How to reduce inflammation with food

Humans should adapt to foods they have consumed for a great part of their time on earth, and these same foods should pose fewer problems than consumption of similar but newer (in an evolutionary sense) foods.  A nice paper from the British Journal of Nutrition I’ve had lying around for a couple of years awaiting this post looks at the inflammatory changes in people eating an old food versus a newer food and finds the newer food to be more inflammatory.

Bad news and good news re this paper.  Bad news is that I haven’t posted on it in two years – good news is that it’s been so long the full text version of it is now available free.

Before we get into the paper, which studies the consumption of kangaroo, just to get us all in the mood, I’m going to put up a quote from The Protein Power LifePlan.  I had to fight our editor tooth and nail to keep these few paragraphs in the book.  She thought they were too gross for the average reader.  The quote comes from the records of an 1948 expedition to Arnhem Land, a remote part of of the Northern Territory of Australia set aside for the “use and benefit of the aboriginal inhabitants of northern Australia.”  It’s about how the indigenous Australians cook and eat a wallaby.

A large fire was made in a depression in the sand, and stones and shells were heated.  Small green branches were placed on top of the stones and the wallaby was flung on these.  After 5-10 minutes it was taken off the fire, placed on a layer of green leaves, and the singed fur was removed with a tomahawk. [Just the fur, not the skin.] Although the women sometimes did this preliminary treatment, a man always did the subsequent cutting up, which was done with a metal spear blade.

The first cut was made horizontally on the ventral [belly] surface at the level of the anus, and next on the dorsal [back] surface along both sides to sever the leg muscles.  Another cut was then made from the anus to the neck.  The viscera were pulled out; and the kidneys, liver, heart and lungs, and the omental and mesenteric fat [the fat surrounding the intestines] were separated from the rest, and cooked on the hot stones and coals for 5 minutes.  The cooked lungs were used to soak up the blood inside the carcass and then eaten.  The offal was regarded as a delicacy by everybody and a certain amount of squabbling always followed its distribution.

The tail was cut off, and during the cooking was put on or alongside the body.  The carcass was laid flat, dorsal side downwards, on the hot stones and ashes and the body cavity was filled with hot stones. Sheets of paperbark formed a cover over the animal, and sand was scooped out to make an oven.  Wallabies weighing 15-20 pounds were cooked for 25-35 minutes.  Everything edible was eaten except the stomach and intestines.  The skull was cracked open to get the brain, and the bones were broken to extract the marrow.

I’m reasonable certain this method of wallaby preparation has been in use since man first occupied Australia.  It is probably a pretty fair description of how all game animals were cooked in ancient times.  And it leads us into our discussion of the a paper on old foods vs new foods.  But first, let’s talk a little about food and inflammation.

We require both food and oxygen to sustain life, yet, in a bizarre twist of fate, both of these necessities slowly kill us.

Slings and arrows in the form of free radicals accrued from a lifetime of breathing gradually dent and ding our mitochondria to the point that more and more of of them give up their ghosts until we, deprived of enough functioning cellular furnaces, follow suit.

Same thing happens with food albeit via a different mechanism.

As I contemplated one early morning in Rome a few years ago, food is inflammatory.  And too much food weighs a body down with not only adiposity but with excess inflammation as well.

I would like to be able to say that carbohydrates are the only drivers of inflammation, but, sadly, that would not be true.  All food intake stimulates inflammation. Although the weight of the research evidence seems to tip the scales in favor of carbs promoting more than non-carbs, all food is guilty.

It’s difficult to limit the amount of free radical damage as a consequence of breathing by trying to breathe less. We can’t go on an intermittent breathing regimen as we can an intermittent fast, so we’re pretty much stuck with breathing about 20 times per minute.  But we can change our food.

The question then becomes, What kind of a diet generates the least inflammation?

To answer that question, we need to know how food provokes inflammation.

For the most part, the proteins in food are the culprits.  Carbohydrates are not proteins, they stimulate inflammation differently.  Carbohydrates in the diet end up as glucose in the blood.  Glucose in the blood is kind of like oxygen – it’s a requirement for life, but we don’t want too much.  Even a normal level of blood sugar is a little corrosive, but when levels are high for sustained periods, much more damage ensues.

Almost everything that gets our immune systems fired up is a foreign protein.  The body is always on the lookout for foreign proteins, and when it encounters one, the immune system rallies and mounts an effort to get rid of it.

What’s a foreign protein? Any protein the body doesn’t recognize as self.  Other than in cases of autoimmune diseases in which the body’s immune system turns on one or more of its own proteins, the body pretty much recognizes itself as non-foreign.  But, proteins coming in from outside the body are foreign.  Proteins in food are definitely foreign.

But there are degrees of foreign.  Less-foreign proteins stimulate less of an immune response than do more-foreign proteins.  What makes a protein more or less foreign?  In general, our immune systems’ familiarity with it.  Foods we have consumed for millennia are more familiar.  People who had problems with those foods tended to die out, while the ones who didn’t have problems tended to flourish and reproduce more.  In the end, those of us here now are the beneficiaries of the forces of natural selection and should have fewer inflammatory problems with food proteins that have been in the diet since prehistoric times.  At least that’s an hypothesis. (It’s the hypothesis of Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly (my review here), who believes that the new dwarf wheat, which has only been around for about 50 years, causes vastly more problems than the older versions of wheat that humans have consumed since Biblical times.  The proteins in the new wheat are different than those in the old.)

Problem is, how do we test this hypothesis?

One way would be to take a genetically homogeneous group of people, present them with a food they’ve eaten forever, measure the inflammatory response and compare it to that provoked by a modern version of the same food.

