have to ask if you have any personal or professional experience with iron reduction. You don’t seem to be aware of common treatments like phlebotomy (THE preferred treatment in uncomplicated patients) or Desferal, and instead recommend caloric restriction. You also seem to be unaware of the diet that Dr. Facchini used to successfully reduce ferritin levels in his patients. The diet did restrict iron and carbohydrates, but did not restrict calories. It wasn’t vegetarian either, as it allowed chicken and fish.

      I do not have any professional experience, but I did lower my ferritin levels from 444 to 28 using the methods I described above, and have read quite a bit about the iron issue for the past few years. Your knowledge on this subject seems to be very limited.

  109. Jane Karlsson on July 7, 2015 at 04:31

    When I first read about calorie restriction many years ago, it really was calorie restriction. The animals were given food containing fewer calories. It had a higher ratio of micronutrients to macronutrients, and may have been a closer approximation to their natural food. They lived longer and had less disease.

    Later, researchers started giving the animals the same old junk but every other day. It seemed to work just as well. If it does work, and lots of people think it doesn’t, it’s because starvation induces autophagy.

    Perhaps if the animals had enough of the micronutrients needed for autophagy, they wouldn’t need to be starved.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 7, 2015 at 07:18

      I think people conflate all this stuff. Three distinct things.

      1. Hara Hachi Bu. That’s the Asian ethic of eating to 80% full. Which is, of course, a subjective feeling but what I think it basically means is don’t eat until you feel full. There’s probably a push-pull, yin-yang to it where gradually, you set in to a point where you’re pushing food away early, and your body adjusts (metabolically and in terms of move-around motivation).

      2. Intermittent fasting. Could equal the same in absolute terms as #1, but a different method whereby you consciously practice feast and famine. I think this is nature’s genetically and metabolically coded way and you get the benefit of autophagy. Essentially, body cleans up all the crap laying around from the last feast where you were metabolically tossing caps everywhere as overflow from your challis runs down your chin and neck…in wait for the next feast.

      3. CRAN. A completely odd, anorexic thing whereby one consciously restricts calories 100% of the time, measures all foods, takes a million supplements, all because you can extend a fruit fly’s life by staving it.

    • Bret on July 7, 2015 at 14:11

      Agreed completely, Richard. The feast/famine cycle you mentioned especially hit home, and I think there is a strong evolutionary argument for that, given the sparse offerings of winter, instability of nature’s provisions in general, etc.

    • MachineGhost on July 8, 2015 at 07:07

      CRON (Optimal) isn’t CRAN (Adequate). And there’s nothing odd about CR because it extends lifespan in all lifeforms including the great apes, and tentatively humans since we have the same genetic and metabolic pathways. CR is the gold standard for “squaring the mortality curve” and maximum lifespan extension and a really tough one to beat. Only four supplements have been shown to improve upon it.

      Here’s the thing. The less calories you eat, the lower your thyroid will be and the less hungry you will be because your metabolism does adapt downwards. Rinse, repeat. How you distinguish that from age-onset hormonal decline is currently unclear. They may be the one and the same thing as a preservation mechanism. Unless you’re an athlete or have high energy needs, there’s no need to be stuffing your pie hole all the time with dense calories unless you wanna live fast and die fast.

      Now why CR would make metabolism more efficient rather than lowering the amount of mitochondrial free radicals is unclear unless the latter is acting as a hormesis effect. No one has all the answers yet, but it is clear that CR acts epigenetically on many different genetic programs. Just about all modern lifestyle diseases are downstream of these genetic programs (not being activated).

    • Richard Nikoley on July 8, 2015 at 08:53

      “And there’s nothing odd about CR”

      OK, it’s the most fucktarded thing I’ve ever heard of.


      There is nothing in the world more dumb, stupid, fucking-ass fucktarded than living a life of penance for being a human. Live a life of misery so you can live more of it. FUCKTARDED.

      What’s really funny? CR is just another take on the old religious saws of atoning for yourself rather than living a life to its fullest (‘uh, oh, someone’s having FUN over there…STOP them’), all dressed up scientific. Fuck CR and all its nitwits.

      Are we clear?

    • John on July 8, 2015 at 17:05

      “CRON (Optimal) isn’t CRAN (Adequate). And there’s nothing odd about CR because it extends lifespan in all lifeforms including the great apes, and tentatively humans since we have the same genetic and metabolic pathways.”

      Well, this 25 year study from the National Institute on Aging didn’t find any life extension benefits for Rhesus Monkeys-
      I’d say you’re putting an awful lot of faith into the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center study. And again, those monkeys are still in a controlled environment, largely protected from disease and predators, with energy demands for survival being low. But, if you really feel like re-creating the experimental conditions of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment for decades on end for some theoretical life extension benefit via hypothyroidism, by all means, go for it.

    • MachineGhost on July 8, 2015 at 20:48

      The difference appears to be in the kind of food they ate as (I think) Jane pointed out. Wisconsin’s monkeys ate a purified food diet; NIA’s ate a natural food diet. The devil is probably in how much of and what the controls ate since that is how the determination was made.

