Bacon Woes

Should we be concerned about nitrites or nitrates in bacon?  Meat retailers are experiencing a downturn in demand for bacon due to resistance from people who are concerned about health risks of eating meat.  Let’s examine this.

The plant based lobby is working hard to discredit animal based foods despite our ancestors regularly eating meat or fish, often as the only food consumed.  The dominance of these animal and fish based diets over thousands of years have been confirmed by isotope testing of human remains (Richard’s M.P. et al. 2009) and are still the basis of a number of traditional diets for groups such as the Masai, Inuit, Hadza and Tokelau Islanders.  These groups, eating traditional diets, do not apparently suffer from the cancers common amongst people eating a modern diet.  It is revealing to note that as these people migrate to a more western diet, their health declines.  The Australian aborigines and Pima Indians of Arizona are well documented examples of this change from predominantly meat based diets to western diets and their resulting health issues.

In 1906-12, American doctor and anthropologist, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, lived with the Inuit in Northern Canada for about 5 years eating their nearly 100% animal based diet of fish, caribou, whale, seal and other smaller animals without any significant health issues.  He recorded their good health and longevity and noted in his diaries and books that he very rarely observed any cancer. 

Dietary comparison is difficult due to the number of confounding factors.  For example, vegetarians and vegans are often very particular about what they eat meaning that a study finding benefits from their diet may be unable to establish if the benefit came from eating vegetables or from avoiding sugar, alcohol, processed foods or refined grains.  In addition, meat eaters as a group often include people who are less concerned about their diet, seldom exercise, consume alcohol frequently and eat lots of processed food, all of which can contribute to poor health.

Colon cancer is sometimes linked to meat consumption and there are studies about this.  However, a UK study (Tim Key, 2022) examined data on 63,550 men and women aged 20 to 89 recruited throughout the UK during the 1990s. They obtained the cancer incidence figures from national cancer registries.  They concluded: “Within the study, the incidence of all cancers combined was lower (11%) among vegetarians than among meat eaters, but the incidence of colorectal cancer was higher in vegetarians (39%) than in meat eaters.

One of the concerns raised about eating bacon is the presence of Nitrates and Nitrites initially present in the meat and added for the curing process, to preserve the meat, extend the shelf life, and to keep it looking red and delicious.  They suppress the bacteria that causes Botulism in meat and, without them, the meat can look grey and unappealing.

Nitrates (NO3) are relatively stable and, therefore, in small quantities they are unlikely to change and cause harm, however bacteria and enzymes in the mouth will convert them to nitrites.  The nitrites are then converted by stomach acid to Nitric Oxide (NO).  This is beneficial.

Nitrites (NO2) which come into contact with protein are converted to nitric oxide which is very beneficial for the body and is a natural anti-bacterial.  This helps lower blood pressure, helps people with angina, and relaxes artery walls, assisting with blood circulation and is the active compound in Viagra. Nitrites are not stable and in the 1970’s it was suggested that heating them can create Nitrosamines which can be carcinogenic.  The good news is that these nitrosamines are heat-labile, ie: altered or destroyed by high heat (Am J Clin Nutr. – 2009). 

Curiously people are less concerned about nitrates and nitrites in vegetables, which is where 80% of the ingested nitrates and nitrites come from, according to the above study.  Beetroot greens and juice are touted as health foods because of the abundant nitrites which convert into Nitric Oxide when eaten.  Celery for example, is very high in nitrites, can be ground into a powder and used as a replacement preservative in processed meats.  When this is done the meat, must by (US) law, be labelled as “uncured”.

There is no difference in the action of the nitrites regardless of the source.  The craziness is that (in USA) when the nitrite comes from sodium (or potassium) nitrite, it’s regulated (allowable levels vary by product). There are no limits for nitrite from celery powder, which means that bacon labeled as “uncured” may actually contain higher levels of nitrites.  It turns out that almost all meat labelled “uncured” has been treated with vegetable based nitrites.

Nitrites are also present in drinking water and naturally occur in saliva, where they function as an anti-bacterial with, for example, the ability to kill salmonella.  Nitrite in saliva increases gastric mucosal blood flow and mucus thickness helping digestion.  This action removes toxins, and helps with acid buffering by supporting bicarbonate production downstream of the stomach.

The summary of one study claimed: “These results indicate that dietary nitrate may serve important gastro-protective functions”.

In a study (N P Sen, et al. 1980) the nitrosamine levels detected in both cured and uncured meat products (both cooked and uncooked) were very low and were degraded and destroyed by cooking at high heat and, therefore, would not be expected to occur in fried foods at significant levels.

Like most dietary substances there are upper limits.  Excess nitrate (NO3) which has no taste or smell, can affect how our blood carries oxygen. Nitrates can turn hemoglobin (the protein in blood that carries oxygen) into methemoglobin . High levels can turn skin to a bluish or gray color and cause more serious health effects like weakness, excess heart rate, fatigue, and dizziness.  This is sometimes referred to as “blue baby syndrome” as babies are particularly vulnerable.  In some US farm areas warnings are issued when nitrate levels get too high in drinking water.

In New Zealand, if nitrate (NO3) levels in drinking water exceed 50 mg/L, then it must be treated. Boiling or disinfectant has zero impact on this.  Generally only private bore water would have this problem with rain water unlikely to be affected and community supply water regularly tested for this.

One study (Dubrow et al. 2010) examined 545,000 participants of which 585 were diagnosed with Glioma, (Brain Tumors).  They were testing the hypothesis that Nitrosamines derived from dietary Nitrites (NO2) elevated the risk of brain tumors.  Their conclusions stated:

We found no significant trends in glioma risk for consumption of processed or red meat, nitrate, or vitamin C or E. We found significant positive (not good) trends for nitrite intake from plant sources and, unexpectedly, for fruit and vegetable intake.  Further work is needed on early life diet, adult intake of nitrite from plant sources, and adult intake of fruit and vegetables in relation to adult glioma risk”.   “We observed an unexpected finding of increasing glioma risk with increasing intake of fruit and vegetables. ~~~ which may be due to pesticide residues consumed with fruit and vegetables

What about the fat in bacon?  The fats in bacon are about 50% monounsaturated and a large part of those is oleic acid.   This is the same fatty acid present in olive oil and is generally considered “heart-healthy”.  The remaining fat in bacon is 40% saturated and 10% polyunsaturated, accompanied by some cholesterol.  Dietary cholesterol was a concern in the past, but scientists now agree that it has very minor effects on cholesterol levels in your blood, while the Sydney Diet Health study showed us that saturated fat is healthy.