This is how the researchers did it in this paper.  Here is how the authors’ start out with a pretty good description of the notion of newer vs older foods as inflammation inducers.

The researchers recruited ten healthy native Australian subjects (six male, four female), all with normal body weights and no history of any metabolic disorders or prescription drug use.  These subjects were divided into two groups and fed a diet composed of loin steak (100g) from either kangaroo or wagyu beef, baked potato (75g) and green peas (50g).  (Kangaroo has been a part of the traditional Aboriginal diet in Australia, while wagyu beef is a breed of newly hybridized domestic beef.)  This study was a cross-over study so that all the subjects ended up being their own controls.  The feeding schedule is shown below:

The subjects provided blood samples just prior to each meal and hourly for two hours after each meal.  The samples were tested for serum triglyceride levels and for levels of the inflammation indicators TNF-α, IL-6 and C-reactive protein.

What was the outcome?

Blood from the subjects consuming the meal with kangaroo showed a significant increase in the levels of TNF-α and IL-6, a non-significant rise in C-reactive protein and a drop in triglycerides.  This isn’t surprising because, as I mentioned earlier, all food is inflammatory.

The subjects who ate the wagyu beef experienced a greater increase in TNF-α and IL-6 along with a significant increase in C-reactive protein and triglyceride not seen in those consuming the kangaroo.

As the authors concluded

Our findings show that a ‘newly’ introduced form of beef (wagyu) has a significantly greater postprandial [after eating] inflammatory effect than a traditional kind of meat (kangaroo).

Here is the abstract of the paper:

This is only one paper, with a small sample size, and is the only paper like this I’ve seen.    I would like to see more work done in this area.  It would be nice to know, for example, how long this inflammation lasts past the two hour window.  It would be of great interest to see what happens if these meals are followed for a couple of days of meals instead of just one meal.  And it would be nice to see what would happen if the two meals were isocaloric, i.e., contained the same number of calories.  These meals both contained 100 g (about 3.5 ounces) of meat, but the wagyu beef has a much, much higher fat content (25%-30% fat) as compared to the kangaroo (~4% fat).  Since the wagyu meat is so much higher in fat content, 100 g of it will provide way more calories than 100 g of kangaroo.  For all anyone knows, it was the extra calories causing the uptick in the inflammatory markers and not the difference in new vs old food.  We just don’t know from this study.

This isn’t a perfect study, but it is a start.  It is, after all, called a preliminary study in the title.  What it does provide is a nice foundation for this research group or another to do a more in-depth evaluation.

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93 thoughts on “How to reduce inflammation with food

  1. The kangaroo meat was lean, while the wagyu was fatty. Since they ate the same portion by weight, the wagyu group ate significantly more calories than the kangaroo group. The higher dietary fat content explains the higher postprandial triglycerides.

    This study suggests that eating a higher-calorie portion of fatty red meat is more inflammatory than a lower-calorie portion of lean red meat.

    • I mentioned this very thing in my critique of the study at the bottom of the post. It should be studied isocalorically to tease out whether the increase in inflammatory markers come from the difference in meat or the difference in calories.

      • Stephan’s criticism is spot on. Fat consumption is frequently implicated in acute gut permeability to LPS and other microbial particles, which would be expected to cause postprandial inflammation. Therefore it is not surprising that the wagyu induced higher inflammation than the kangaroo. If they wanted to control for fat content, they would have used something like pork loin instead of the wagyu, though I suspect they would not have seen any results if they did this. In addition, while we don’t know the baseline diet of the participants, it sounds like we should assume it is standard high-carb, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle (based on Dr. Egger’s email below). So it looks like this study basically tested a high-fat challenge meal against non fat-adapted individuals. That caused inflammation. Sounds like nothing new here.

        A ketogenic diet dramatically reduces the post-prandial inflammation caused by a high fat challenge meal (see studies by Volek and Phinney). The Egger study was poorly controlled and I don’t think it really supports a paleolithic or ancestral diet given the more likely alternative explanation.

        • I’m not sure that fat provokes the inflammatory response the same as protein does. It’s a guess at best as to whether an isocaloric meat portion would have made a difference.

          • There is a lot of evidence from the last five years linking high fat meals with low grade post-prandial inflammation (presumably via LPS and other endogenous microbial components absorbed along with the fat in the meal). While the research has been on individual meals, that has not stopped researchers from incorrectly generalizing to high fat diets. My view is that low carb adaptation attenuates or eliminates the effect. But the study discussed in your post was done on non-adapted individuals. I think the fat content in the meat can fully explain the effect without resorting to paleo explanations.

            It has been a while since I looked at this, but here are a couple of studies that came up in a quick google search. Would love to hear your take.

            A high-fat meal induces low-grade endotoxemia (Erridge, AJCN 2007: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/5/1286.full)

            The Roles of Pathogen-Associated Molecular Patterns in Atherosclerosis (Erridge, Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine 2008: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1050173807002599)

            Orange juice neutralizes the proinflammatory effect of a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal and prevents endotoxin increase and Toll-like receptor expression (Dandona, AJCN 2010: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/91/4/940.full)

            A Resveratrol and Polyphenol Preparation Suppresses Oxidative and Inflammatory Stress Response to a High-Fat, High-Carbohydrate Meal (Dandona, Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2011: http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/96/5/1409.full)

            Complex links between dietary lipids, endogenous endotoxins and metabolic inflammation (Michalski, BIOCHIMIE 2010: http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/48/66/98/PDF/Review_Biochimie_Laugerette_-_revised_-_22mars2010.pdf)

          • According to two of those links, various fruit polyphenols completely eliminate the problem. Which other foods might do the same? Spices? Vegetables? Hard to say but orange juice and various grape polyphenols seem to. Might we just be evolved for a diet where we eat meals with meat and fruit and vegetables and so there was no selection pressure to defend the intestinal barrier against bile acids? That seems unlikely, since there isn’t always a chance to eat fruit. It works, it makes the issue a moot point if we happen to have some fruit at meals, but it leaves a question.