      I don’t see faith being involved here, otherwise 16-hour IF wouldn’t work. Genetic analysis assays have indicated the exact genes turned on by CR in humans. So I’d argue one would be placing an awful lot of faith in taking resveratrol that activates almost all of those same genes while continuing to stuff their pie hole and expanding guts with excess calories.

      Worst case, you don’t extend your maximum lifespan with IF or doing less than 30% CR, but you extend your healthspan. That’s still a win-win proposition to most people.

    • jhnycmltly on July 9, 2015 at 05:30

      Calories restriction is now considered to be THE ‘treatment’ for iron excess, try to keep up.

      “Dietary iron restriction or iron chelation protects from diabetes”
      “Dietary restriction of calories, fat and iron improved NAFLD”
      “A calorie-restricted diet decreases brain iron accumulation “

    • John on July 9, 2015 at 07:19

      “Calories restriction is now considered to be THE ‘treatment’ for iron excess, try to keep up.”

      If that’s not a joke, you’re flat out wrong. Phlebotomy is the preferred treatment for iron excess. Hemochromatosis patients sometimes need 2 extractions a week. Dietary charges are also recommended, but don’t replace phlebotomy. In more complicated patients (like those with sickle cell anemia, for example), Iron Chelators like Desferal are used.

      “Worst case, you don’t extend your maximum lifespan with IF or doing less than 30% CR, but you extend your healthspan.”
      You still don’t get it. The CR studies involved taking NORMAL weight animals, and slashing their caloric intake by 10-50% for their lifetime. It’s not a temporary caloric deficit to help an overweight individual lose extra fat. Nor is it a normal weight individual figuring out an appropriate caloric intake. It is starvation. And it’s for LIFE. It implies that loss of muscle mass and constant hunger are somehow beneficial for life extension purposes. If you Google an image of Roy Walford, he clearly looks emaciated after the Biosphere experiment. And bringing up resveratrol, 16 hour fasts, or eating excess calories is all irrelevant to whether or not anorexia (oh, pardon me, “Caloric Restriction”) is somehow a healthy practice.

    • jhnycmltly on July 9, 2015 at 08:42

      “If that’s not a joke, you’re flat out wrong. Phlebotomy is the preferred treatment for iron excess.”
      If you live in a developed country, you may well have access to healthcare provided phlebotomy, but since the better part of the world don’t have access to healthcare provided phlebotomy, calorie restriction is THE way to lower their iron.

    • Gemma on July 9, 2015 at 09:26

      “but since the better part of the world don’t have access to healthcare provided phlebotomy”

      Oh no. What about trying to catch

    • Duck Dodgers on July 9, 2015 at 09:30

      jhnycmltly said: “If you live in a developed country, you may well have access to healthcare provided phlebotomy, but since the better part of the world don’t have access to healthcare provided phlebotomy, calorie restriction is THE way to lower their iron”

      Actually, helminths are practically ubiquitous in the developing world, and helminths are probably more effective at lowering iron stores than blood donations.

  110. Steven Richards on July 11, 2015 at 03:02

    Would a ‘double red blood cell” donation be twice as effective at removing the ‘enriched’ iron? Thinking of going that route next time I donate…

    • John on July 11, 2015 at 08:46

      Basically, yes. Weinberg and Garrison discuss this in the book, and you are removing twice as much iron.

  111. Karla B. on July 11, 2015 at 12:22

    Any thoughts on why all the aforementioned foods that help inhibit iron absorption (chocolate, red wine, dairy like cheese, etc.) are also noted migraine ‘triggers.’ Could it be a stored iron detox effect?

    I’ve been integrating dairy a lot of dairy and wheat lately because of this article, and getting the same reaction of tightened muscles around neck/shoulders/back of head. I am also a heavy meat eater, as is my Latino cultural background, but as first generation American, I got sick (Lupus in 20’s) while my earlier generation are all resilient in health.

    BTW, this is a wonderful theory to nuance the discussion of how to navigate the modern food supply. A must for American moms that can no longer trust the mainstream modes of nutrition information. My grandmother truly is my main source of health and wellness wisdom. Integrating it with the modern food/med arena is my job. Thank you for presenting this theory.

    • B. Wilcox on July 11, 2015 at 19:10

      I had the same reaction from medicinal chaga and reishi mushrooms about a year ago. I would make the teas and have a boost in mental clarity, and then my neck would get so tight I couldn’t turn my neck and I also got a lump at my brainstem. When I stopped chaga and reishi, the inflammation slowly subsided.

      My doctor thought that I was detoxing (hence the boost in mental clarity) and the detoxed elements were getting stuck in the tissues of the neck. It’s literally a bottleneck.

      That tightness is inflammation. As beneficial as the chaga and reishi were, it was too much detoxing at once. (Someone who was trained in traditional Chinese medicine told me that it was releasing too much energy).

      I ended up switching to magnesium oil. I rub a few squirts on my forehead every night and on my neck and it seems to gently detox without the soreness. One or two drops of Nascent Iodine on the neck also helped, but I wouldn’t put them on the skin at the same time.

