Saturday, 7 February 2015

Primal paleo diet: theory and practice

What arguments do the various Dieticians Associations put up regarding the paleo - primal diet?

Firstly, they say it is a fad and might be unhealthy. Fair enough comment in the sense that there are a lot of diets and many of them are fads.

They say it might be deficient in macro and micro nutrients. No references or further rationale provided. Google around and you can find references regarding macro and micronutrient breakdowns of paleo versus other diets. Some of these were done around 15 years ago - so they are hardly new information. They clearly show that Paleo primal is better than the conventional western diet. Better still, get onto Fitday or one of the other web sites that lets you run a few diet simulations yourself. Try out a few meals with meat, fruit and vegetables and see how this runs against the "conventional" diet with grains and dairy products. The numbers don't lie and will tell you the truth. Meat (including fish & organ meats) , fruit and vegetables (& tree nuts) will win hands down. This was the diet our species (and ancestors) have eaten for nearly 5 million years - until the advent of agriculture a mere 10,000 years ago.

Another common criticism is that there was no single paleo diet..... I seem to recall reading a couple of papers about ranges of foods being consumed and a pretty clear relationship between the equator and the arctic\antartic poles. Near the equator lots more fruit and vegentables growing in a tropical\temperate climate and being eaten... but still quite a bit of meat. Nearer the poles a lot more meat and little fruit and vegetables. One thing to be aware of. When the anthropololgists did the first version of this research they did not count fish as meat. So, second time around when a re-count was done meat (& organ meats & fish) were more than half the diet. The eskimos and others living nearer the poles consumed a lot more meat as plants don't do so well in the cold. Two things stand out - no grains. no dairy.

Try eating wheat or similar grain seeds raw and milking a horned wild cow with young - if you are from the coutnry you understand how difficult either actually is.

If you have the patience to pick individual grain seeds by hand for the few weeks they are "ripe" then you have to eat them Hypothetically, eating raw wheat seeds or equivalant requires a prelude of starvation to generate the apetite necessary. The seeds are hard, need to be chewed a lot and have no flavour. I honestly wouldn't recommend anyone eat raw wheat or similar as the various antinutrients are present in quite high concentrations in the raw product. Eating the cooked product may increase your risk of various diseases over time. Eating the uncooked raw product may mean you ingest a sufficent amount to lead to acute toxicity (toxicological language for poisoining). Processing of seeds and grains requires technology of various types that was not present in the paleolithic era such as something to put those picked seeds into other than your hand, something to grind them down with other than your teeth, something to put the ground down powder into, a means of cooking it etc.

Before agriculture there were no tame cows. For dairy, you would need a cooperative lactating wild animal or one that is dead and lactating. Live lactating wild mammals with horns will not stand still and permit you to take milk from them as their young will be deprived of it. If you have milked a horned cow you will appreciate the hazards in dealing with a large, horned cooperative animal tied up in the stalls. That can be dangerous let alone trying to approach and milk a wild animal.

Either way this cuts down the window of oppurtunity ie access to animal, animal is lactating. In nature, herbivores do not lactate all year around, in modern farms various measures are taken to keep cows lactating for most of the year including feeding them various supplements including hormones. Milk is filtered blood and these hormones end up in the milk. These hormones can interact with and be absorbed in the human gut with biologial effects resulting. The point is that in nature wild humans consume a lot of human milk for a few years after birth. In the wild, humans have either no or extremely limited oppurtunities to consume milk from other animals with the result that none or very little is consumed. It is also conceivable, under good conditions that hunters might deliberately spare lactating animals with young and let them remain with the wild herd ie so that they can feed the young and it will grow up to provide food later on. That would limit oppurtunities for consuming milk from dead lactating animals (this one is a bit of speculation on my part).

In this life, you get to decide what you should eat (or do not eat). The original food groups are meat, fruit and vegetables and I'd stick with them - at 10 minutes to midnight (ie about 10,000 years ago) - humans started eating grains and drinking filtered herbivores blood - you can eat those things if you want to. Some body said you should not believe everything you read on the internet and so you should do some basic research before you make up your mind about eating, or not eating, grains, dairy or anything else for that matter. What we eat\drink is a choice we all get to make - make yours carefully as you rather than me (or dieticians) bear the consequences of the choices that you make.