Maybe bacon does not need to be avoided?

Seek professional medical advice before making dietary changes, particularly if you have underlying health problems.

Read my blog at “www.takebackyrhealth.com

Find my book at   bit.ly/3KJwedY

Good health,  George Elder, Diet Researcher, Dip. Nutrition.

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Why diets fail.

Most diets advocate; to lose weight you reduce calories and you will, but, only for a limited time. Reducing calories, drops your nutrients. Your metabolism slows to match the lower incoming calorie and nutrient level.

Your body chooses where to distribute the reduced available nutrients. Your brain gets priority. Your hair, skin and nails can probably function without the best nutrition for a while. These areas gradually lose their sparkle and energy. However, alarm bells will be going off in your brain with a strong message to upload more nutrients. This can make you hungry, tired and grumpy. Weight loss slows down and to maintain weight loss, requires further calorie reduction.

Few people can withstand this, eventually succumbing to their body’s demands for more food.

During WW II, the US Government commissioned a starvation study. The Minnesota Starvation Experiment. 36 male volunteers spent 6 months on 1600 calories per day. They ate mainly potatoes, turnips, bread and macaroni. A high carbohydrate diet.

They became depressed, lost concentration, became preoccupied with food and very distressed. Some ended up hospitalized, yet most weight loss programs use this type of approach to diet.

There is a better way. In the 1970’s, 2 researchers, Blackburn and Bistrian at Harvard Medical School developed a “protein-sparing modified fast” to treat obesity: 650 to 800 calories a day of nothing but fish and meat. Effectively no carbohydrates, making it a low-calorie keto diet. One publication highlighted the average weight loss of 700 people was nearly fifty pounds in four months. The patients felt little hunger. “They loved it,” Bistrian said. “It was an extraordinarily safe way to lose weight.” Sadly they stopped, because they mistakenly thought that low carbohydrate levels were unhealthy.

The difference between these diets is the carbohydrates. High carbohydrate diets with low calories, force your body into starvation mode because the resulting high insulin level prevents the body from accessing fat reserves. But if you become fat adapted, eating higher fats and very low carbohydrates, the body can use stored body fat to replace missing calories.

A successful way to get fat adapted is to severely reduce carbohydrates in your diet. Replacing most carbohydrates with good fats. Carbohydrates are not essential because your liver will make glucose from fat if needed.

I have eaten this way for 3 years. No weighing food or counting calories. I seldom feel hungry. Do I need carbs for exercise and energy? No way. I run, swim, use the gym, or kayak with no shortage of energy. Fat adapted people claim increased energy. My weight is down 11 kgs and blood pressure is back to normal.

Reducing calories does reduce weight, but unless done right, is unlikely to be sustainable.

Seek professional medical advice before any changes, particularly if you are on medication or have any underlying health problems.

Read my blog at “www.takebackyrhealth.com

You will find a link to my book.

Good health, George Elder, Diet Researcher, Dip. Nutrition.

Support your Mitochondria

Deep within the cells of your body there are small structures called mitochondria.  They are so small that a billion of these could exist on the head of a pin. The number of these in each cell of your body varies depending in the location of the cell, with each heart cell having up to 5000 of these tiny structures.  Their role is critical to your health.  It is in each mitochondria that your body makes your energy from fats, glucose and oxygen.  There are chemical reactions taking place in there which create a compound called Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is the source of energy for everything in your body.

The healthier you can keep these structures and the better that you feed them, the more energy you will have.  They rely on tiny membranes through which some of the compounds pass during the chemical reactions.  The balance of polyunsaturated fatty acids in your body has an impact on these membranes.  If you have a mix of about 4:1 of Omega-6 to Omega-3, then the membranes are apparently soft and flexible, but if your level of Omega-6 gets very high, as can happen if you are consuming lots of seed oils, then these vital membranes can get stiff and hard and not function as well.

Your mitochondria can use either glucose (sugar) or fatty acids for their energy source.  They use which ever one is available at the time and sometimes a little of both.  In about 1963 a researching doctor called Dr. Philip John Randal discovered that when one these energy sources is high, there are switches that block out the other.  This discovery has been labeled, “The Randal Cycle”.

Unfortunately these tiny chemical processes can also create oxygen molecules with unpaired electrons, known as “free radicals” as a by-product.  Your body depends on the presence of anti-oxidants to mop up any excess of these, because if left free, they can create havoc, by “oxidizing” other molecules, in effect “rusting” you from the inside out, and this happens at high speed.  Excess “free radicals” within the mitochondria break down the critical membranes, causing them to degenerate.  When glucose from carbohydrates is the primary fuel, your mitochondria create 30% – 40% more “free radicals” than when operating on fatty acids.

Vegetable (industrial seed) oils can create even more stress for your mitochondria.  Their manufacturing process which can involve multiple periods of heating, oxidize the oils making them rancid.  We routinely avoid rancid (oxidized) food for our health, but these oils are then deodorized during manufacture, to remove this smell so we can be fooled into consuming this excess oxidation. Anti-oxidants are usually added in an attempt to mop up these excess free radicals.  The resulting oxidized fats are taken up by your mitochondria.

Some free radicals are beneficial and our body can use these to fight cancer cells and other intruders, however an excess of these can be dangerous.  This is the same with most nutrients, minerals and compounds used in your body. Too little or too much is not healthy, but there is a level which is perfect for you.  For obvious reasons, this is sometimes termed the Goldilocks level.