      I don’t know if that relates to you or not, but at the very least it shows how something beneficial can cause tightness in the back of the head, in the neck, and shoulders. Best of luck to you.

  112. David on July 11, 2015 at 12:25

    I’ve got the serum ferritin down to 33 after a year of blood donations. (It was 200+) I’m due to donate again shortly, is there a risk of going to low from a blood donation?

    • Kyle on July 13, 2015 at 08:16

      “…is there a risk of going to low from a blood donation?”

      I’ll chip in on this since no one else has. The best place to ask questions like this is at your donation center and your doctor. The donation organization that I use doesn’t use ferritin to qualify you. They use hematocrit. Below a certain level or if you exhibit microcytosis (small RBC’s – as in microcytic anemia, a result of iron deficiency), they won’t allow you to donate. A physician treating for iron overload or polycythemia would probably be more interested in ferritin, total iron binding capacity (TIBC) and saturation. Mine was.

      So, the answer to your question is ‘not likely’ since the treatment would be a blood transfusion – per my doctor’s head nurse.

    • David on July 13, 2015 at 11:54

      Thanks for your response. I will ask at the donation center. That is correct, they take a blood sample from your finger and measure the hemoglobin. That determines if you can donate. I may get the ferritin test again a week after donating, just to compare with a week before giving blood.

  113. Kwee Bono on July 12, 2015 at 16:16

    Enjoyed this post. I am always caution of ‘grand unified theories’ though. There may be a lot to the iron hypothesis, but I suggest you read another theory-of-everything that I found compelling. “Devil in The Milk” covers most of the same diseases you mention and the “French Paradox” on a provence-level basis. All tied to BCM-7 in modern milk. Google it.

    • Duck Dodgers on July 12, 2015 at 18:07

      Thanks, Kwee! I agree it pays to be cautious about grand unified theories—this one included. I suppose the difference here is that there is a significant body of evidence demonstrating the problems with too much iron in the body.

      On the other hand, BCM-7 is very poorly researched, inconclusive, and a cause and effect relationship is not established between the dietary intake of BCM7 in humans.

      It’s certainly possible that BCM7 is responsible for some chronic health problems, but there really isn’t much evidence to go by if there is.

      But, with iron, there’s actually a lot of evidence stacking up, and that damning evidence is not hard to find. It really shouldn’t even be that surprising if indeed most free-radical injury is iron related.

  114. CoolBeans on July 13, 2015 at 11:18

    I’ve been getting an extremely itchy red rash (like raised inflamed follicles) on my thigh since opening up my diet to more legumes/wheat/non-wheat foods.

    Unsure if this is a negative allergic reaction (to wheat/gluten or even some fortified iron that’s slipped into my looser diet, leaky gut, etc.

    OR….if this is actually a positive sign of chelation of some sort? I wonder if this is possible because I’ve experienced a similar reaction to garlic pills (allicin) before in the same area, and garlic is a known chelator of metals.

    Anyone else experience something similar or have any idea what the reaction means?


  115. Haas123 on July 13, 2015 at 15:18

    Not sure where you get the data from that suggests that South Africa has a low intake of meat.

    I am South African, and have lived in New Zealand and Canada, and South Africans eat a lot more meat than most other places I know. Apart from meat at meals, “biltong” (dried meat) is a staple of South African living

    • Duck Dodgers on July 13, 2015 at 18:47

      Total annual meat consumption per capita were from here:

      The chart shows low meat consumption for South Africa (39 kg/person per year). Compared to the US, which consumed 124.8 kg/person per year).

      If South Africa is much higher than that, it would only support the theory even more since South Africa has a significant obesity problem.

      Apparently low carb diets have become popular in South Africa (Dr. Eades recently flew there for a low carb conference). It seems that people in fortified countries are discovering that they lose weight when they avoid (fortified) carbohydrates.

    • Ngwenya on April 1, 2016 at 00:43

      Thoughts from a South African: South Africa’s meat consumption is slap-bang average for the world – about a third of what the US eats. Obesity has been on the rise for about three decades in South Africa; fortification of maize and wheat have been mandated since 2003.
      Low carb diets are indeed popular, remarkably so – but have not yet taken hold among the working class and poor, where a huge incidence of obesity is seen. Interesting that I have seen remarkable weight loss on low carb diets among people whose primary carb staple was rice and potatoes rather than wheat or maize.
      Final thought: there are other countries in Africa that do fortify and don’t have obesity issues like South Africa’s.

  116. Marty on July 14, 2015 at 08:14

    You’re article is well thought out and researched. I haven’t had time to read all the comments and your responses but it tells me you have a strong following. I don’t think flour needs to be fortified if you use good flour. I didn’t see anything, or maybe just missed it, about heritage vs modern wheat. Organic is good but if it’s not heritage it’s still modern wheat with its increased load of gliadin and lots more chromosomes. Since my husband, who was very sick and not even Mayo Clinic could diagnose him, in desperation he gave up all modern wheat products even though we had considered gluten intolerance a fad. Within 2 months he was well and we switched all of the wheat flour in our line, except pizza flour, to either Red Fife or Turkey .red heritage wheat. We now have over 2000 customers who are gluten sensitive who are eating wheat again. Heritage flour is so alive, a concept I never would have ascribed to flour but making sourdough starter has shown me that. It used to take a week for it to become active, now it’s a couple of days.