PS Oh, according to some of these Diteticians Associations some of our ancestors were Neanderthals! Well, generally speaking, about 5 pc of yours and my genetic material is Neanderthal. But humanities predominant ancestry is Homo Erectus leading to Cro Magnon followed by Homo Sapiens. Although, some scientists now believe there was breeding between Neanderthals,Cro Magnon and possibly a 3rd as yet undetermined type (Denisovans?) and this "hybridisation" process may have significantly contributed to the evolution of humanity.  Some also believe there may have been a 4th type - whether this was Homo Erectus or some other unidentified type is not yet known.

PPS some Dieticians also think that the Paleolithic diet will compromise bone health because of a lack of calcium. Again, I'd get onto Fitday or one of the equivalent sites and run your own analyses. if you do go paleo the only nutrient you wont be able to get enough from food is vitamin D. This is a no brainer. Thats because you need to get some safe, sensible, (non skin burning) exposure to the sun. Unless you ingest neolithic vitamin D supplements, the only way you can get enough vitamin D is to get out into the sun. Too little sun is as unhealthy as too much. The only wild humans that ingest large amounts of vitamin D are those living in arctic areas where large amounts of seafood including liver is consumed which contains significant amounts of vitamin D ie presence of this vtiamin D and its consumption are adaptations needed by sea creatures and humans to deal with the long dark periods in the artic winter and in humans (eskimos) the need to cover up the skin and keep warm. Now in temperate and tropical areas people cover up a similar surface area of skin to the eskimos and don't eat vitamin D rich seafood liver but, that's another story for another blog post.

On strengthening bones, keep you protein intake up (~1.5 g protein consumed per kg of bodyweight each day has been suggested by some scientists). Protein is used by the body to make the scaffold that calcium is added onto. 1.5g/day is around the bottom end of the paleo diet and a bit above what a typical person would eat on the conventional Western diet. Make sure you eat a range of paleo foods to ensure you also get adequate amounts of the various other vitamins and minerals that appear to be directly or indirectly involved in that process (eg Vitamin K2, Magnesium, boron etc). Also, regular physical activity that puts force through the bones is important (eg walking in unpadded shoes, skipping or jogging would be better than slow impact activity like gentle bicycling, calisthenics, swimming on a highly padded surface (painting a picture of impact here, not the many other elements of a total exercise system). Of course, too much impact too soon would be as much of a problem as too little impact (to late). If barefoot appeals it is worth trying some of the barefoot like shoes - they provide some protection against things contacting the foot from above or below. Walking barefoot can result in cuts or abrasions that could easily be prevented by Vibrams or several of the other barefoot like shoes.

Monday, 2 February 2015

More on bows, arrows, rock painting and the demise of the mega fauna

Followup on previous post on archery. The oldest bows found in the world are closing on 10,000 years old- bows are made of wood and generally wont survive long on or in the ground. Cave paintings push the date back to 20,000 years ie pictures of figures wielding bow and arrow like objects with prey in the same picture. Some of prey having arrow like sticks stuck into them.

Arrow head like stones around 64,000 years old have been found. This suggests that the bow and arrow has been around a long time. As humans looking for artefacts keep on looking that date will only get older.

At 64,000 years the mega fauna would still have been around. The mega fauna is a term referring to the large animals that were hunted by humans and eventually disappeared from various continents - around 40,000 years or so ago. This is believed to be due to the efficient hunting of our ancestors.

Bow and arrow would have been useful for mega fauna hunting which would have been a dangerous activity. Bow and arrow means being able to maintain a bigger distance and as that video showed several arrows can be rapidly fired in a couple of seconds. Versus poking with a spear or throwing a spear a short distance. If you have a large animal, especially if upset by a wound, or trying to get at you that rapidity of fire and accuracy becomes very important ie the difference between you becoming the prey and remaining the hunter and being able to hunt another day.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Archery and the primal paleo diet

In the video link below some archery is demonstrated based on practical research.... years of it. He looked at the data and did some experiments and then looked for more information etc. Round and round the process of research, do, evaluate, research, do evaluate went on and this is the spectacular result.

The work sheds new light on recent historical battles where archery played an important role such as Crecy, Hastings, the Crusades etc. These archery techniques were known to the Egyptians and were probably around back into the paleolithic period. Because techniques are software unlike the hardware (eg pictures of archers, bows, arrows etc) it is easy to underestimate the level of sophistication of archery.

Apply this example to other physical artefacts left by our paleolithic ancestors and its easy to see that we tend to underestimate their level of sophistication. Any quick reading of readily available information makes it obvious that hunter gatherers have an encyclopaedic knowledge knowledge of edible plants, herbs, animals, weather etc. If you read around you can also see information that indicates that many of these people new about nutrition ie eating a preys eye and associated tissues cures human blindness due to vitamin A deficiency etc/ But, the archery information was a surprise to me and I wonder what else our paleo ancestors knew about that we have not recognised.