            There is the role of gut flora and their fermentation products to consider. It might just be that if there is sufficient fermentable fiber in the diet to maintain the intestinal barrier and perhaps defend it than there is no difference in endotoxemia no matter how the fat differs http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17823788

            This strikes me as more plausible. Our ancestral diet had a lot of soluble fiber, and a good deal of meat.

            I see a good lesson for us: it’s not enough to do a trial of what happens at a meal, we need to look at the entire diet.

    • Yes, but a smaller portion of fatty red meat may be more satiating a larger portion of lean meat. Also, according to the text above (and other things I have read), in a free living situation, everyone was fighting over the fattiest animal parts first . . . the lean meat was going to the dogs . . .

    • That’s what Mike said in the blog post Stephen:

      “And it would be nice to see what would happen if the two meals were isocaloric, i.e., contained the same number of calories. These meals both contained 100 g (about 3.5 ounces) of meat, but the wagyu beef has a much, much higher fat content (25%-30% fat) as compared to the kangaroo (~4% fat). Since the wagyu meat is so much higher in fat content, 100 g of it will provide way more calories than 100 g of kangaroo. For all anyone knows, it was the extra calories causing the uptick in the inflammatory markers and not the difference in new vs old food.”

      I’m a bit confused – were you trying to make a different point?

  2. Can you comment on the issue of inflammation with respect to red meat and Neu5Gc? Vegetarians will point to that as an argument against eating meat, but I’ve also seen paleo diet types say that we’re better adapted to seafood than land mammals on the basis of Neu5Gc. But, as I understand it, Neanderthals had the same gene as us, and I’m pretty sure they ate red meat.

    • The whole issue with Neu5Gc is controversial, and I come down on the side that doesn’t believe it matters much if at all.

      Some observational studies have shown there to be a correlation between meat consumption and the increased risk of disease. Others have shown the opposite while some have shown no correlation. Even in the ones showing correlation, the correlation is extremely week. As we all know (or should know) by now, observational studies simply show correlations, not causation. And the preponderance of the evidence is that there probably is no correlation between meat consumption and disease. If Neu5Gc were really problematic, I think we would be seeing more consistent correlation instead of these studies being all over the place. Even if we did see all the studies looking at meat consumption and disease showing a correlation, it still wouldn’t mean there is causation involved. So, I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think there is any real evidence demonstrating a negative effect from eating meat, so the Neu5Gc issue, in my mind, is a red herring.

    • I side with Mike, and the evidence does too. This trial http://jn.nutrition.org/content/137/2/363/T2.expansion.html had people greatly increase their intake of meat at the expense of starches and saw a reduction in CRP. That seems to go against the notion that NEU5GC promotes chronic inflammation. It would have to be chronic inflammation, not this transient postprandial stuff, because of the way NEU5GC accumulates in the body.

      Also we can easily produce many people eating a paleo diet full of meat with CRP at 0.1, I’m one, many people have the same experience. It’s not “scientific” but we can produce the blood tests.

      The transient rises in inflammation after meals probably have to do with intestinal permeability which as I pointed out in my comment above, is prevented by fiber and various antioxidants, not a big deal if we eat a normal diet full of vegetables and fruits.

  3. Would also like to have seen this done concurrently with 10 non-native Australian subjects. It seems to be a missing control group.

  4. “Would also like to have seen this done concurrently with 10 non-native Australian subjects. It seems to be a missing control group”

    Well Martha, I agree.

    As I sit here in Australia I can assure you all I see around me are Australians of mostly English, Scottish and Irish descent, going back not much more than 200 years. (And a whole bunch of Italian and Greek going back about 60 years.)

    The real Australians who have been eating Kangaroo for millions of years, the Aboriginals, were not part of the study.

    These people have some of the highest incidences of heart disease and diabetes in the world as a result of eating a western diet.

    One would have thought that including them in the study may have been of some benefit and actually produced some significant results.

      • doctor, i have been on and off your diet for 20 years, and i am ashamed to say i just havent had the discipline to make it a lasting way of life. i am a food addict. period. i have just started hcg injections, and notice that aside from an apple or grapefruit daily that one may eat as part of a 500 calorie diet, the diet is basically yours. is hcg safe in your mind?

  5. I have a hunch that wagyu beef has significantly higher levels of omega 6 compared to regular beef. Wagyu beef is softer which indicates more polyunsaturated fats. When I eat wagyu beef, I get the same odd feeling that I get when I eat pork. My guess is that wagyu beef is about 12% omega 6 by calories.

  6. Hi Mike,
    I emailed Dr Gary Egger (one of the authors) and asked him. His response is below. As I suspected no Aboriginals.

    Hi Gary,
    I just wanted to know if any native Aboriginals were included in your preliminary study?
    Best Regards,
    Neil

    Hi Neil,

    That study was done with limited budget (i.e. mine) – so only limited numbers and not able to have an Indigenous group – would love to do so but we can’t even get the bigger study funded. What chance for this?

    Regards

    Garry

    Garry Egger AM MPH PhD
    Director, Centre for Health Promotion and Research, Sydney, Australia
    Professor; Lifestyle Medicine and Applied Health Promotion, Southern Cross University, Lismore NSW Australia
    14 Arthur St., FAIRLIGHT, NSW 2094
    ph 61 2 99777753 Mob 0408 643914
    eggergj@ozemail.com.au

    • Hey Neil–

      Thanks for the heads up on this. The paper didn’t really say, but I parsed one line of it that I thought indicated the subjects were indigenous Australians.