    • Duck Dodgers on July 14, 2015 at 09:39


      I’m sure heritage wheat is wonderful and I believe it’s richer in nutrients. I have no doubt. But, the evidence against “modern wheat” is rather weak. We have seen baking references that the ancient wheat varieties aren’t actually very good at making breads or pastries. Except for a few artisan bakers, you just don’t see much demand for it. As such, most Europeans favor modern wheat these days and the countries that do not fortify seem to be doing just fine with it.

      See this comment, from above, for a more detailed explanation why the “modern wheat” argument is quite weak according to the scientific literature.


  117. Duck Dodgers on July 17, 2015 at 08:57

    I donated blood today. I was a bit nervous going (I nearly passed out the last time I gave blood over a decade ago). But as the blood drained out I started to feel quite good and now I feel amazing—like someone gave the inside of body a shower.

    Actually, my arm only squeezed out half a pint—they told me that can sometimes happen if your body isn’t used to giving blood. So, it was an incomplete donation and they’ll have to throw the blood away. Still, I’m blown away at how beneficial donating half a pint made me feel. I can see why bloodletting was once quite popular.

    Ironically, half of the people who work at the Red Cross were morbidly obese. Even the person who took my blood was obese. All of the snacks for donors are enriched with iron. The literature they hand you tells you are a male and donate three times year or more, you should consider taking iron supplements.

    Not too many people were donating. On the wall was a whiteboard showing that they are far below their goal in obtaining blood this month.

    I feel like the Red Cross is sending the wrong message. They constantly implying that they are robbing you of precious iron that you need. And they encourage you to eat more and more iron. Yet, I know I have plenty to give. And every year there are more and more studies piling up showing the benefits of giving blood and its associations with the benefits of iron reduction. They don’t mention any of that. Perhaps they don’t want to know if you have high-ferritin serum so that they don’t have to reject you as a donor. The whole message they are sending is very strange given what has been known about excess iron for decades in a country with many iron-related chronic diseases.

    Through emails with iron researchers over recent weeks, we’ve heard that there are additional studies coming out showing significant benefits to phlebotomy. I suspect we will see some very interesting results in a few months.

    Virtually all iron/obesity researchers we contacted—even the ones who were unsure about the connections of iron to obesity—would say things like, “I agree with you that iron is overconsumed in older US adults and I do not advocate for supplementation in healthy non-pregnant populations as a prophylactic measure.” The message was very consistent.

    Active researchers like to keep their heads down and I suppose nobody wants to publicly speak out about the obsolete policy of mandatory widespread fortification. But, privately, almost all seemed to think that mandatory fortification is a bad idea.

    We even contacted people at government agencies who said they were against fortification, but their ability to end it seems limited and an uphill battle with the FDA in charge of it and the CDC supporting it.

    It makes me wonder if we should create a White House petition to end mandatory fortification in the US, but you need 100 signatures to make the petition appear on the public page and you need 100,000 signatures to make the administration consider the petition. That’s a lot of people, considering that the conventional wisdom peddled by the government is that everyone is supposedly on the verge of anemia.

    • MachineGhost on July 17, 2015 at 09:20

      Any fatigue? I get fatigue a couple of hours after taking a level teaspoon of IP6. I have to take it at bedtime now so its not so noticeable. I suspect IP6 works by binding to serum iron which then forces the body to draw down its stored ferritin. Interestingly, ferritin is only about 30% of the body’s total iron content.

      IMO, its way too early for a petition. The mainstream media need to get onboard first so the hoi polloi take notice. Give or take five years? Then another five for government agencies to change policy?

    • Duck Dodgers on July 17, 2015 at 09:25

      No fatigue. Just very relaxed and a little euphoria. I’m fairly sensitive to “alternative” medical treatments, so I wouldn’t expect everyone to feel this way.

    • Duck Dodgers on July 17, 2015 at 10:53

      I’m probably the last person to know this, but I always thought the barber pole of a barber shop was a throwback to the days when barbers nicked their customers and wiped up the mess with white rags.

      Nope. Turns out that you used to go to the barber for routine bloodlettings.

      You’d get a shave, a haircut, and a bloodletting whenever you felt like it. Some great historical images in the following article…

      The Art of Manliness: The Potential Benefits of Bloodletting. Yes, Bloodletting

      I can now see the attraction. At least for some, it can make you feel quite good.

    • David on July 17, 2015 at 12:49

      I have never heard of an incomplete donation. I did see a doctor on TV once who talked about blood viscosity being another risk factor for CHD. (Higher viscosity blood shearing against the blood vessels) Especially for pilots/passengers who make long distance flights all the time in pressurized cabins.
      The snacks are all processed garbage at the blood center I go to- gardettos snack mix, cheese crackers with peanut butter, etc.