Our human bodies can store lots of fat and it seems this is the principal energy source for us because of this capability.  Glucose which comes from sugars that we eat as carbohydrates has very limited storage, which is one reason why we can feel hungry again, about 3 hours after a carbohydrate heavy meal.  Isotope testing of human fossils has revealed that we mainly ate meat over the thousands of years before agriculture was discovered.  During this time, if we came across available carbohydrates then using the switches identified by Dr. Randal we would be able to prioritize this for immediate energy and preserve our stores of fat.   These carbohydrates would likely be some berries, honey, or some ripe fruit, but they would be small, not abundant and had a very short season so needed to be consumed immediately.

What Dr Randal discovered has huge implications for what and how we eat,  and despite his finding being corroborated by subsequent research, it has not yet been explored in any depth. 

What does this “Randle Cycle” mean for how we eat?  It suggests that we should avoid eating lots of fat and carbohydrates in the same meal, because our mitochondria will have to prioritize one over the other.  Does it matter if one of these is prioritized?  Well it does and here is why.

If you have a mixed diet and glucose is prioritized, then in addition to creation of excess free radicals, the blood will have excess fatty acids to dispose of because these will be excluded from the mitochondria, so are unable to be used for energy.  The way it disposes of these is to convert them into triglyceride’s.  High triglyceride levels are one of the indicators of poor metabolic health.  In real terms, this means that people eating a typical “Western” diet with its huge dominance of carbohydrates from flour and sugar, will struggle to ever use any of their stored body fat, or even any of the fats eaten in a meal, their triglycerides will be constantly elevated and their health compromised.

If fatty acids are prioritized then the body will have to dispose of any excess glucose.  The way it disposes of this is to convert it to glycogen for storage in muscles or convert to fat and store in the liver or as adipose fat on your body.

Thinking about original foods such as meat, eggs, fish, fruit, vegetables, etc. you may struggle to identify any foods where both fats and carbohydrates exist together.  Maybe this is significant.  In fact only a few natural foods come this way and the most prominent is milk.  Growing babies may have special requirements due to their high nutrient and energy needs.

Compare these natural foods with ultra processed foods.  Ultra processed foods are always factory made, and are composed of a mix of fats (usually from seed oils), flour and sugars (carbohydrates).  Read the nutrition label to see the ingredients.

Based on this understanding of how your body works, it is clearly healthier to avoid ultra processed foods.  These include breads, candy, cake, pasta, cookies, donuts, biscuits, cereal and cereal bars.  If it is made in a factory and has a nutrition analysis on the packet, then beware as it  will usually have a mix of fats and carbohydrates.

When your mitochondria are damaged, your energy level is reduced, plus excess free radicals will promote inflammation in your body which dramatically increases your risk of cancer, coronary heart disease, type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, etc.

Reducing this risk can be be helped by taking care of your mitochondria:

  1. Avoid vegetable (industrial seed) oils such as corn, soy, safflower, canola, grape seed etc.  Lookout for vegetable oils, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats in ingredient lists.
  2. Replace these unhealthy oils with animal based fats, coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Limit your consumption of sugar and grains.
  4. Reduce the level of carbohydrates in your diet to less than 50 grams per day.
  5. Replace the lost carbohydrates with saturated or monounsaturated fats as they are much less likely to be rancid already and will generate less free radicals.

In everyday speak, eat real food, including meat, fish, eggs, dairy and leafy green vegetables while avoiding grains, sugar, starch and vegetable oils.

Seek professional medical advice before making dietary changes, particularly if you have underlying health problems.

Read my blog at “www.takebackyrhealth.com

Find my book at   bit.ly/3KJwedY

Good health,  George Elder, Diet Researcher, Dip. Nutrition.

The Blue Zones?

In 2000, Micheal Poulain and Giovanni Mario Pes documented a group of locations around the world where there was an abundance of people who lived to be over 100 years old.  These areas were called “The Blue Zones” and included:

Photo by Dana Tentis on Pexels.com
  • Ikaria, Greece; (sometimes spelt Icaria)
  • Okinawa, Japan;
  • Ogliastra Region, Sardinia;
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.
  • Loma Linda, California, USA

It was suggested that a number of factors led to the longer life of people who lived there, including regular exercise, having social circles that reinforced healthy behaviors,  taking time to de-stress, being very family orientated and part of a community.  There was also a dietary element where it was believed that their approach to diet had a very significant impact on their longevity.

Some groups interested in diet have seem similarities between their dietary beliefs and the documented diet of blue zone inhabitants, often using this information to support their ideas and to promote their diet as healthier.  Despite these areas being very geographically and separate from each other and eating quite different diets, these dietary ideas have become blue zone folklore?

Here are some suggested ideas from a recent book titled “The Blue Zones Solution” by Dan Buettner:

  • Stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full to avoid weight gain.
  • Eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Eat mostly plants, especially beans. And eat meat rarely, in small portions of 3 to 4 ounces. Blue Zoners eat portions this size just five times a month, on average.
  • Drink alcohol moderately and regularly, i.e. 1-2 glasses a day.

Some of this advice seems very sensible but we must be very careful when trying to apply what seems to work in one place and time to something happening in another place or time.  For example:

  • Many people living in Northern Europe drink a lot of cows milk and have done so for generations, however most Asians can not tolerate cows milk well due to a lactose intolerance which can make them sick when they consume it.
  • Europeans traveling into malaria infested areas of the World must take special precautions against getting bitten by the anopheles mosquito as they can suffer hugely and die from this disease if caught, while some locals appear to be almost immune from this.
  • Over the years diets change and the diet that sustained a centenarian in the growing and middle age years may be very different from what we see today, which could confound research.  In my own case my family ate lots of delicious meat stews, and porridge as I grew up but we very seldom eat these today.  We also had very limited fruit varieties and fast food was non-existent. 

