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The Vegetarian Myth?

Here we go again.  Another study was just published that showed how dangerous and deadly eating meat is.  This research study came out of Harvard University and we all know how wicked smaht they are.  At the same time, we listen intently to a woman who is truly changing the world, Lierre Keith. Lierre is a farmer, activist, and author of “The Vegetarian Myth.” Lierre shares her journey of transitioning to an Ancestral approach to eating and living after 20+ years as a vegan.

Whilst we all hail Lierre’s latest words (find the full podcast here), lets also take a look at this  research study before you replace your grass-fed burger with tofu.


For those of you who have not seen this study, the abstract is here,http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature12820.html and there was a write-up done by NPR here, http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/12/10/250007042/chowing-down-on-meat-and-dairy-alters-gut-bacteria-a-lot-and-quickly?sc=tw&cc=share.  In a nutshell the researchers were looking at the gut microbiome and how it responds to two different diets; an all animal based diet and an all plant based diet.  The study concluded with the researcher stating the following:

“Finally, increases in the abundance and activity of Bilophila wadsworthia on the animal-based diet support a link between dietary fat, bile acids and the outgrowth of microorganisms capable of triggering inflammatory bowel disease. In concert, these results demonstrate that the gut microbiome can rapidly respond to altered diet, potentially facilitating the diversity of human dietary lifestyles.”

In other words the researchers concluded that an animal based diet increases a microbe that causes inflammation.  Before we go any further let us look at this animal based diet. One of the researchers, Lawrence David, stated that “Breakfast was eggs and bacon.  Lunch was ribs and brisket, and then for dinner, it was salami and prosciutto with an assortment of cheeses.  The volunteers had pork rinds for snacks.”  This looks very similar to the Paleo diet that Dr. Cordain, Robb Wolf, and others promote right?  I do not think so.  In fact the following is a quote from an article written by Dr. Cordain in regards to processed meat:

“The scientific data showing that consumption of processed meats has multiple adverse health effects is persuasive, unambiguous and overwhelming (24, 25).  These facts are not surprising when considered in the evolutionary light.  Our hunter gatherer ancestors had practically no evolutionary experience with these Johnnie come lately foods, and consequently our physiological and metabolic systems have had virtually no time to overcome these food borne toxins with genetic adaptations.  I believe that consumption of fresh, grass produced meats under the context of a diet high in fruits and veggies (i.e. The Paleo Diet) will reduce your risk for all chronic diseases that plague western societies.” (http://thepaleodiet.com/the-truth-about-processed-meats/ )


Pretty strong words there in regards to processed meats and human consumption.  I would like to shift the focus onto Dr. Cordain’s last statement above.  He believes the consumption of grass-fed meats “under the context of a diet high in fruits and vegetables (i.e. the Paleo Diet) will reduce your risk for all chronic diseases that plague western societies.”  This study only looked at an all animal based diet and an all plant based diet. How would they have fared with a combination of the two?

Also, resistant starch and fiber, found in fruits and vegetables, have been shown to be critical factors in gut health (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/73/2/451s.full ).  Depriving the intestinal bacteria of both of these will of course create an unfavorable environment, probably even more so in a diet high in processed meats.

The study mentions that the animal based diet had an increase of a gut bug that may lead to inflammation of the bowel.  Next to this comment there is a reference.  The study referenced gave mice a diet high in saturated fat.  The saturated fat was in the form of milk fat and it caused inflammation of the bowels in genetically susceptible mice, but not in the wild mice (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22722865?dopt=Abstract&holding=npg ). Sadly I could only access the abstract of this study, but I think there are a few questions we can ask from that little information.

Is the inflammatory condition a result of poor genetics or diet, or a combination of bad genes and a mismatched diet?  Where did the milk fat come from?  Did it come from cows that were fed high doses of antibiotics?  We all know that antibiotics destroy bacteria and alter our gut flora.  Were the genetically susceptible mice showing symptoms because they were ingesting a food riddled with antibiotics? A NY Times article that ran in 2011 stated that the FDA found illegal levels of antibiotics in dairy cows and were concerned that they were contaminating the milk Americans drink (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/business/26milk.html?_r=0 ).

This scenario seen in the genetically susceptible mice may be very similar to what we see in humans when we consume foods such as processed dairy products.  Below is a list of testimonials of people with the exact same conditions as the mice in that study.  They showed a reversal of inflammatory bowel conditions by taking part in a Paleo diet.  One thing they abandoned (it is not the only thing they took out of their diet so it only shows correlation) is dairy.


http://robbwolf.com/2011/12/19/testimonial-the-solution-to-my-battle-with-colitis/ (The author, his mother, and his sister all decreased symptoms on a Paleo diet, genetic susceptibility?).


Perhaps the people above and the many others that reversed IBD with a Paleo diet did so because their diet was creating a favorable environment for the good gut bugs to flourish.  If so this shows us that a diet high in fruits and vegetables, accompanied by grass-fed meat, will be beneficial to gut health as well as all the other pieces of living healthy.

Jeff Leach over at the Human Food Project wrote an interesting article titled “Can a high fat Paleo Diet cause obesity and diabetes? Maybe, unless.”  This article explains the role of bifidobacterium in the integrity of intestinal gap junctions.  In a high fat diet there is an increase in LPS (lipopolysaccharide) which coincides in a decrease in bifidobacterium which leads to inflammation.  When a high fat diet was fed to rats with bifidobacterium the inflammation was neutralized (http://humanfoodproject.com/can-a-high-fat-paleo-diet-cause-obesity-and-diabetes/ ).  Was there also a decrease in bifidobacterium in the studies mentioned above?  If so this would explain the increased inflammation seen in the all animal diet.  This would also help solidify a case for a diet high in fruits and vegetables alongside grass-fed meats being a healthy diet.

Meat, fish, and eggs are important for healthy fats, amino acids, iron, zinc, and many other nutrients that help control blood sugar, stabilize mood, make enzymes, and build and maintain tissue.  Fruits and vegetables contain tons of nutrients as well as supplying our gut with the needed fiber to help fight against inflammation, an underlying piece of most modern disease.  We need both to thrive and removing one or the other from our diets can lead to increased morbidity as we age.


Written by Kevin Cann via Robb Wolf

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