    • John on July 17, 2015 at 15:28

      “But as the blood drained out I started to feel quite good and now I feel amazing—like someone gave the inside of body a shower.”
      Duck, I get this same feeling- almost like a euphoria that passes over you as or just after you donate. I think it’s rather common too, as the literature claims it come from knowing that you helped someone else out. I suspect there is more to it than that, and that it is indeed a physical reaction.

      As for the snacks, they provide foods that will quickly raise your blood sugar, since acute hypoglycemia is a very real possibility after donation. The fact that the cookies and such happen to be fortified has more to do with this country’s moronic and deadly fortification policy than anything else.

      A White House petition might be useful, even if it does nothing on a government level. Maybe it could help spread awareness via outlets like Huffpo, or other people that seem to make things “trend” or “go viral” on social media. You could even used highly charged (yet completely accurate) language such as “End the Government’s 70+ year assault on the health of men, post-menopausal women, patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, alzheimers, cirrhosis, endocrine disorders, and many others- Stop Iron Fortification of flour now.”

      Something that could be even more powerful is if you could convince one company to openly violate the fortification mandate, and make a product that is safe for those with iron overload. That might expose and change the policy rather quickly. Companies are usually more open to change than governments are.

    • Duck Dodgers on July 17, 2015 at 17:43

      David said: “I have never heard of an incomplete donation.”

      I think it can happen when the needle isn’t inserted correctly.

      See Page 33: Fundamentals Of Phlebotomy

      Seems to be a problem.

      When I went in, they asked me if I wanted to have a trainee take my blood. I agreed, since I figured they would be extra careful. And besides, someone needs to give them practice. So, it’s possible that it was their fault.

      At one point they called in one of the staff phlebotomists to adjust the needle, but by that point nothing seemed to help. The bag actually looked pretty full to me, but they said it should look like a “baby football,” and not just moderately full.

      Oh well. I’ll try again in a few weeks.

    • John on July 17, 2015 at 17:45

      “Perhaps they don’t want to know if you have high-ferritin serum so that they don’t have to reject you as a donor.”
      From what I understand, this isn’t even an issue. If a hemochromatosis patient needs weekly blood withdrawls, and meets the other donation requirements, his or her blood can be used for others in need. It’s truly a win-win-win-win scenario. The hemochromatosis patient improves his health, doesn’t need to pay for a phlebotomy, the blood bank increases it’s reserves, and theoretically, more lives can be saved.

      You’re totally correct in pointing out that the Red Cross and others are sending out the wrong message regarding blood donation. Oddly, I think it’s due to the fact that they are ignorant to the benefits themselves.

      If you should write a follow up article on the benefits of blood donation, I would be very interested.

    • Duck Dodgers on July 17, 2015 at 17:54

      “I think it’s rather common too, as the literature claims it come from knowing that you helped someone else out. I suspect there is more to it than that, and that it is indeed a physical reaction.”

      I hate to say it, but helping someone was the last thing on my mind. I was there to get rid of iron and I had an uneasy feeling up until the moment that the cleansed feeling came over me. Next thing I know, I just felt great. But, again, I’ll bet a lot of people don’t feel that way.

      In my case, helping someone couldn’t have had anything to do with the lasting feeling, since they literally told me that they were going to discard the blood. (Apparently, there is a measured dose of anti-coagulant in the bag and if they don’t obtain enough blood, the ratio of blood to anti-coagulant is too low).

      I seriously doubt that bloodletting by barbers, for a fee, would have been that popular if it made people feel like crap. The literature suggests that it was very popular, and my guess is that people were willing to pay money for the service, because it made them feel quite good.

    • Duck Dodgers on July 17, 2015 at 19:13

      Flipping through the historical literature this evening… Turns out people were kind of addicted to bloodletting. Centuries ago, bloodletting was done by members of the clergy, but Barbers took up the role once the Pope Innocent III decided the clergy needed to focus on more important things. Barbers were in very high demand because people claimed that they had “immediate relief” from health issues after blood loss.

      An essay on the remittent and intermittent diseases

      It is said, and indeed it is matter of daily experience, that in all such cases, immediate relief is procured by blood-letting in either of these forms; and as the same relief is similarly produced in cases of decided inflammation, as in others in which it is an acknowledged remedy, the analogy seems sufficiently perfect to form a justifiable argument. Unfortunately, still more unfortunately, patients themselves become so convinced; so conscious in fact of this relief, that they are always ready to demand it, and, still more, to resort to it without advice, or against that, on their own notions and opinions.

      So, it sounds like it wasn’t just barbers pushing bloodletting and convincing poor souls to drain their blood. It sounds like people were asking to be bled on a regular basis. The quote, above, implies that the abuse of bloodletting that led to its demise came from both the barber and the patient.

      Beyond iron reduction and its effects on pathogens, I would imagine that the body sends off immediate alarm/danger signals (DAMPS) when blood loss happens and perhaps these alarm signals are responsible for some of the immediate hormetic response that was commonly observed in the old literature.