Another aspect of the blue zones which has been questioned is the validity of the research done.  Mary Ruddick, a renowned nutritionist is married to a Greek and has lived on the island of Ikaria.  She was puzzled by the lack of recognition of the amount of goat meat eaten by the islanders and the suggestion that potatoes was a mainstay of their diet.  In her view the islanders eat goat meat almost daily and potatoes are not a local crop due to the poor soils.  They were introduced some years ago as part of the adoption of more western ways of eating and were never part of traditional diets.  Her suggestion about why goat meat is not recognized is that the questionnaires asked about “red” meat consumption and this to an Ikaria inhabitant translates to beef, which is rarely eaten.  Mary shares her view on this here:

Another blue zone diet claim is that a mainstay of the Okinawa diet is sweet potatoes.  During World War II these people were forced to kill and eat most of the pigs on their islands and as a result made a switch to much more reliance on sweet potatoes.  The diet which centenarians ate over the years was once heavily pork based and this has changed significantly over time.  Okinawa’s people are no longer in the top group.  For more information about this diet confusion, take a look at the post by Angela Stanton in the link below

Another approach in dietary / longevity research is to blame genetics for some of the health problems of today. Any review of non-communicable diseases such as Type-2 Diabetes, Obesity, Macular Degeneration, Kidney Disease, Asthma, Depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, Heart disease or Cancer reveals skyrocketing levels which have risen dramatically since the 1900’s when most of these were rare. Is it possible that some individuals have obesity genes which are turned on or turned off by the poor western diet of high sugar, refined grains and seed oils.

Genetics clearly has an impact in setting different levels of susceptibility to diseases in individuals. For a great example of how genes work, take a look at the honey bee. The queen bee and the worker bee have identical genes, but the Queen is isolated and fed royal jelly with the result being development of the only fertile female egg laying machine in the hive. Genes can clearly be turned off and turned on by external factors such as different foods.

Different population groups around the world, have responded to the western diet in different ways. Some groups have a much less healthy response to the the impact of the western diet than others. For example, the Pima Indians in Arizona are the most obese group in USA and African Americans are more susceptible to Type-2 Diabetes than people of Caucasian origin. These differences may be due to natural selection that has occurred from the impact of different major impacts on the ancestors of the group. Dr. Andrew Jenkinson in his fascinating book “Why We Eat (To Much), covers this in some detail. For example, he suggests that the susceptibility of Pacific Islanders to obesity may come from their past long sea migrations where only those who had the ability to survive these journeys with little or no food, survived to become their ancestors.

As always, for more diet and health information, take a look at my book

“Take Back Your Health”, by George Elder,  available as an ebook or paperback on Amazon.

Book Link: https://amzn.to/3uiehfv

Blog link,  www.takebackyrhealth.com

Red Meat Risk for Health

The “so-called” experts on diet and health seem to be once again twisting the numbers to achieve some alternative gains at the expense of public health. This has been highlighted by Kevin White in the UK publication “The Grocer”.

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

There is a group led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, (IHME) at the University of Washington, Seattle (USA), that publish a paper each year which is titled The Global Burden of Disease (GBD). They recently published a paper in The Lancet, which suggested that deaths from eating red meat around the world had risen

  • from 25,000 in 2017
  • to 896,000 in 2019.

This would be a 36-fold (3,484%) increase in the threat to human health from eating meat in two years. These same authors stated in 2017 that red meat was the least important of 15 dietary risk factors studied.

Understandably this has been challenged by nutrition scientists who have requested that the group produce the evidence for this increase. The claim by GBD is puzzling when we realize that after a “forensic examination” of the data and its assumptions by the nutrition scientists – which also includes globally-recognized meat expert professor Frederic Leroy of Vrije Universiteit in Brussels – it was then compared to a collection of global meta-analyses looking at the relationship between eating red meat and human ill health and deaths. The scientists concluded they could “find no relationship” between the meta-analyses and the GBD data.

A big problem with junk science like this is that it is picked up and published and then used as justification for policies. For example:

This “statistic” has been used as part of the justification for a reduction in red meat consumption as published in the “Eat Lancet Diet” and is referenced in major UK policy documents – including Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy. It has also been referenced in publications by the UN Food System Summit, and the EU’s Farm To Fork Strategy. According to an article in “Farming Independent”, by Claire McCormack, Since publication, GBD 2019 has been cited by 635 documents, including 351 scientific papers and nine policy documents such as the UK’s National Food Strategy.

Here is how the Global Burden of Disease study is described on their website:-

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study is the most comprehensive worldwide observational epidemiological study to date. Led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, Seattle (USA) the GBD study offers a powerful resource to understand the changing health challenges facing people across the world in the 21st century.

Unfortunately a failure to provide the evidence for this will severely undermine the GBD reporting validity and raise serious ethical questions about the motivation of this group and their supporters.

It is very unlikely that a rise of over 3000% in 2 years is even possible, let alone likely.

The great danger of people taking this “junk evidence” seriously Is that it may lead to policies and activities that further erode the understanding of the critical nature of animal food for human health.

To their credit, I understand that the Lancet Publication has also requested evidence to support the GBD claims.

Animal foods are very important for world wide diets because of their high nutrient density. Vitamin K2 for calcium management and vitamin B12 only come from animal foods. Both are critical for reducing heart disease risk. Many people are iron, zinc and folate deficient which is exacerbated by the low bio-availability of these in plant foods. These are much more bio-available in animal foods.

Most plant foods also have some form of anti-nutrient which binds up the minerals in your meal and removes them from your body leaving you under-nourished. For example, wheat flour binds up zinc and iron in your meal so you get less of these essential mineral nutrients from your meal. It is thought that this binding action could be a major factor in the cause of so much poor health in the longer term vegan community.

The very high levels of Omega-6 fats from heavy consumption of vegetable/seed oils and the very low levels of Omega-3 fats is another major concern. Enlightened heath experts recommend a ratio (Omega-6:Omega-3) of these at about 4:1 or less, based on historical levels before the introduction of industrial seed oils to the diet.

As always, if you want to understand how to improve your health with your diet, take a look at my book – “Take Back Your Health”, by George Elder for sale on Amazon.com or available from the Selwyn District Library, in New Zealand.

www.takebackyrhealth.com

Best of health to you, George Elder.

Overcoming Anxiety

You may have heard of serotonin, the happiness molecule, but do you know what it really does?

Serotonin is a chemical produced in your body, mostly in your gut, but some is produced in your brain. It is a neurotransmitter, which means it helps with nerve signaling, and is involved in sleep, memory, learning, healing and is the chemical that promotes calmness and contentment. People with healthy levels of this are generally happy.