      The authors wrote:

      Kangaroo is part of a traditional Aboriginal diet in Australia.

      The context in which they wrote it made me think they had used Aboriginal people as subjects. Makes the study even more interesting since they didn’t. I wonder what the outcome would have been with the kangaroo meat had they studied Aboriginal subjects.

      The fact that Dr. Egger seems to have funded the study himself explains why it was done in such a bare bones way. I’m glad he stepped up and did it, though.

      MRE

  7. Besides the fat content of the meats, I would wonder how the kangaroos and wagyu were fed. The wagyu are usually fed a lot of grain from what I’ve gleaned. Personally I have pronounced skin reactions (and presumably lots of other inflammation) from grain-fed dairy and none from grass-fed summer milk. Fermentation and/or microbial decomposition (when it comes to meat) helps with digestibility. My chickens’ diet affects how I tolerate their eggs and farmed fish is very poor to digest compared to wild. I would suppose meat is not so much different, though I can’t tell because I don’t notice adverse reactions to store-bought meat on the occasion I get it.

  8. Carl has a good point about how the meat was fed.

    I’m curious about the potatoes and the peas. Surely neither of them were traditional foods for these people.

    • Good point Valerie! You beat me to it, but that’s ok. Both groups consumed 125 g of high carb veg, vs. 100g of high protein meat. Isn’t this contributing to all the findings?
      Jim

  9. Dr Eades, it’s good to see you blogging a bit more!

    I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but Shelly at Me and My Diabetes did an interview with a Dr Ron Krauss, and he talks about a study done, showing fatty red meat, with dairy, causing high inflammation, while lean meat did not; I eat a lot of red, fatty meat, and dairy, so I’m hoping there is something being missed in these studies 🙂

    Also, if fatty red meat is inflammatory, why do so many people report better health markers when low carbing?

    Anyway, this is where the Krauss interview takes place:

    http://www.meandmydiabetes.com/2012/04/17/ron-krauss-saturated-fat-red-meat-it-depends/

  10. Dr Eades I echo Daryl’s appreciation of more frequent blogs and articles.

    Some have already questioned the feed eaten by the cattle. If you were choosing, would you choose grass fed beef over other commercially prepared beef? Where I grew up feeder cattle were given the half rotten scraps from a local frozen food company and lots of antibiotics as they were crammed together in very unsanitary surroundings. So I concluded better to buy the beef without all of the non-traditional diet. Is this correct? What about organic? Does it make a difference?

    Thank you

    • I do choose grass-fed beef over feedlot whenever I have the chance, but when I do eat commercially raised beef, I don’t suffer any noticeable ill effects from it.

      I’m making an effort to post more, but it’s tough given my time constraints.

  11. Quick question, you mentioned Dr. Davis’ book Wheat Belly. I much prefer following your Protein Power book because I can eat 50g net carbs and lose wt this way, but it does allow me to have my Betty Lite bread, 11g carbs for 2 slices. PP also mentions having hamburger w 1/2 the bun, the bottom bun which I do also, and it’s working for me. But now I’m worried about the wheat. Do you still stand by PP and what’s contained in the book on how to do this diet? Thanks so much for a reply, I know you are very busy!!! I’ve been on prednisone for 2 months and this is only plan working for me to get weight off and also fits my lifestyle so doesn’t feel like a diet. Thanks again.

    • The Protein Power style diet is fine. If you’re wondering about the wheat, stop it for a while to see if it makes a difference in how you feel, wt loss, aches & pains, etc. If you see an improvement, you might want to think about ditching it for good. I went completely without for a month, then tried a little, and didn’t notice any problems. Nor did I feel markedly different during the month I was off. So wheat probably isn’t a big problem for me. But others have experienced huge changes for the positive, which is why I gave it a try. Sure does make the low-carb diet easier to follow when you just ditch the wheat in the diet.

      Here is an interesting blog post from a skeptic.

      • I went off for 3 wks but didnt see any diff in asthama, did notice bit less stuffy nose but not much else. I find just the opposite, I find your PP diet so easy to follow because you allow wheat, of course if stay at 50g carbs. Why do you think it’s easier to follow? Do you mean lack of hunger? I find that I get into ketosis at 50g and hunger decreases then. I know my mom is on wheat belly and has NO desire to even eat! I just find I can’t stay on it forever and therefore, keeping some wheat helps me stay on your plan.

      • I also worry that by cutting it completely, when add back in or get “wheated” without realizing it, maybe the reaction a person has will be magnified, esp in ppl who have allergies, asthma. So I’ve been keeping it in for this reason also.

  12. I agree with Stephan Guyenet that the dissimilar response can be explained by the difference in fat consumption. As I explained in my blog post on endotoxemia http://syontix.com/what-is-endotoxemia-and-why-you-should-care, the translocation of gram-negative bacteria and their lipopolysaccharide remnants (LPS) from the intestinal lumen to systemic circulation will always cause an increase in cytokine production and inflammation. As saturated fat, especially in the presence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), is known to increase bacterial translocation of gram-negative bacteria in animal studies, it shouldn’t be surprising this is the result.

    Without knowing the state of the gut flora and intestinal barrier function of these study participants, we really have no way of determining whether this response is universal or only relevant to these participants who may have had an undiagnosed case of SIBO. Gut dysbiosis is a condition that is exceedingly common in Western populations yet underrecognized by the medical community and researchers.

    But even if these results are relevant for everyone with or without SIBO, all components of cholesterol bind to and inactivate LPS which makes evolutionary sense as we’ve been eating saturated fat for thousands of years. Although I don’t doubt that this protective system has its limits especially in the presence of a diseased liver.