    • Jane Karlsson on July 18, 2015 at 03:31

      Vampires! Dracula! OMG

    • Bret on July 18, 2015 at 07:23

      “And every year there are more and more studies piling up showing the benefits of giving blood and its associations with the benefits of iron reduction. They don’t mention any of that. Perhaps they don’t want to know if you have high-ferritin serum so that they don’t have to reject you as a donor. The whole message they are sending is very strange given what has been known about excess iron for decades in a country with many iron-related chronic diseases.”

      I’m not sure how great an incentive the Red Cross has to (a) keep up with the latest scientific literature and (b) apply innovative or cutting edge hypotheses in their work. They’re a big, fairly bureaucratic organization that has to make nice with multiple governments in order to keep their tax exempt status. And charitable organization or not, anything involved, even loosely, with medical care in the US you can bet is heavily regulated & overseen, to the exclusion of common sense. I doubt that leaves much time, energy, or desire for the organization’s leaders to rock the boat.

      As far as fat workers go, I have noticed the same when giving blood myself. Also with nurses and staff at hospitals. I’m sure they work these awful hours and try to eat either low calorie, low fat, low carb, or some combination thereof, consisting mostly of processed (and fortified!) junk, and then question their will power when their bodies tell them to binge…or when their weight remains stubbornly frozen even without binging.

      I’ve never felt the explosion of awesomeness you mentioned after donating. I’ll have to watch for it next time…but after this big discussion about iron overload, I’d be cautious of psychosomatic effects. The power of persuasion can be overwhelming, no matter what the topic.

    • Duck Dodgers on July 18, 2015 at 08:54

      Well, I wouldn’t call it an explosion of awesomeness. More like a mild euphoria. I think there is more to this than a placebo effect. First of all, every Medical treatment—including all pharmaceuticals—have a placebo effect.

      Secondly, I was expecting long term benefits, and just wanted the procedure to be over. I was not expecting to feel anything good whatsoever. Actually I was expecting to feel rather awful as I nearly passed out when I gave blood over a decade ago.

      The euphoria people experience from giving blood is now usually attributed to altruism which contradicts the “immediate” relief of inflammation from blood-letting that is widely reported in the 19th century literature.

      I’m impressed by just how popular blood-letting was from the patient side. I never knew that. It’s always described as a malpractice that patients are suckered into. But there was a very high demand for the service. And, yes, it was obviously abused. But the patient/barber relationship was very different from modern dentists who constantly have to call their patients and remind them that it’s time for an appointment.

      We can all dismiss the documented euphoria some people experience as just being a placebo effect or altruism. But of course we might do the same for a lot of pharmaceuticals and supplements. Makes no difference as long as you feel good I suppose.

    • David on July 18, 2015 at 12:09

      I definitely feel a little tired for a few days after donating. Similar to after a really good workout. I also noticed a higher sensitivity to caffeine and alcohol, if I have either within a few days after donating.

    • John on July 18, 2015 at 13:01

      When I first donated two or three years ago, I was completely wiped out the rest of the day. I just napped and watched TV all afternoon. I would occasionally check blood sugar at the time, and it was 67 that day. I immediately ate something, and had a huuuuuge plate of rice with dinner.

      Since that time, I’ve acclimated. I still take it much easier post donation (you have to), but I can donate in the morning and go to work right afterwards, and have no problems. My energy is now rather high afterwards. Maybe partially due to improved blood sugar control from lowering iron stores.

      As for alcohol, they tell you to avoid it the day you donate. However, if you do decide to drink that day, it hits you much quicker than usual, although it seems to wear off quicker than usual as well. If you drink the day of or after, be extra careful.

      And Duck, I also donate for purely selfish reasons. And will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Still, if more people donated blood for purely selfish reasons, more lives would be saved. I do find it very odd that doctors, nurses, hospitals, drug companies and medical equipment manufacturers can all profit off healthcare (collectively in the trillions of dollars), yet paying blood donors is frowned upon, even though blood is incredibly valuable, and cannot currently be synthetically duplicated.

    • Duck Dodgers on July 18, 2015 at 14:28

      I never said I had lots of energy. I just said that I felt amazing (like I was cleansed) and I felt relaxed. Plus, I only lost at half-pint. I bet I’d be pretty wiped if I lost a pint. I do feel a bit tired today, but still feeling good.

      It sounds like the techniques for blood-letting could be very aggressive at times. If you had a fever, you were bled. If you had a cough, you were bled. If you were healthy, you were bled seasonally, but not on “unlucky” days. If you were pregnant, you were bled.

      In the 19th century, the common course of action was to bleed until syncope (fainting), and this was usually done in a sitting or standing position to speed the loss of consciousness—fainting could happen even before a half-pint was lost, but sometimes much larger quantities were required.

      I see bloodletting was apparently the most common medical practice for about 2,000 years across a wide range of ancient and modern cultures. That’s a rather impressive pedigree.

      As I said, I doubt everyone feels great afterwards. But, a half-pint loss was quite refreshing. :)

    • MachineGhost on July 18, 2015 at 17:00

      Couldn’t it just be hypoxia? That causes mild euphoria.

    • Duck Dodgers on July 18, 2015 at 17:28

      “Couldn’t it just be hypoxia? That causes mild euphoria.”