In order to make serotonin, your body needs all the necessary components. Magnesium is needed, but the most important component is the essential amino acid, tryptophan, which comes from various foods, a little from bread, pasta, corn, bananas, and cookies, but the most abundant sources of tryptophan are high protein foods like tuna, dairy products, turkey, beef, pork, chicken, and eggs.

It is easy to get too little of this essential amino acid because if you drink diet sweetened foods or caffeinated drinks, or you are not getting enough healthy fats such as butter, olive oil, and animal fats then your tryptophan levels can be depleted. Tryptophan levels can also be depleted by stress, lack of natural light, low calorie diets, skipped meals or by lack of exercise. While coffee will stimulate dopamine (the pleasure molecule), it will suppress serotonin (the happiness molecule) over time.

In USA in 1989, the FDA called for a voluntary ban on tryptophan supplements due to a faulty contaminated batch and these only became available again without prescription in USA in 2000. In other countries it has continued to be available, while in USA many doctors switched to prescribing Prozac.

All this means is that if you want to be happy, calm and contented, then your diet really matters as does exercise and getting sufficient natural light. This is especially important for women because females typically generate about one third less serotonin than males. For vegetarians or vegans this is even more difficult as the tryptophan level in their diet is usually very low.

This might be much more important than just a happy feeling. People, who have low levels of serotonin can suffer from anxiety, lack of confidence, panic attacks, depression, obsessive behavior and sleep disorders. It seems that the psychology profession is just beginning to realize the importance of this diet and mental health linkage.

The new field of nutrition psychology is gaining traction fast with psychologists now realizing that poor diet is a major factor in many of the conditions patients present with, and often these conditions can be assisted or even corrected by changing the patients diet. Central to these changes is increasing the level of animal protein while reducing grains and sugar.

Unfortunately, I hear that many people on bad diets often don’t know this and never realize their health problems are caused by their diet. It is only after they make major diet changes and begin to feel hugely better that they realize just how sick their diet was making them. This is particularly a problem for those who are very committed to their diet because their beliefs make them reluctant to even test whether a diet change could help.

So to pull all this together, if you suffer from anxiety, worry easily, have panic attacks, have a tendency to be negative, get edgy or irritable easily, have difficulty sleeping, suffer from jaw pain, or can be a bit obsessive or forgetful, then low serotonin might be a factor. Take a hard look at your diet or try a tryptophan supplement. I read that for many people results can be almost immediate.

As always, for more information you can view my blog at: www.takebackyrhealth.com

You will find a link to my book “Take Back Your Health”

Good Health, George Elder.


Just reduce calories

Have you heard that before, “Just reduce calories and do more exercise”.

If you asked most people including many doctors how to lose weight, they might have told you this. It seems so easy and we have seen pictures of skinny people who have been starved or who have survived famines. Some people can do it but very few sustain it, even if it seems simple.

Your body is very smart. Different parts of you body have different needs. So this means that if you reduce your calories, your body will choose which processes in your body will get the reduced available nutrients from your food and which parts will not.

Your brain and your heart are likely to be given priority, because these organs are critical to your survival. Your hair, skin and nails can probably function without the best nutrition for a while and you won’t die. You may find that these parts of your body and others deemed less important, gradually become less healthy than they should be. This is a decline in your basal metabolic rate. At the same time the alarm bells will be going off in your body with a strong message to upload more nutrients. This will make you really hungry.

There is strong proof of this problem. Towards the end of World War II, the US Government commissioned a starvation study, called the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. 36 male volunteers were subjected to a 6 month period of only about 1600 calories per day. They were fed mainly potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, bread and macaroni. This was a high carbohydrate diet and the participants got sick.

This from Wikipedia: “The prolonged semi-starvation produced significant increases in depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis. Most of the subjects experienced periods of severe emotional distress and depression. Participants exhibited a preoccupation with food, both during the starvation period and the rehabilitation phase. Sexual interest was drastically reduced, and the volunteers showed signs of social withdrawal and isolation. The participants reported a decline in concentration, comprehension and judgment capabilities. There were marked declines in physiological processes indicative of decreases in each subject’s basal metabolic rate (the energy required by the body in a state of rest), reflected in reduced body temperature, respiration and heart rate.”

The reduction in metabolic rate means that their body’s were operating with a lower required level of calories and when this happens, it usually stops further weight loss. To continue weight loss in this situation requires even further calorie reduction.

It doesn’t have to be like this. In the 1970’s, 2 researchers George Blackburn and Bruce Bistrian at Harvard Medical School developed what they called a “protein-sparing modified fast” to treat patients with obesity: 650 to 800 calories a day of nothing but lean fish, meat, and fowl. It had effectively no carbohydrates, making it a ketogenic diet, albeit a very low-calorie version. In one 1985 publication reporting on almost seven hundred patients, the average weight loss was nearly fifty pounds in four months. The patients felt little hunger while on the diet. “They loved it,” Bistrian said. “It was an extraordinarily safe way to get large amounts of weight loss.”

Bistrian and Blackburn did not continue it, because in those days they mistakenly thought that having such a low level of carbohydrates in the diet was unhealthy. Nowadays we know better.

The difference between these 2 diets is the level of carbohydrates. Unfortunately continuous high carbohydrate levels with low calories, force starvation mode because the resulting high level of insulin prevents the body from accessing fat reserves. When a person becomes fat adapted and fuels their body with high fats and very low carbohydrates, the body does not go into starvation mode because it uses stored body fat reserves to provide the missing calories and nutrients.

One of the most successful ways to get your body into fat burning mode is to switch to a ketogenic diet. My book “Take back your health” available on Amazon in e-book and paperback gives a very easy to follow guide to making this change.

I have been eating this way now for nearly 3 years and it is almost effortless. No weighing food or counting calories is necessary. I very seldom feel hungry. Do I need carbs for exercise and energy, no way. I go running, use the gym, go swimming and kayaking anytime with no shortage of energy. In fact most people who make this switch claim to have increased energy.