Anyway, here is that clip:



Monday, 26 January 2015

The devil Gout and the primal paleo diet

I know an elderly person who suffers from the gout and so did a bit of looking into it.

Gout is a well known disease that was rare until last century. Prior to that it afflicted the rich and wealthy. The symptoms of gout are caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in various joints- particularly the feet, ankle or knee but, can be present in any other joint. Gout is associated with various other conditions eg high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and increased blood triglycerides, increased small dense LDL cholesterol and decreased HDL cholesterol.

Gout is unknown in hunter gatherer societies. For those familiar with the primal - paleo diet the above picture will sound familiar- ie unknown in primitive societies, rare in the west till after the industrial revolution, greatly increased incidence in the last few decades.

Uric acid crystals cause the inflammation\pain in gout. So, more uric acid can arise from
  • eating more of it (or things made into to it)
  • making more of it
  • excreting less of it.
It is the balance that is critical ie for uric acid to build up input must be greater than output (loss).
  • turnover of purines - 2/3 uric acid arises from turn over within the body
  • eating meat and shellfish
    • about 1/3 of dietary purines
    • meat and shell fish are largely protein which increases uric acid excretion by kidneys.
  • eating carbohydrates (grains and refined sugars) increase uric acid synthesis in liver and reduce its excretion by kidneys
  •  eating protein increases uric acid excretion by kidneys. This includes protein from meat and shellfish.
  •  alcohol increases uric acid production and reduces its excretion.
It is well known that gout patients under excrete uric acid from the kidneys. It should be no surprise to learn that insulin inhibits uric acid excretion by the kidneys and that a higher carbohydrate diet will result in greater levels of insulin production. Remember gout patients usually have diabetes (or are pretty damn close) have insulin resistant cells and so must synthesise a lot of insulin. A person with insulin resistance (ie secreting large amounts of insulin due to cells less sensitive to insulin) and on a high carbohydrate based diet would be expected to build up uric acid.

This would all seem to indicate a higher protein diet, reduced high glycemic index\load carbohydrates (eg no grains but vegetables with some fruit). One trial of this was done and published in 2000. Back then, the idea of high protein diet replacement drinks was considered radical and needed a prescription in some countries. Now you can buy them off the shelf at your local chemist or supermarket. Times change. It be no surprise to learn that using a paleo diet for gout is not widely known and the most widely recommended gout diet is based on limiting protein and increasing grains and refined sugars foods. This is also well known to have only a small effect, if any, on the gout which is usually described as "difficult to treat".

The reference for that small published trial is:
Dessein, Shipton, Stanwix, Joffe, Ramokgadi (2000) Beneficial effects of weight loss associated with moderate calorie/carbohydrate restriction, and increased proportional intake of protein and unsaturated fat on se rum urate and lipoprotein levels in gout: a pilot study. Ann Rheum Dis59(7):539-43.
There may be other trials out there as well. Researchers out there.... there may be an oppurtunity here for a clinical study of paleo diet for gout sufferers or if you are very conservative a somewhat higher protein, low glycemic index, low glycemic load trial for gout sufferers. Mediterranean would be expected to work better than the conventional western diet but a primal paleo diet would be expected to work better.
Now many gout sufferers are elderly, although, gout does also affect young persons. Gout sufferers often, as outlined above, may be suffering several disease and may reap significant benefits from a paleo diet and life pattern. In these cases, "to much, to soon" can be as much as problem as "to little, to late". Medications will need to be monitored and may need to be reduced over time by your doctor (who you have told about your dietary changes etc and knowing your full diagnosis\history etc is keeping an eye on his\her patient). A conservative, gentler approach could be to transition across to a paleo -primal diet over weeks rather than the "its Paleo Day 1 today" approach. An example of one way this could be done is by shifting to lower glycemic index\load foods (ie cutting back on grains\dairy and shifting to vegetables and some fruit) with meat\eggs\shelfish\fish served as a portion in every meal (including breakfast- as the conventional diet often lacks breakfast protein) ie a Mediterranean style diet for a couple of weeks and then transitioning to a paleo - primal diet. There are various methods which could be applicable but in all cases there is a need for medical input and monitoring.


Sunday, 11 January 2015

Posting anticipated to resume in mid-January 2015

Posting is anticipated to resume in mid-January 2015. Meanwhile, all best wishes for the New Year to readers.