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.

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.

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

Picky Eaters

Do you have family members that are very picky eaters? Maybe they claim that they are full after only a few mouthfuls of food, or maybe they are unwilling to try anything new. How annoying is it when they look at a new food option and say they don’t like it, despite never tasting it or even smelling the food.

This is a problem that seems to be getting more common. When my children were small, they ate the same food as their parents. There were no special meals being prepared for dinner. There were some foods they didn’t like, such as mushrooms, but the occurrence of this was quite low. Today it seems more and more parents are preparing fully separate meals for the parents and the children.

The level of sweetness in food is getting higher and higher, with many foods children are willing to eat having added sugar. Syrups, added sugar, sweet cereals, seem to be common. Many families seem to be experiencing this problem of picky eaters only willing to eat sweet food as they offer their children new dietary options.

Unfortunately, some parents believe that their children will naturally seek out healthy or sufficient nutrition, but Kelly Dorfman MS, LND, in her book “Cure your child with food” describes treating hundreds of picky-eating-children with serious nutritional deficiencies, manifesting in growth, health, psychological and behavioral problems that are very serious for their ongoing development.

A possible cause of picky eating could be zinc deficiency. Zinc is critical for taste and when a person’s zinc level is low, food can lose its taste, or even taste bad. Your children may be experiencing tastes that are very different to how the food tastes to you. It could be that masking the taste in sweetness is the only way that the food tastes OK for them.

Kelly Dorfman states that children with a mild zinc deficiency are often picky eaters and with a zinc supplement, the excessive numbers of foods with “off” smells and “yucky” flavors can be reduced to normal levels.

Why does this picky eating problem seem to be getting worse?

A major contributor to this is the very high levels of corn and wheat-based foods in the diet today. Tortilla’s, bread, bagels, cereals, doughnuts all have high levels of phytic acid or Phytates. Phytic acid is a chelation agent that binds to iron and zinc molecules in your food and prevents your body from being able to absorb these. Some of the processes we use to prepare foods can minimize this impact, but unfortunately only soaking and sprouting can reduce phytic acid and this is not often done.

Another contributing factor is the reduced levels of zinc in today’s food compared to historical levels. By 1972, zinc deficiency was reported as the most common plant micronutrient deficiency in the United States and now it is estimated that nearly one-half of the soils in the world are low in available zinc. The consequences include low production of grain and other products if soil is not amended with zinc.

This from Dr. Libby Weaver: A hundred years ago, zinc was abundant in many soils. Nowadays, most soils in the world are zinc deficient, except for soils predominantly from biodynamic farms. This means that, where once fruit and vegetables, and even grain-based foods such as breads and cereals, provided us with a small, steady top-up of zinc, the zinc levels in many of the foods we eat today are inadequate to avoid deficiency.

A move towards a greater level of plant-based diets is also making the zinc deficiency in diet problem worse, because meat, dairy, eggs and seafoods are where a high level of zinc is sourced from in the diet. The highest levels of zinc are in oysters and high levels are found in lean red meat.

The graph above shows the levels of zinc in blood (in plasma) with 3 different meals illustrates the considerable impact on zinc absorption levels from consuming phytic acid containing food in the same meal as the zinc source.

So, what are the problems associated with a low zinc level?

Humans have no ability to store zinc, which means that we must get a steady supply of zinc from the food we eat daily. Low levels of zinc have been associated with:
– stunted growth
– low immunity,
– increased susceptibility to inflammation,
– poor healing,
– Dry skin
– Thin and sparse hair
– Poor condition nails
– Loss of appetite

This from Wikipedia: Cognitive functions, such as learning and hedonic tone, are impaired with zinc deficiency. Moderate and more severe zinc deficiencies are associated with behavioral abnormalities, such as irritability, lethargy, and depression. Low plasma zinc levels have been alleged to be associated with many psychological disorders. Schizophrenia has been linked to decreased brain zinc levels. Evidence suggests that zinc deficiency could play a role in depression.

Zinc can have a very important impact on our ability to deal with viruses in the body such as COVID19. According to nutrition and health expert Mary Ruddick, zinc will attract viruses within your body and transport them out. It could be useful to compare the impact of COVID19 in specific areas with the levels of zinc in local soil and therefore in the food being eaten.

How can you increase your zinc levels?

Including plenty of seafood, red meat, liver, lamb, dairy, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, shiitake mushrooms and egg yolks in your diet is a very simple solution. Although there is zinc on legumes and grains, the addition of phytic acid from the grains and legumes could mean that very little of the included zinc is bioavailable to your body. To preserve the zinc and iron in grains, you could choose meals where these were sprouted or soaked overnight before being included in the meal.

George Elder
Author “Take Back Your Health” Learn how your diet impacts your health, both good and bad, so that you can use food as medicine.