    I find this study less than illuminating in determining what dietary factors common to the Western diet are ultimately responsible for chronic endotoxemia caused by impaired gut flora. My number one, although by no means only culprit, is gluten for reasons detailed in my SIBO series.

  13. Just to be really irritating – it’s Arnhem Land, not Arnheim Land.

    Absolutely beautiful, untouched country, by the way. If you ever get the chance, I recommend visiting.

  14. I am confused. What is the problem with calories and fat? Haven’t the research and experience shown us that calories, eaten in the right form, do not really count for much?
    I was also under the impression that higher fat diets contribute to faster weight loss. Everything I’ve readdin Taubes/Atkins/Eades seem to back up this POV. I could write more, but I have to go for now. Please, someone elighten/correct me.

    • I don’t think anyone, including Taubes/Atkins/Eades, believes calories don’t matter because they do. The question is do the metabolic hormonal disturbances in people afflicted with carb intolerance drive people to consume too many calories. There is no question that a low-carb diet brings about significant weight loss in most people, but the controversy arises over whether this weight loss comes from a reduction in calories (for most people, going on a lwo-carb diet makes them spontaneously restrict their caloric intake) or from a change in levels of insulin and other metabolic hormones. Or is it a little of both?

  15. So much more information is needed for this study to have any weight for me. (I’m also a bit confused about why you’ve posted it doc – are we for protein or not?)

    For one thing, ‘wagyu beef’ is a bit vague. Not grass fed or organic?

    Kangaroo meat is always free-range and is game meat – there’s no farming it here in Australia. Not much fat in it – but what’s in that fat?

    What about the omegas in the Wagyu beef?

    From reading this blog (among others) I gather that the omega content of meat (and other foods) from animals is important to the inflammatory response in the human body.

    Ah well, it’s a good thing I’ve no traditional Australian landowner blood in me – I can’t bring myself to eat roo. My German/Irish/Spanish mongrel blood means I’ll stick to European traditional foods.

  16. Oh dear. High fat casung inflammation ? High protein casuing inflammation ? I’ve been eating a very low carb diet (under 50g carbs per day) for the past six years and I like protein foods a lot but my urea (BUN) level is always too high. So now I’ve discovered that I should probably be having more fat in my diet (coconut fat and fatty cuts of meat) and cut down on protein – realised that just a couple of weeks ago…and now I read your post Mike ! So what does a person on a low carb diet do to live ?

    • You are probably chronically dehydrated rather than consuming too much protein. I would bet that if you increase your water intake daily, you will find your BUN dropping back into the normal range.

      • I would guess I was having about 140g protein and I weigh 50kg – I thought I wasn’t dehydrated because I don’t ever feel thirsty…..ummm…I wonder. I can certainly drink more water. I’m finding it tricky eating enough fat as I need at least 2,000 cals per day so cutting down to about 75g protein (1.5g per kg bodyweight) with the 50g carbs is meaning practically eating fat on it’s own with a spoon and not very appetising and I get hungry !

        Btw – just had to tell you, my lipid profile has always been good since being on low carb – high total but high HDL and low trigs – and the latest one my HDL was 3.9 which in American is 150 !!

  17. Just wanted to say how grateful I am to be privvy to such insightful and interesting analysis from a smart thinker and talented writer as you, Dr. Eades. Keep up the good work!

  18. “I don’t think anyone, including Taubes/Atkins/Eades, believes calories don’t matter because they do.”
    This is not how I read Taubes in both ‘Good Calories-Bad Calories’ and ‘Why We Get Fat…’

    I am really trying to sort things out in my head, and I echo Anne’s sentiments about wondering what is left to eat. In my own experience, I know that I can eat a significant number of calories, 4,000, maybe 5,000, and still lose weight and feel great. If eat a calorie restricted diet, I feel terrible and weight loss takes much longer.

    • You can read a longer explanation of what I’m trying to say here in my review of Why We Get Fat.

      If more calories come in than go out, then a person will gain weight. But many things make up the calories out. The body can waste calories on low-carb diets by increasing volitional activity, by increasing NEAT, by increasing futile cycling within the cells, by increasing uncoupling across the inner mitochondrial membrane, and probably by other methods as well. These caloric losses make up for the increase caloric intake that some people have on low-carb diets.

      In your experience, you eat a lot of calories as fat, and you burn them. If you eat a high-carb, calorie-restricted diet, you run your insulin up, sequester the fat, and feel hungry.

      • Many of us have eaten calorie restricted diets, lost weight and kept it off. There are a lot of people in Brown’s NWCR and most of us do not use low carb diets. There’s plenty of obesity to treat and low carb is not necessarily the best way, and certainly not the only way, to treat it. While a statement like

        “If eat a calorie restricted diet, I feel terrible and weight loss takes much longer.”

        may be true for Andrew, it was not true for me.

  19. Regardless of what was causing the difference in inflammation, it would be nice if more studies like this were done. I can’t convince my partner that inflammation or any other symptom that he has has anything to do with dietary choices. It’s hard to watch him suffer and not be willing to even try anything for relief. I’m also tired of finding ice packs in bed.

  20. I think you’re right to call attention to the fact that Dr. Davis’s “mutant wheat” theory is an hypothesis and nothing more. I’m kind of a Lone Ranger, I know, but I’ve never been terribly convinced of his theory. For instance, I’m not sure there’s any more arthritis now than there was 60 years ago, when I knew several people who had significant arthritis. One person’s (Mr. Meeker’s) apparent miracle cure of arthritis after he eliminated wheat from his diet certainly isn’t proof that mutant wheat causes arthritis, as he seems to believe. I know that others have also claimed relief from arthritis or joint pain after discontinuing grains. I also know at least one person who’s been gluten free for over three years, whose arthritis hasn’t yet taken note of the fact.

