July 6, 2018
“The chief occasion for vegetables…. with most Eskimos, was famine” – Vilhjalmur Stefansson
In 1906, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, the son of Icelandic immigrants to America and a Harvard-trained anthropologist, chose to live with the Inuit in the Canadian Arctic. He was the first white man the Mackenzie River Inuit had ever seen. For an entire year Stefansson almost exclusively ate meat and fish with 70 – 80% of the calories consumed coming from fat.
Stefansson enjoyed perfect health during his time with the Inuit, and recounted his experiences in his controversial 1946 book, Not by Bread Alone. There are innumerable examples of indigenous populations and traditional cultures who have thrived on diets high in animal source foods – the Native American Indian and the Maasai people of Kenya are two notable examples.
Red meat and dairy products are the pinnacle of human grade nutrition. We believe future generations deserve access to a food supply rich in nutrient dense animal source foods, not a subsistence plant-based or synthetic protein diet.
Therefore, in this week’s post, I intend to briefly examine the important contribution nutrient dense animal source foods make to human health and vitality. But first the nutritional advice to limit or avoid saturated fat and cholesterol must be dispelled.
Saturated Fat & Cholesterol
“The diet-heart idea – the notion that saturated fats and cholesterol cause heart disease – is the greatest scientific deception of our times. The public is being deceived by the greatest health scam of the century.” – George V. Mann, MD, former co-director of the well-known Framingham Heart Study.
For almost 40 years, cholesterol, saturated fat, and red meat have been blamed for causing heart disease and obesity, and more recently cancer and diabetes.
The increasing incidence of obesity and cardiovascular disease in the 20th century sparked a debate regarding the nutritional causes of modern diseases.
In the UK there was Dr John Yudkin, the author of Pure, White and Deadly – how sugar is killing us and what we can do to stop it.
In America there was Ancel Keys who, based on some dubious research, was pushing the line that cholesterol and saturated fat were to blame for the increasing number of heart attacks.
In the end, Keys won out – a decision that had little to do with scientific research, and lots to do with money, politics and power.
The story examining the 20th century nutritional “science” and dietary guidelines has been fastidiously researched and presented in the 2014 book – The Big Fat Surprise – Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, written by the imitable Nina Teicholz.
The Big Fat Surprise is essential reading for anyone avoiding animal source foods in the mistaken belief that this is beneficial for their health. In the clip below, Nina Teicholz briefly discusses the dietary guidelines Americans have been following since the 1980s.https://www.youtube.com/embed/SDTt-GF1nmA?rel=0
Thankfully, the message that the dietary guidelines are wrong, and that saturated fat and cholesterol are not to blame for modern diseases, is finally becoming much more widely known.
Even the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) now state that “Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” This exact quotation can be found on page 91 of the 572-page Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
When this report was released, Dr Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic said, “The idea we need to limit saturated fat and cholesterol shifted Americans from a well-balanced diet to high-sugar diets, which made people eat more and get fatter.”
The nutrition debate and the causes of modern diseases is an enormous subject. However, this is not the purpose of this post. Touching on the official dietary guidelines (and quite frankly, nonsensical demonization of saturated fat and cholesterol), must be addressed before analysing the essential role of animal source foods in human nutrition.
Animal Fat & Protein
Red meat is the most nutritionally optimum human grade food. Alongside high quality digestible protein and absorbable vitamins and minerals, red meat is also rich in nutrients creatine and carnosine, both of which are important for muscle and brain function.
The consumption of high quality protein is essential for good health. But not all protein is created equal.
100 grams of cooked navy beans contains 22.5 grams of protein, and 100 grams of cooked beef muscle contains 21.3 grams of protein. However, animal protein is much more digestible and bioavailable, so much so, that the usable protein in these two products is 14.1 grams for the beef and just 5.3 grams for the navy beans. Furthermore, all the usable protein in the beef is complete protein, whereas the navy beans contain 0 grams of complete protein (complete protein contains all nine of the essential amino acids).
Marilyn Monroe was undoubtedly considered one of the most beautiful women in the world at the height of her career. However, her chosen diet was the antithesis of today’s malnourished models. In her own words, she described her set of “bizarre” eating habits in a magazine article:
BREAKFAST. I’ve been told that my eating habits are absolutely bizarre, but I don’t think so. Before I take my morning shower, I start warming a cup of milk on the hot plate I keep in my hotel room. When it’s hot, I break two eggs into the milk, whip them up with a fork, and drink them while I’m dressing. I supplement this with a multi-vitamin pill, and I doubt any doctor could recommend a more nourishing breakfast for a working girl in a hurry.