      Yep. I think it might be it. It’s mentioned in this paper as a possible consequence of blood donation. Sounds about right.

  118. David on September 10, 2015 at 11:19

    Would you assume this is iron fortified? Whole Foods sourdough bread, with organic wheat flour and malted barley flour

  119. Duck Dodgers on September 24, 2015 at 13:07

    Retweet and Recommend on Medium to help spread the word. Did Food Enrichment Cause The Obesity Epidemic?

  120. Latest in Paleo 143: Nature Deficit Disorder– Humans Are Not Broken on September 27, 2015 at 19:35

    […] The Iron Theory of Everything / Free the Animal: […]

  121. George Phillips on September 30, 2015 at 06:29

    I wonder if ‘gorilla biscuits’ were produced with iron fortified flour?

    • Duck Dodgers on September 30, 2015 at 10:59

      What an interesting article. Thanks for posting. This paragraph stood out to me…

      “Going back to this natural diet has changed gorilla behavior. Before, gorillas only ate during a quarter of their day because the food was so packed with nutrients. Now at Cleveland, they spend 50-60 percent of their day eating which is the same amount as in the wild. With all this extra eating, the gorillas have doubled their caloric intake, yet at the same time have dropped 65 pounds each. This brings their weight more in line with their wild relatives.”


      But, to answer you question, yes gorilla (“leaf eater”) biscuits contain iron and a wide range of artificial nutrients (here is the nutrient composition from another manufacturer).

      We only focussed on iron simply because there is so much research implicating iron to chronic diseases. But, in reality, we don’t know for sure if other fortified micronutrients are problematic as well. All we know for sure is that populations and regions that fortify have far more health issues, particularly if they are developed populations.

      Thanks again.

      • Richard Nikoley on September 30, 2015 at 12:23

        Free The Animal update?

      • Jane Karlsson on October 1, 2015 at 02:43

        Those gorilla biscuits are interesting. The content of protein, iron, calcium and zinc is very high, just like nutritionists think humans need. In human diets, all four come largely from animal products, so for gorilla food to contain such high levels is kind of insane. Even in human diets, these four nutrients are arguably too high.

        This kind of thing is very common. For instance, the food given to captive cheetahs in North America has a lot more iron and zinc than it should have. ‘Both canine and feline diets contained 4-6x higher iron and zinc, compared with established requirements.’

        The authors were trying to find out why the cheetahs weren’t breeding well. Breeding failure can be due to manganese deficiency, which is expected from a very high iron intake. I have no confidence at all that the nutritionists who advise food manufacturers know about this.

  122. Should You Reduce Your Iron Intake? | Mark's Daily Apple on November 17, 2015 at 08:10

    […] and, frankly, daunting. You name it, it’s probably linked to excess iron levels. A huge post on the link between iron fortification and obesity went up at Free the Animal earlier this year. […]

  123. Tuba on November 17, 2015 at 13:25

    I stopped reading at the word “kinda.” If you can’t use standard English then your ideas are not worth reading.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 17, 2015 at 13:53

      “I stopped reading”

      That’s where I stopped reading your comment.

      “If you can’t use standard English then your ideas are not worth reading.”

      False to fact, so you’re an abject moron to boot.

  124. SteveRN on December 8, 2015 at 03:32

    Thought some might find this intersting. He has several posts on Iron.

  125. Mike on February 26, 2016 at 19:41

    Very interesting article, thanks.

    I just remembered that Ron Krauss mentioned that beef + dairy actually promotes heme iron uptake:

    The relevant part of the interview:

    “[…] certain kinds of saturated fat, beef tallow being one of them, and the saturated fat called stearic acid being another, both promote the absorption of heme iron. And both saturated fat and stearic acid are found in dairy products and in the fat that comes with red meat. So it’s our hunch that the combination of eating both an abundant source of iron and the fat that helps the body absorb that iron, might be what converts this style of eating into a dangerous risk profile that raises small particle LDL, blood sugars, inflammatory markers, and so on.”

    If Krauss is right, I wonder if the inhibition via calcium is ultimately more important than promotion via fat. I suppose butter or cream may not be ideal in that case, but e.g. yoghurt and cheese might be good.

    Anybody have any idea?

    • moringa on April 12, 2016 at 01:21

      i read everywhere the opposite, meaning that 300- 600mg calcium with a meat meal is the only thing that can block heme-iron

  126. BethB on June 1, 2016 at 14:44

    I recently donated blood & one of the staff told me that she recommends people eat a bowl of Cream of Wheat and a big glass of orange juice on the day of their donation to make sure their iron count is high enough to donate. Apparently a single serving of CoW has 50% of your daily iron (from enrichment) and she knew that Vitamin C helps increase iron absorption, hence the juice. It was rather disappointing to hear that advice being distributed given the light you’ve shed on the negative impacts of iron enrichment. That’s a fairly toxic recco to be giving out on her part considering all this info. I thought she was just going to tell me to eat a burger.