Am I worried that eating meat will impact climate change? Of course. But animals grown using regenerative agriculture actually sequester carbon into the earth, so I’m am doing the right thing. Grains growing in large mono-crop areas and fertilized by man-made petrochemical fertilizers is killing our soils and reducing nutrients available from our food, not to mention the thousands of small animals killed by this farming approach. So reducing my carbohydrate intake is supporting climate change objectives.

As I have explained, reducing calories does reduce weight, but unless you do it right, it is unsustainable and you will fail. Apparently almost all of “The biggest losers” put their weight back on over the following years.

For more information on health, nutrition and weight loss, read my blog at “www.takebackyrhealth.com” where you will find a link to my book.

As always, good health, regards George Elder.

Learning can be slow in Medicine

In 1847, Ignaz Semmelweis , a young doctor working in Austria noticed that more young women were dying after childbirth in the hospital division where autopsies were also also performed, compared with the division where only midwives assisted birthing. This was before people understood about microbes and hand-washing was not common practice.

After a close friends death from a scalpel wound, Semmelweis discovered that diseases were being transmitted on doctors hands, from the autopsies, to the young birthing mothers. Hand washing was implemented and the death rate plummeted. However the obstetrics head doctor refused to accept the practice and Semmelweis contract was not extended. He was persecuted and eventually died in an asylum.

This is an appalling but true story, the details of which have been used as a basis for the fictional book “Unclean Hands” by Andrew Schafer. A true book about this, Titled “The Doctors’ Plague” has been written by Sherwin B. Nuland. It took at least 10 years after this for hand-washing became an accepted practice in medicine.

Would you be astonished to discover that this horrifying situation has not improved much. Let’s take a look at how our treatment for Type-2 Diabetes reveals this continuing problem.

Type 2 Diabetes is a disease which many doctors have come to believe is progressive and unable to be reversed. I understand this is what is taught at medical school.

The reality is that the most common cause of this disease is a normal reaction of the human body to continuous excess levels of sugar/glucose in the blood which is usually caused by too much sugar and starches (carbohydrates) in the diet over many years.

Does a days eating often look like this?
Breakfast: – cereals, bread, bagels, toast, fruit juice.
Snack: – cookie, bagel, muffin, fruit, soda, pastry, corn chips.
Lunch: – sandwich, bread, pasta, rolls, fruit, cakes.
Dinner: – pizza, potatoes, fries, pasta, rice, bread, sweet deserts, beer, burgers.
Supper: – muffin, cookie, sweet biscuit, chocolate.

Every single item in the above diet is producing sugar/glucose in the body. Is every celebration accompanied by copious quantities of sugar based treats? Are rewards and treats usually sugar based?
Some people don’t realize that carbohydrates, except fiber, convert to sugar immediately you eat them.

The safe non-toxic level of sugar/glucose in your blood is only about 1 teaspoon. After you have used some for energy, if the level is still higher than 1 teaspoon, the body has to reduce it urgently by releasing insulin which signals to muscles and the liver to manage the glucose out of the blood to get this toxic sugar level back down. To do this your body either converts the glucose to glycogen for storage in muscles or into fat for storage in the liver or in fat cells.

If your sugar and therefore your insulin is continuously elevated, then over time, your body becomes resistant to this and as a result the level of insulin required to manage the glucose down becomes higher and higher. Eventually it becomes so high that your body can not make sufficient and you are classified as a Type-2 diabetic.

Some say that Type-2 Diabetes is not a disease at all. It is the result of your body’s normal reaction to continuous high levels of blood glucose. Many doctors, instead of working with the patient to get their glucose levels down, prescribe medications including artificial insulin to push the insulin even higher to signal the liver and muscles to pull out that glucose.

Unfortunately high insulin levels are also very toxic and “insulin resistance” is now recognized as a cause of many diseases, including promoting obesity, PCOS, kidney disease, fatty liver, blindness heart disease, and nerve damage which can often resulting in limb amputation.

Research over many years has shown that this disease can often be reversed by reducing the level of carbohydrates in your diet. The process takes time and needs to be managed carefully in the first few weeks in order to manage sugar levels in the blood, as your body becomes adapted to the changes. The changes can be so immediate that sometimes injected insulin levels must be reduced within hours.

Some doctors are now treating their Type-2 Diabetes and pre-diabetes patients with low carb diets and having amazing success reversing this “disease”. In USA, Virta Health ( https://www.virtahealth.com) is treating hundreds of patients remotely using low carb diet approaches. In UK, Dr David Unwin and in New Zealand Dr. Glenn Davies are having success with the same approach. Dr Bhakti Paul MD in NC USA has a great interview on YouTube (https://youtu.be/3suCjlPfkgw) describing how she treats her Type-2 diabetic patients this way.

Other doctors, researchers and nutritionists have been persecuted for advising patients of these low carbohydrate dietary approaches. Dr. Gary Fettke, an Australia Orthopedic Surgeon was censured and barred from delivering nutrition guidance to patients after he objected to the high carbohydrate meals being given to his patients in hospital. This restriction has now been lifted. Dr. Tim Noakes in South Africa, had to fight a court battle for over 3 years for retention of his license to practice medicine, because of complaints about his low carb nutrition advice to patients. Maryanne Demasi a medical reporter and investigative journalist was persecuted for a report on Low Carb diets on the ABC in Australia.

I have come to understand that many everyday doctors or GP’s working in clinics are unable to put patients on low carb diets because this is not supported by the “standard of care” they are required to operate within. Unfortunately this can mean that their Type-2 diabetic patients may not be getting the best care possible and are forced to accept supplementary insulin in order to manage their diabetes. Suicide is extremely high amongst doctors and this type of problem may be exacerbating their stress. Those doctors and nutritionists trying to implement new practices are often unreasonably restrained by tradition.

The modern management of diabetes reversal is initially very critical and some doctors are now finding that fitting CGM’s (Continuous Glucose Monitors) to their patients with a real time link between the patient and the doctor is allowing for very precise management of this critical period of recovery and the beginning of remission.