DINNER. My dinners at home are startingly simple. Every night I stop at the market near my hotel and pick up a steak, lamb chops or some liver, which I broil in the electric oven in my room. I usually eat four or five raw carrots with my meat, and that is all. I must be part rabbit; I never get bored with raw carrots.
P.S. It’s a good thing, I suppose, that I eat simply during the day, for in recent months I have developed the habit of stopping off at Wil Wright’s ice cream parlour for a hot fudge sundae on my way home from my evening drama classes. I’m sure that I couldn’t allow myself this indulgence were it not that my normal diet is comprised almost totally of protein foods.
Nutrition has an enormous role to play in the expression of genetics. Undoubtedly, the consumption of proper food contributed to Marilyn Monroe’s famous figure.
Many young Western girls would do well to take note of Marilyn Monroe’s diet. Unfortunately, the anti-dairy rhetoric espoused by ill-informed celebrities and “Instagrammers” can be at least partly to blame for the re-emergence of rickets in the UK, a Victorian era disease. (In next week’s post I will examine the anti-animal agriculture narrative that has emerged in recent years)
Ricketts is associated with vitamin D deficiency – a fat-soluble vitamin needed for healthy bones. For calcium to be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure, at least 50% of the dietary fats should be saturated.
Another example of the essential role saturated fats play in human health, is the surfactant in our lungs. This is composed almost entirely of 16-C palmitic acid (one of the saturated fatty acids) and can help prevent asthma and other breathing disorders.
It is disconcerting to think of the unnecessary health implications people have endured as a result of avoiding nutrient rich animal source foods.
Fed Not Nourished
In December 2016, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported on its achievements of taming hunger and famine in Asia. Basic food commodities such as rice, wheat, and maize has fought immediate hunger, however undernutrition remains a problem. Kadambot Siddique, a professor at the University of Western Australia said – “It has filled the belly, but it is creating a lot of problems.”
Obesity levels in Asia are increasing rapidly, and many people are not consuming sufficient essential nutrients such as zinc, iron, or vitamin A. The report highlighted milk as a cheap and nutritious way of diversifying diets to tackle malnutrition.
“Fed but not nourished” sums up the distinction between meeting human energy requirements and meeting human nutrition requirements. Once one understands the significance of this, the 21st century global food challenge takes on a new meaning.
A good example of the “fed but not nourished” axiom is vitamin A deficiency – a public health issue in many developing countries. Xeropthalmia is the leading cause of preventable childhood blindness and is typically associated with vitamin A deficiency.
Vitamin A is only found in animal foods. Contrary to popular opinion, plants do not contain vitamin A, instead they are high in phytonutrients called carotenoids. The human body can convert these compounds into vitamin A, but this conversion is quite inefficient.
Moreover, 80% of vitamin A from animal sources is absorbed, whereas only 3% or less of carotenoids from plant sources are absorbed.
As the UN FAO report mentions, dietary diversification is an effective method of tackling malnourishment problems. Butter and cheese are excellent sources of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
The importance of consuming animal fat has been known for centuries, but thanks to the nutritional advice of the last 40 years, this has been largely forgotten.
During the 1920s and 1930s, an American dentist and nutritional pioneer travelled the world to study the health and diets of isolated and primitive cultures – his name was Weston A. Price. His work is summarised in the book – Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.
Using pictures and laboratory tests, Dr Price documented the facial and dental degeneration of people consuming modern foods (sugar, white flour, and vegetable oils), compared with the protection from degeneration enjoyed by the peoples of primitive cultures – those consuming traditional mineral and vitamin rich foods such as butter, cheese, milk, fatty meat, shellfish, and eggs.
Dr Price was particularly taken by the isolated villages of the Swiss Valleys, where the local people consumed the milk, butter and cheese produced by their cattle. In his book he wrote:
“By far the most efficient plant food that I have found for producing the high-vitamin content in milk is rapidly growing young wheat and rye grass. Oat and barley grass are also excellent. In my clinical work, small additions of this high-vitamin butter (from cows feeding on growing grass) to otherwise satisfactory diets regularly checks tooth decay when active and at the same time improves vitality and general health.”
It is worth noting, that the milk produced by the SAS System will be produced by cows eating young barley grass.
Dairy products are an incredibly efficient and low-cost method of supplying high quality nutrition to a population. It is interesting to note that in some reports on the current crisis in Venezuela, many of the malnourished school children are asking for milk or some cheese, not candy or fast food. Regrettably, the impact of insufficient nutrition during a child’s formative years will stay with them their entire lives.