Your Microbiome is You?

Perhaps you are being controlled more than you realize. Ed Yong wrote a fascinating book called “I contain multitudes” in which he highlights the recent research linking your microbiome to many health conditions. Apparently, we are made up of a huge number of organisms that work for us or against us depending on how we treat them. Scientists are focusing heavily on the organisms in your gut (your microbiome), but they are in many other parts of the body as well. I have heard it suggested that your microbiome makes up more than 60% of you.

Mary Ruddick a well-respected nutritionist, says that if you have cravings, this is really the craving of your microbiome that is demanding the type of food it wants. If you have sugar cravings, then your microbiome has a higher level of the bad guys.


Your microbiome is much more important than you may realize. It makes your feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, it makes vitamins, it breaks down food and much of the goodness we get from food is a result of it being consumed first by the bacteria in your microbiome. It produces B vitamins for us and can affect whether some of our genes are activated (expressed) or not. 70% of your nervous system is based in your gut lining.


There is a belief that the microbiome must be diverse to be healthy, however testing of some very healthy traditional native groups has shown that you can have low diversity and still be very healthy. Apparently, it is the quality of bacteria in your microbiome and the integrity of your gut lining that matters, whether it is diverse or not, not so much.


How do you know if your microbiome is healthy or not? One clue is whether you are craving sugars and starches. The bad bacteria in your gut including those that can cause overgrowth, thrive on sugars and starches and they will influence your brain to crave them, to ensure that they get the food they want. Your good bacteria can also eat sugars and starches but prefer fats and protein. This suits your body perfectly because your cells also thrive on fats and protein.


If you need to clean up your microbiome, you can use food to do this by starving out the bad bacteria. So, a diet with no sugars or starches is required. However, these bacteria can live for quite a long time, some for over 3 months. If you starve them out for many weeks, but then have a cheat day before they have died off, you will refresh them and you will have to start the whole process all over again. So that slice of pizza or spoonful of dessert at the girl’s night out might be enough to derail your whole campaign. Only 100% adherence to the program will work. This makes it very hard for people to do. In the GAPS diet book, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride suggests that 16 months was the minimum required time for full effective treatment.


How will you know that you have eliminated the bad bacteria? Amongst other benefits, the cravings will be gone, you will wake up refreshed in the morning raring to go and you will feel very calm.


Unfortunately, antibiotics can and usually will damage your microbiome, so if you have taken a dose of these in recent months, you may be having to rebuild your good bacteria as well. Some ways to help with this are:

– Minimize plant foods with oxalate toxins and lectins such as beans and spinach.

– Don’t overdo the fiber and limit grains. Fiber is less important than is commonly believed.

– Eat more animal fats and limit omega-6 seed oils (vegetable oils)

– Get your proteins from a range of animal foods and minimize plant proteins. –

– Remember that vitamins A, E, D and K2 come from animal fats.

– Avoid soy-based food and tofu- Get outside in the mornings to get more vitamin D and to assist with melatonin production.

– Get the sugars and starches out of your diet to stop feeding overgrowth.

– Socialize.


Intermittent fasting with a non-eating window of at least 18 hours can help with microbiome and gut lining repair as it provides an opportunity for your gut to rest and rehabilitate between the sequences of food arriving. It also promotes autophagy where the body can replace proteins, replace damaged cells and run a general maintenance program. An easy way to do this is to finish dinner by about 6pm and then only consume water, coffee, or tea until noon the next day.


For more information about the suggested lifestyle changes and “Taking back your health” with diet as medicine, take a look at my blog page, www.takebackyrhealth.com There you will find a link to my book on Amazon.


Regards George Elder.

How much Protein should I eat?

Photo by Malidate Van on Pexels.com

Research that compares historical dietary protein levels with typical levels today, commonly finds that early hunter gatherer humans ate a lot more protein. Analysis of the ratios of nitrogen and carbon in ancient bones can reveal details of protein sources in their diet.

Early explorers and people studying native diets have documented these higher levels. For example, the Inuit in Northern Canada, lived primarily on seal, caribou and fish accompanied by lots of fat and very little carbohydrate and their protein level was medium to high. The Red Indians on the American plains ate a high protein meat and organ diet from herbivores such as deer and bison, with very little of the animal not used in some way. Early explorers commented on how very fit and healthy these people were. They had none of the metabolic diseases that are common now and apart from a higher infant mortality, their life expectancy was very similar to humans today.

Hunter gatherers typically ate about 30% protein and body builders can sometimes get up to 40% protein but to do this they consume special pea or whey protein powder supplements for muscle building. It takes a strong focus on building up the protein in the diet to do this. Even a steak only contains 16-21% protein, you would need to eat a lot of steak and you would struggle to eat that much. Even a whole egg only contains 6 grams of protein.