    • As a long time reader of the Wheat Belly blog (as well as the book), I think that your statement that Dr. Davis claims mutant wheat causes disease is incorrect, except in the case of true gluten allergy/sensitivity. The claim is simply that the new hybridized strains of wheat cause a huge insult to human physiology, not that they are causative if all disease. If you read through the blog comments where Dr. Davis often responds, I think you would change your opinion of his claims.

      I have found that eliminating wheat and reducing carbohydrates has lessened symptoms of diseases that I suffer from (migraine and hypothyroid) and has made it easier to more effectively treat these diseases. I never got the impression from any of his writing that my diseases would be cured simply by eliminating wheat.

    • Dr. Don Colbert claims amylopectin A in wheat is responsible for the insulin surge when eating wheat products. I suppose this would go along with the wheat belly theory wouldn’t it?

    • Well, you can sit around and wait for proof. Or you can take the simple proactive step of giving up wheat for just one month and see if it makes a difference; if not, go back to the baguettes.

      The beauty of this is that it can cause no harm (aside from social difficulties). And, if you do give up the wheat, you may want to go on to reducing other grains. There is only health benefit, possibly, and very little downside.

      I’ve been VLC for two years now. It used to be hard at parties and stuff, and restaurants. Now it’s not a big deal. All the restaurants I’ve been in are more than happy to substitute another veggie for the rice, or to bring the sandwich filling on a bed of lettuce instead of bread.

  21. @Marilyn….it’s not just about eliminating wheat from the diet, it’s about healing your digestive system from all the damage wheat has done to it. It could just be that your friend is very badly damaged from wheat and needs longer to heal. It doesn’t happen overnight and is helped greatly by not eating things like “vegetable” oils and processed foods.

  22. @ Lizzy. Thanks for your reply. I guess I’m looking askance at two things: 1) the theory that all these problems can be caused by “mutant wheat” — a theory that I personally feel is full of … well … soybeans, and 2) the idea that avoiding “mutant wheat” is going to cause someone’s arthritis to just disappear. Arthritis is like a lot of other ailments. Some people’s lives are taken over by the non-stop pain and disability. Other people get a bit of arthritis here and there, which hangs around for a while and then disappears — often leaving a lumpy-looking joint as a reminder, but no further disability or pain. Arthritis can get rolling because of trauma or stress to joints. Mr. Meeker stopped doing what he was doing, because his joint pain made things difficult. Was it the mutant-wheat avoidance that fixed his problem, or resting the affected joints?

    • Marilyn,
      I am another one of those people who has found massive relief from severe joint pain by avoiding wheat and grains (as well as headaches, migraine, IBS, excess weight etc.) For me, it was mainly in my knees, hips and sometimes shoulders. I can say from personal experience that the joint pain I had developed in the past 10 years (I’m 43) had been getting progressively worse to the point that 5 years ago, I changed jobs from painting murals to going back to school to get a different degree because the constant pain was too much for such a physical job. Changing occupations did NOT lesson my pain on a day to day basis, and I often woke up in the morning, dreading my feet hitting the floor and each step down the stairs. Or the pain from arising from a seated position after being there for more than a few minutes. I took handfuls of ibuprofen to deal with the daily headaches and joint pain for many years.

      This spring I decided to try going wheat-free, and within a WEEK that pain was lessened by at least 80%. A week! It’s been more than 6 months wheat free (and grain and sugar free) and the pain is now a very rare occurrence, and at a very low level when it does happen. I’ve lost 27 lbs as well. However the weight loss cannot explain the pain disappearing because the inflammation and pain was gone before I even dropped a pound. Changing activities didn’t work either… the only thing that changed was my consumption of toxic and inflammatory grains. I know MANY other people *personally* who have experienced this same phenomenon! Also, I stopped eating wheat in an attempt to help my IBS, I had NO idea that I would experience the disappearance of joint pain, so it wasn’t that I just summoned it up with my mind!

      I don’t believe that the arthritis is “healed” but what I do believe is that it is no longer being exacerbated by extreme inflammation due to toxic foods! My brother experienced something similar, where an old knee injury that has bothered him continually for about 10 years just stopped bothering him on the majority of days (it actually took him awhile to notice, because the pain just quietly slipped away), unless he actually physically stressed it. The injury remains, but the pain is now just from the underlying cause, instead of being amped up and intensified by inflammation.

      You do not need to believe that this is true, but there are literally thousands of people who are experiencing a whole new level of health and lack of pain in their day-to-day lives that KNOW it is truth. Please try to have an open mind about this, because it gives such relief to many people, that there has to be something to it. I even started a blog where I write articles occasionally and give people recipes and suggestions on how to eat this way to make it easier for those who may struggle with the change, or just want new ideas. It’s something I believe in so whole-heartedly that I spend some time out of each day towards educating people about the benefits, and there are many, many others like me who are doing the same thing. Professionals like Dr. Eades and Dr. Davis are changing peoples’ lives, and literally making the world a better place by sharing what they know in articles like this. I am eternally thankful!
      ~Gretchen

      • I am not diagnosed with arthritis but for the last few years have experienced pain in my foot and knee joints. I had accepted it was just old age (54) and the high heels i prefer to wear, but while reading this i realized the timing of this pain coincides with my departure from a grain free lifestyle. I’ve been sugar free for 15 years but let those grains creep back into my life a few years ago when my husband was ill and have struggled to get back to grain free since. Your post is just another incentive to be diligent with my return to a low carb life. Thank you for this post and bring on the 4″ heels!