Dr. Bhakti Paul In conjunction with the website DietDoctor.com have produced a very good overview for doctors about her successful approach to reversing diabetes using this approach. Take a look here on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/3suCjlPfkgw

As always, for health advice and comment check out my blog or find links to my book at: www.takebackyrhealth.com

Regards George Elder

Cancer and your diet.

There is a debate about cancer, as to whether cancer is a genetic disease, e.g. it’s in your genes and there is little you can do, or is it a metabolic disease, caused by what you eat, how you live, etc. The metabolic school of thought seems to be leading the argument, at present, and this suggests that you might have more control over your fate regarding cancer than previously thought. I recently finished reading Sam Apples new book “Ravenous” based on Otto Warburg and his cancer research from the early 20th centenary, which I can highly recommend.

This from Sam Apple’s book, “In 1982, researchers at the American Cancer Society selected a population of more than 900,000 Americans and asked them to fill out surveys that included basic personal information, such as their weight, height, and smoking habits. By 1998, almost 60,000 of the participants had died of cancer, and the American Cancer Society was anxious to figure out why. Among those digging through the data was Eugenia Calle, an American Cancer Society epidemiologist. Her study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003, found that being overweight or obese increased the risk of nearly every cancer she looked at. Compared with a woman of normal weight, the women in the highest-weight category were 62 percent more likely to die from cancer. The most obese men, in turn, were 52 percent more likely to die from cancer.”


In 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute of Cancer Research jointly published a five-hundred-page report entitled ‘Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer’. The report discusses the evidence linking diet to cancer and finds that the most convincing link is ‘greater body fatness’ to ‘cancers of the colorectal, esophagus (adenocarcinoma), pancreas, kidney and breast cancer,’ and possibly gallbladder cancer as well.

Most significant is that there is a group of ‘diseases’ including: Type 2 Diabetes, cardio vascular disease (CVD), PCOS, caries, macular degeneration, obesity, hypertension, stroke, Alzheimer’s and Cancer. These diseases are sometimes referred to as ‘Western’ diseases, or diseases of civilization, as their prevalence significantly increases after a society adopts western style nutrition including sugar, white flour and polyunsaturated industrial seed oils. So although we don’t hear it stated, cancer growth does seem to be assisted by a high carbohydrate diet including high levels of sugar and polyunsaturated omega-6 seed oils.

I read that cancers growing in a laboratory are fed insulin and glucose and don’t survive on ketones which also supports the research mentioned earlier. One researcher claims that fructose is the “perfect food” for a growing cancer precisely because it helps cancer cells to survive in low-oxygen environments.

Researchers have found that insulin and glucose reduce cancer sensitivity to chemotherapy, meaning that the chemotherapy is less effective. With a Ketogenic diet, chemotherapy is apparently more effective, cancer is more sensitive to the treatment and patients could expect to have a faster and easier recovery. There is a recommendation that they should also fast for 3 days prior to chemo, fast during the chemo and then for 2 days following. This comes from Dr Nashua Winters and Valter D. Longo, but undertake your own research of course.

From Annette Bosworth MD comes the information that one of the most renowned cancer treatment centers in the world, M. D. Anderson in Texas USA, will not begin chemotherapy for brain cancer until the patient has been in ketosis for 2 weeks.

There is a description of how cancer cells grow and divide called the Warburg effect named after the researcher Otto Warburg who was the first to identify that cancers are ravenous for glucose. This claims that most cancer cells need a glucose fuel source to grow and divide, and depriving them of this prevents cancer from growing. There is a secondary related effect of high levels of Insulin and Insulin Like Growth Factor (IGF-1) caused by high levels of insulin, stimulating cancer growth. Both have been known about for decades but until recently, largely ignored by mainstream cancer therapy. This suggests that a low carbohydrate diet, reducing glucose in the body and thereby lowering insulin levels, could halt or slow cancer proliferation.

A Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan makes use of cancer’s affinity for glucose. By inserting into your blood, a radioactive dye with glucose, a subsequent scan can locate the places in the body where glucose is being absorbed. For a cancer scan this lights up the body in places where cancer cells are ravenously eating the glucose, helping to identify if and where it has spread.

Professor Jurgen Schole, from the University of Hanover, in 1986 after his low carbohydrate research said, “we were able to demonstrate that the rates of tumor growth in experimental animals, which follow the application of carcinogens, diminish significantly when carbohydrates are replaced by the isocaloric amount (same calorific value) of fat.”

Do vegetarians suffer less from cancer? It is my understanding that many Hindus in India are strictly vegetarian. They suffer from Cancer as do other vegetarian societies. In The Masai, The Inuit and native Americans on the Great Plains, cancer was rare to absent and these societies were heavy meat eaters, sometimes solely for many months of the year. Although this is only an association, it does seem significant, as does their very low levels of sugar consumption.

It seems clear from very recent research and examination of historical research that has been overlooked for years, that sugar is likely to be “a primary cause” of cancer. Sugar pushes up glucose and fructose levels, which push up insulin levels which then stimulates cancer.

This also from Sam Apples book, – Lewis Cantley, the scientist who pioneered the study of how insulin activates the pathways linked to cancer, is among the researchers who have grown alarmed about sugar. He has reportedly stopped eating sugar himself for a simple reason. His research has led him to the conclusion that today’s “high consumption of sugar” is “almost certainly responsible for the increased rates of a variety of cancers in the developed world.

The repeated heating and cooling of Omega-6 polyunsaturated oils in restaurant fryers, breaks down molecules, oxidizing the oils and creating new compounds and this gets worse as the heating is repeated, as it contaminates and reduces the ‘smoke point’ for the oil. Novel polymers (molecules your body does not recognize, so triggers inflammation) are produced, that cause problems for restaurant cleaning, with new and more powerful cleaning compounds needed to remove the residues from walls and drains.

If we eat food cooked in this ‘soup’, I am not surprised that cancer rates are rising. At home you can avoid this by frying in saturated fat with lard, tallow, avocado oil, butter or coconut oil. Olive oil is not generally advised for frying as it has a lower ‘smoke point’, which is the temperature at which it begins to burn, oxidizing and creating harmful chemicals.