There is a known condition that afflicted some early Arctic explorers called “rabbit starvation”, which could occur during periods of poor hunting, when some explorers ate mostly rabbits because they were available. Rabbits have very very little fat, and this lack of fat caused sickness due to excess production of ammonia. The same issue plagued Vilhjalmur Stefansson during the first few weeks of his year-long 1928 demonstration of survival on an all-meat diet, because the initial diet provided by the hospital, failed to include sufficient fat. It seems that there is an upper limit to protein for humans which is around 40% of your calories. Levels above this can overwhelm the liver’s ability to convert nitrogen from protein into urea, causing ammonia levels to increase leading to stress in the body. Vilhjalmur Stefansson is quoted as saying that rabbit starvation in the arctic could kill a person more quickly than eating nothing.

This suggests that about 40% of calories as protein, is a hard upper limit for humans. However, 40% is very difficult to get to because the protein is buried in food with fats, carbohydrates and vitamins, so you get the other stuff as well. Not only that, but your protein thermostat turns off your appetite as your protein consumption rises, making it harder and harder to continue eating.

What about the bottom end of the protein scale? The official recommended daily allowance (RDA) is about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, however, I understand this is an absolute minimum. Going below this could mean that many of your body maintenance functions are not happening as they should. Things like cell replacement, muscle repair, bone growth, hair growth, joint repair, etc. If you experience brittle hair and nails or wounds take a long time to repair, then maybe your protein level is too low. Your body has no way to store protein so you need to get it every day, maybe every meal and eating more on one day will not carry forward.

I have seen it suggested that the majority of older people in USA are only getting about 12% of their calories as protein. One of the biggest issues with this is that their body will try to get the protein it needs for maintenance by taking it from other parts of their body such as from their muscles, bones and connecting tissue. The result, a loss of muscle mass and a reduction in strength. Many older people die after struggling to recover after a fall, and falls are much more common when strength declines. Keeping strength and muscle mass up should be a key objective for ageing people.

A very poor diet with consistent low protein can lead to a result where only about 5% protein becomes the normal dietary level. To deal with this the body will reduce critical maintenance and the person becomes a “lightweight” version of what they could be. Small muscles, thin bones, lightweight organs, lower level of immunity etc. Valter Longo, a gerontology researcher experimented on mice and discovered that a reduced calorie diet increased their lifespan. Some people are betting, with their lives on this, seeking a longer lifespan by reducing calories, however, this has never been proven in people and we are much more likely to have serious falls than laboratory mice are. If you chose to reduce calories, make sure that it is not the protein that you reduce.

Without sufficient protein, a person gets weaker and weaker, gradually losing the ability to live fully. They struggle to get into and out of a car. Struggle to climb stairs. If they are driving, they may not be able to brake hard enough in an emergency. They may not be able to get out of a lounge chair without help. They cannot shower themselves without support. They tire quickly doing simple tasks. Eventually their heart loses the ability to keep them alive.

I hear that some women choose to avoid protein in order to ensure that they don’t develop “ugly” muscles. Be reassured that this is impossible from just eating a medium protein level diet as recommended here.

Personally, even at 70, I like to be strong enough to be able to do what is wanted without a struggle. Lifting heavy groceries, hitching the trailer onto the car, climbing stairs, digging the garden, carrying loads when required. A regular resistance exercise regime will help and it can be very satisfying.

Older people also don’t absorb protein efficiently, so if you are a bit older, I suggest you try to keep your protein intake to a minimum of about 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight. For a 70 kg man this means 105 grams of protein each day. To do this make sure you are eating plenty of meat, eggs and fish. Beans contain protein, but soy beans, grains including wheat and legumes can contain protease inhibitors and these can prevent the breakdown of dietary proteins into their amino acids, thus preventing you getting access to some of the protein you eat. This means that reducing the level of these in your diet may also help, particularly avoiding refined wheat flour. Are you in danger of overloading your kidneys? Apparently not unless you already have kidney disease, because it is almost impossible to drive protein levels to the very high levels required.

It is interesting to note that one way a farmer can fatten animals is to reduce the protein level in their feed. This causes the animals to eat more in order to satisfy their protein thermostat. Perhaps a higher level in a human diet will make you feel full sooner, reducing the calories you eat regularly.

During pregnancy a woman needs protein with the Mayo Clinic recommending 71 grams per day, although surely this will vary due to different activity levels and different size women. UCSF Health suggests a minimum level of 60 grams per day or 20-25% of your calories from protein. With a baby growing and most of their growth requiring protein, best not to skimp on this.

For a very readable guide to losing weight, diet and maintaining your health, take a look at my book linked to the blog at www.takebackyrhealth.com.
Regards George Elder