  23. @ Gretchen. I’m glad you found relief. But the fact remains that arthritis can disappear as mysteriously as it comes on, for wheat-eaters and non-wheat-eaters alike. As for “…there are literally thousands of people who are experiencing a whole new level of health and lack of pain in their day-to-day lives. . .,” do you know that for a fact? Is that information documented anywhere?

    • @ Marilyn, If you would like to see thousands of people talking excitedly about their near instant relief from arthritis (among MANY other things), visit the Wheat Belly page on Facebook for ongoing accounts of what is currently happening in peoples’ lives, not in laboratories where the studies are funded by special interest groups. Not everything TRUE is a documented study… and since when did people stop learning from personal experience and that of others, and instead trust the word only when a team in white lab coats (who have something to gain) supplied the information? Tell me what these day-to-day average people have to gain by sharing their stories? If they suffered all of their lives in some cases, why would they make this up? Are they receiving monetary compensation lol? No, they are spreading the word because they have found an answer and want others to experience renewed health that doesn’t involve pharmaceuticals.

      When it happens again, and again, and again, it stops being coincidence. Yes, it is documented, from friend to friend and person to person… who I happen to trust a lot more than “studies” that are backed by Big Food or Big Pharma.

      Arthritis didn’t disappear, it stopped being inflamed by a toxic food. You don’t have to believe it, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

      • Exactly! You can ignore it or choose not to believe it, but no one will convince me that giving up grains isn’t the best thing I’ve ever done for my health. The first thing I noticed was that I started sleeping really well at night when I had been battling ever-increasing insomnia as I aged. The body aches and pains that were also increasing just disappeared. It used to take me a few minutes to actually stand completely upright after getting out of bed in the morning or getting out of a car after riding for a couple of hours. Now I just stand right up with no stiffness or pain. The other health improvement that I noticed was that the wild mood swings (including depression and anxiety) that I had experienced all of my life have just gone away. My husband’s reflux disappeared in days. He had previously been addicted to Zantac…couldn’t eat anything without it. I am just shocked at how many people with health problems are unwilling to even TRY it. I guess we’re all different…

  24. I am interested in hearing your opinion about the “Devil in the Milk” theory that milk from certain types of cows contains a protein chain which is unstable and problematic.

    Also, I was never diagnosed with IBS, but certainly had my share of embarrassing problems with sudden loose stools. Since giving up wheat the problems are gone.

    In the “cure” you talk about a test to determine if a body is taking up iodine. I have a lower-tech (and MUCH cheaper) way to determine that: buy a small bottle of iodine from the drug store – the kind our mothers used to put on our cuts when we were children – dab a spot about the size of a dime somewhere on your skin and watch to see how long it takes to disappear. If it disappears completely within about 24 hours, apply another spot. Keep doing this until the stain remains visible on your skin for a day. Then you know your body has enough iodine and is not absorbing it.

    • I’ve never heard of the “Devil in the Milk” theory, but I can only assume it refers to A1 beta-casein, a protein in milk thought to be contributory to heart disease. The other protein, A2 beta-casein, so the theory goes, isn’t an agent that drives heart disease. This idea is controversial, and, as far as I know, hasn’t been scientifically settled.

      The iodine test you’ve described is one I’ve never heard of. I would like to see a little more corroborative evidence before I would rely on such a test.

      • I refer to the book “The Devil in the Milk” by Dr. Thomas Cowan.

        Six of seven adult siblings on my Mother’s side, including my mother, developed over-active thyroid disease. Her youngest sister did not. Both of my sisters and many cousins also developed the disease, and I have not.

        My mothers’s youngest sister was a nun living in Puerto Rico most of her adult life, eating plenty of fresh seafood. I have used the iodine test I mentioned for many years. Could be a connection there. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a few $.99 bottles of iodine could prevent such a serious disease from developing?

  25. In addition to making the meals isocaloric, it would be nice to drop the potatoes and peas, as I’d expect them – especially the peas – to have a bigger effect than the meat.

  26. I’d want to know what the meat animals ate. Grass- or grain-fed? It’s known that grain-fed beef is higher in inflammatory omega-6. Someday more testing might tease out the differences.

  27. I am an obese 60 year old currently having good weight loss success with the Paleo lifestyle. But more related to this inflammation issue, I have severe issues with my lumbar spine that the surgeons want to treat with 3-level fusions etc. My strategy to reduce my reliance on narcotic pain relievers has been core strengthening (I have read every book in print on how to do this with back issues), and weight loss. I really do not want the integrity of my back “improved” by surgery.
    Inflammation is a cause of the 24/7 chronic searing pain I experience, and the mechanism for the transfer of these unpleasant messages to my brain involves a complicated system of onsite message proteins.
    I have been dairy free and grain free for two weeks and I have had a corresponding reduction in lower back pain. I am sufficiently self aware enough to make the direct link. (My six month journey to reduce the twist on my spine by 40 pounds has been low glycemic, Atkins, low carb, and finally Paleo-but that is another pile of books from Amazon.com)
    Yes, the low carb approach got much of the weight off, but I feel so much better with no dairy, grains or legumes. Internally I feel a “calm” that is hard to describe, and I know it sounds foolish to attribute a drastic psychological mood elevation to Paleo, but I do.
    I am convinced that our bodies possess tremendous healing power when not hampered by toxic foods produced by a system that makes pretty packages to sell for profit no matter the consequence to the health of the consumer. But that is a rant, I just wanted to let you know I enjoy reading the website, and that this information regarding inflammation is spot on.

    • Hey DanR,
      It doesn’t seem foolish at ALL to attribute psychological effects ({snicker} or affects…) (Never mind, it’s a psychologist joke) to diet. We nutty humans seem to forget that our BRAINS are physiological tissue too! Changing our ‘fuel’ and getting the sludge (!) out of the system that powers our “Selves” will of course change how we think and feel!