  127. Mark on October 17, 2016 at 08:23

    Hi everyone. I have to say that is the most jaw dropping, eye opening, amazing blog/website I have ever come across, and I just want to say a massive thank you to you Richard, and Duck Dodgers and all other contributors to it. I thought I knew quite a lot about human evolution and biology but boy was I wrong! On the other hand, I am more than happy to have been proved wrong, as it means I can tweak my diet. Now this particular blog has me intrigued as I have been following a low carb high animal fat/red meat diet for over a decade now and have no obvious physical problems. My iron intake however may be cause for concern. Now, here in the U.K., our NHS recommends 8.7mg of iron per day for an adult male. However, when you take into account cooking red meats and transforming some heme iron into non heme iron, and eating iron chelating foods with meat, it looks like quite a hard job working out exactly how much iron you are absorbing per day. So if you can’t accurately judge how much iron you absorb, I just wondered if I ate red meat on four or five days a week would this be ok or should I limit red meat to a couple of meals per week and to replace red meat with lean meats and fish? I am currently reading Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet’s ‘Perfect Health Diet’ and the dietary advice in there is to base most meals on ruminants (beef, lamb and goat) with high dairy foods (with the exception of milk) and to eat meats like chicken and pork only occasionally for variety, which seems to be in contradiction to limiting red meat consumption? Any thoughts are much appreciated, and well done once again to the major contributors….. amazing stuff,

  128. PatriotsFan on March 15, 2017 at 14:39

    Very interesting article. I was wondering if anyone knows anything about the Copper Toxicity articles I have been seeing online. I have always been a vegetarian with a pretty healthy diet, haven’t been to the doctor in years. I do eat eggs, salmon a few times a week, cheese, etc. I have always been interested in adding as many antioxidants as possible – green tea, 85% dark chocolate, espresso, etc. However, I keep coming across all these articles saying that vegetarians are copper toxic and it is making me reconsider if I should add red meat back into my diet as all these online health gurus say that red meat is the only way to get rid of copper toxicity. They say that eating all these antioxidant boosting foods like dark chocolate, wine, and green tea raises copper levels to an extreme level. But this article claims that most healthy cultures load up on these so called unhealthy high copper foods. So why are they living long as opposed to dying from high copper related diseases as all these articles proclaim? Anytime I purposely try to add more zinc in my diet my nails start splitting and hair starts breaking. Normally I have very lush hair and long beautiful nails. If it is true that Iron is the cause of most diseases, why would anyone want to add red meat to the diet? Many of the nutrients which make meat beneficial like Omega 3, Zinc, and B-12 can also be found in fish, which is also lower in iron. So why such a big push for red meat specifically?

    • Jane Karlsson on March 16, 2017 at 03:23

      Vegetarians are copper toxic. Hilarious. Of course they aren’t.

      Our food is very low in copper nowadays.

      Far too low. And then we remove even more of it because of ‘copper toxicity’ which is a myth.

    • Hap on March 16, 2017 at 20:48

      That is pretty interesting, although I am not in a position to offer a full throated critique of the article or it’s methods.

      I have been using a minerals concentrate in my food for about a year, and was mostly concerned about copper toxicity. After reading more about it…..articles and 20:1 for this “myth”. The case is made in various ways. Copper from copper pipes, is a real phenomenon. Hot water from my rain catchment in a location with an active volcano (sulfur gasses in rainwater) absolutely result in blue deposits in bathtub after hot showers.

      Despite my personal reality….I am still dubious.

  129. PatriotsFan on March 17, 2017 at 10:30

    I am starting to think that the copper toxicity thing is a scam. If you look up the list of foods high in copper – oyster, raw kale, mushrooms, sesame seeds, chickpeas – these are things that the normal population does not eat frequently. On the other hand, most people I know eat a very rich zinc diet and probably very little copper. As copper is one of the top antiagining minerals, this probably factors into why the people in the US looks so aged compared to other countries. Most vegetarians, myself included, do not eat many of these high copper foods. The weird things is that it is always paleo people complaining about copper toxicity when they eat the most red meat (zinc) – why are no vegetarians complaining? As copper is raised in times of stress, maybe they appear to have high levels since they are stressing out all the time about their diet! And by the way, all the people in my family with the biggest health problems -high cholesterol, diabetes, gallbladder removed, prostate cancer are all big red meat eaters. I will probably add small amounts of turkey and chicken in my diet just to be safe, however, history in my family shows what really causes disease.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 17, 2017 at 10:51

      To everyone concerned or stressed about copper, probably not an issue. We covered this, too.

    • pzo on March 17, 2017 at 11:12

      No, PF, history in your family does NOT show what causes heart disease. You have extrapolated an observation of very limited numbers into a very unsure “fact.” Can’t speak to your family specifically6, but most high quantity red meat eaters are not much into health. They smoke, they don’t exercise, they let themselves get obese and diabetic, etc.

      Also, while we all tend to fixate on CVD, what’s more important is all causes mortality. Once you factor in, account for lifestyle habits, vegetarian lifespans are not terribly superior, if at all.

      If you are getting enough protein from your vegetarian diet (dairy? eggs?) not sure why you want a bit of fowl now and then. Perhaps you should consider oysters. No central nervous system, can’t feel pain, lots of B12 hard to get on a high veggie diet.