I am aware of another suggestion, that long term use of ‘fat soluble’ statins is anecdotally linked to multiple cancer events in people, maybe because the statin mechanism interrupts the body’s manufacture of LDL cholesterol, which now is becoming recognized in its non-oxidized form, as a healing material and integral to an immune response.


For more Information about using your food as medicine take a look at my book on Amazon US$3.99.


Regards George Elder

Fruit, Is it Healthy?

Five servings of fruit and vegetables per day is the UK nutrition guide. But why are fruits and vegetables grouped together in this statement? They bear little relationship to each other in how they impact your health. While fruits are often brightly colored to attract predators and are sweet to encourage you to eat them, vegetables more often come with toxins to dissuade you from eating them and as a result, often require special preparation.

When I am speaking to a group about nutrition and how to heal your body with food, a question is sometimes asked about fruit. Surely it is good, and are we not being told to eat it daily? It contains natural fruit sugars, so cannot be harmful. There is a lot to unpack here so let’s work through the history and science.

Historically humans, birds and many animals have always eaten fruit. It is clearly an ancestral food. However, there are some significant differences between the fruit we see in the supermarket and the fruit our ancestors ate. First the ancestral fruit was not stored in a cool, managed environment and was not available all year around. It was out there growing on the bush or tree and was attractive to all manner of insects, birds, and animals. It had a relatively short ripe season before it was eaten or fell off the tree. There was no farmer protecting it from fungus and insects or putting up bird netting to ensure that it stayed in good condition.

Selective breeding of fruit varieties has changed the ancestral fruits from small, less-sweet varieties to large, sweeter varieties and increased the yields significantly. The original kiwi fruit for example was a small brown plumb like fruit (called a Chinese Gooseberry), before being extensively bred. Most important though is the availability. Our ancestors only had fruit that was in season where they lived and only had the fruit that was not taken by animals, birds, and insects. Once picked it had to be eaten almost immediately.

The breeding of fruit varieties has also changed the fruit in other ways. Fruit has been bred for longer shelf life and to make it able to withstand the rough handling of sorting and packing machines without damage. This changes the fruit in ways that we may not always understand. As a similar example, the breeding of wheat to increase yields in recent years has increased the level of gluten. In another example I am told that heritage tomato varieties have much better taste but their skins damage very easily with handling, so are unsuitable for the supermarket.

Fruit sugar is called fructose. In recent years it has been discovered that the human body metabolizes fructose in a completely different way to other sugars, so different, that it does not spike insulin in the same way as glucose. Dietary fructose is immediately transported to the liver after eating. In the liver it is converted to glucose for energy or uses a process called lipogenesis to convert it to fat for storage within the liver or in our fat cells. Fructose does not stimulate insulin in the same way as glucose because of this different metabolism. This means that a food manufacturer can load a processed food with fructose and “claim” it to be a low GI food and therefore healthier. Unfortunately, excess fructose going to the liver can eventually result in fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Late stages of this will damage a liver forever.

At an ancestral level this different fructose metabolism might have had advantages for primitive people, encouraging them to eat lots of fruit when it was available, because the time window was so small, and they may not get anymore for a long time. Stored in the liver, the resulting fat would be available for many days.

It is fascinating that fruit generally comes ripe just before winter, when many animals need to build up fat reserves to last them through this cooler period. In addition, the fructose (fruit sugar) in fruit is uniquely managed in the body, going directly to the liver to be turned into fat and stored.

Much of the fructose in today’s diets comes from High Fructose Corn Syrup, (HFCS), which uses a process invented in Japan to convert corn into this sweet syrup. This factory-made product has become a very common food additive because it is very sweet, is low cost and being a liquid is easy to handle in the factory. Another item used regularly by manufacturers to make food sweet and “adjust” your view of the nutrition label is fruit juice concentrate which is another name for concentrated fruit sugar.

The thinking that fruit is healthy has driven the establishment of the fruit juice industry where fruit is pulped, filtered to remove unwanted fiber, and packed for easy handling. Unfortunately, this concentrates the sugars while removing most of the fiber. In some cases, sugar is also added to heighten the sweetness. In a normal piece of fruit, the fiber and bulk of the fruit, helps slow down digestion and increases the level of nutrients available to your body. My advice is to avoid fruit juice because the concentration increases the level of sugars markedly and overcomes your natural satiation mechanism. It is easy to drink 6 apples as fruit juice but pretty much impossible to eat 6 apples at one time.

Fruits also develop higher levels of sugar as they ripen, so a green banana will be better for your blood sugar balance than a ripe banana. As an aside, green banana flour has a massively high level of resistant starch which acts as fiber in your body.

There is a wide range of sugar levels in fruits and a little knowledge here can make choosing the better fruits easier. If it is a berry, such as blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries then it is generally much much lower in sugars than other fruits such as apples or bananas. Strawberries are perhaps the best with only 4.9 grams of sugar per 100 grams of fruit. Compare this with banana at 12 grams per 100 grams of fruit. This means that an average sized banana converts to the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugar. As already said, greener fruit has lower sugar levels.

Fruits from the nightshade family, including tomatoes, eggplant, capsicum or peppers come with their own toxin. Solanine, which can cause muscle stiffness, arthritis, dizziness, sore throat, stomach cramps, vomiting and headache, if you are susceptible to this. Cooking well, will reduce this but will never completely eradicate the problem. Early people tested food on pigs and feeding them nightshades apparently gave pigs arthritis so were mostly avoided until the last 100 years or so. They taste good. Maybe they should be eaten sparingly.

To get best value from eating fruit, I would suggest you attempt to mimic the way fruit was eaten by our ancestors. Only eat fruit that is in season in your location and limit yourself to one piece per day making sure you eat the whole fruit including the skin, where appropriate, to get all the available nutrients. If eating “trucked-in” fruit, I would suggest limiting yourself to only one piece periodically.

If choosing sugars, I believe that glucose is better than fructose for your body.
For more information on using your food for medicine, go to my website at www.takebackyrhealth.com or use the link there to jump to my book on Amazon.

Good Luck. George Elder