      Please go back to Amazon and get Julia Ross’s two books: “The Mood Cure” and “The Diet Cure.” She’s spot-on. There are also some excellent podcasts with her out on the interwebs for your more-immediate pleasure.

      I also recommend a read of several of Richard Nikoley’s blog posts. (Warning: He swears like a … well, a something bad … but he’s intelligent and a good writer and self-experimenter). He did a good write-up (over time) of his (weight-lifting) injury and the healing modalities he used. Search (sequentially) for: “Lost Mojo” and “Pain in the Neck!” and “Can Your Mind Really Heal Your Back” and see if you can’t pick up some help there too!

      • Thank you Elenor, for sending me in the direction of Julia Ross. I am currently working through all of the information on the website. I am impressed with the concept of targeting specific amino acids to supplement with. My back problems are structurally very serious. I will not detail them here, but my MRI details exceed many who have full disability (my brother in law, and others that I have corresponded to on forums)
        I am very dedicated to strict adherence. I find no need to use cheat days or faux recipes.
        Otherwise, it might be me next in a wheel chair-my poor spine cannot take the weight. I am active though: swimming, walking, just being active in whatever I do-you never know, today might be my last with such freedom, so I savor what I do.
        I do not tweak my diet day to day. Right now I am strict Paleo, 100-125g protein, 20-30g carb, 2200-3000 Kcal.
        I do not have mood swings or battle appetite.
        Thanks again for the info, it helps!

    • Oh hey! Also go search YouTube for Esther Gokhale’s talk at Authors@Google. I’ve found her discussion of posture and movement to be astounding at relieving back pain and leading towards health! My lower back pain has diminished substantially and her stuff is easy to do, not difficult and complicated. (I recommend the heck out of her book too!)
      (I’m 56 and still fat, so I sympathize with the hardship(s) you’ve put your back through…)

  28. Doesn’t lowering your heart beat lead to less breathing? And if that is the case then you can go into a regimen,excercise, to lower it. Just wondering.

  29. Dear Dr. Eades,
    I am also interested in how to reduce inflammation with foods. I found a website, nutritionaldata.self.com, that rates various foods for the inflammatory or anti-inflammatory qualities. I was impressed with the high anti-inflammatory rating for flax seed (at 823, when 50 and above is considered the typical target). I thought, wow, if I eat this food it will guarantee to reduce any inflammation in my body. Of course, I don’t know how much that I may have since my HMO doctor says they only order the C-reactive protein test for a few select people with low cholesteral and heart disease.

    Then I found a study done by the Standford Nutrition Studies program,”Potential Health Benefits of Plant vs. Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acids”, which concludes that things like fatty fish or flax seed did not find “decreases in blood concentrations of three inflammatory markers (IL-6, sICAM-1 and MCP-1)”
    http://nutrition.stanford.edu/projects/omega.html

    “Common sense” indicated that flax meal would lower any inflammation but that doesn’t seem to hold true, although it is good for fiber and fat and for that reason alone I will continue its use.

    There was another study, “The Fish Oil and Triglycerides Study” that found that fish oil supplements” did lower triglycerides.
    http://nutrition.stanford.edu/projects/fishOil.html

    Stanford is continuously doing nutritional studies and they have quite a few more of interest to all of us. Only careful studies using a strict scientific method will sort all this out. There is much to be discovered about “good” nutrition.

    Now for the anecdotal. I lowered my carbohydrates five months ago and have never felt better. My weight has been corrected, I don’t feel the need to snack, my blood work is great, my blood pressure is slowly getting back to normal and my energy level is high. I am interested in any scientific studies on nutrition which may offer guidance on how to improve on my diet.
    Thank you for your blog and appearing on “Fat Head”.

  30. Would eating smaller number (say 2) of larger meals be the way to go to reduce inflammation from food while keeping the necessary caloric content? Like intermittent fasting?

  31. There is a study out on an ancient grain with a different make up of gluten, which is not harmful to those with celiac and are sensitive to the aberrant hybridized wheat and gluten we have been accustomed to, which is apparently causing all the health issues. The wheat is Einkorn. Studies show it is much more nutrient dense and has a much better health profile that the regular wheat. I found a source to buy from and plan to do some baking with it, although because of the difference in gluten, it is a tad harder to get to rise. There are ways around this for a clever baker. When I have baked I use a Romerkoph clay baker and it makes the best bread ever. Please don’t throw stones at me, I am presently gluten free but looking at other options to encourage growers and consumers alike, to change their habits. I believe ancient tribal people didn’t have such problems with their bread because they were baking with a totally different type wheat. The kind that was found in the digestive track of the “Ice man” that was found. Einkorn.com for more info.

    • If the old wheat isn’t a health problem then why was it a health problem for the people about whom Dr. E wrote in his article BOOKS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE? Studies show after the introduction of agriculture ancient people had inflammation and arthritis, and lots of other maladies that aren’t seen in earlier people who’ve been studied.

  32. Dr. Eades,

    Here’s another couple of articles on inflammation study through dark field microscopy I hope you’ll find interesting. Different markers and different foods.

    mreades: “What it does provide is a nice foundation for this research group or another to do a more in-depth evaluation.”

    The Weston A. Price Foundation has expressed it’s will to create a laboratory to do this type of work as part of an overall focus on traditional diets that have historically maintained vibrant health and well-being. However, the foundation is supported by members only and due to lack of funding is presently unable to fund such an endeavor.

    Given the machinery that the food/drug complex has established to provide for it’s interests only, the only hope for such an endeavor is for it to be funded by those whose best interests would by served by it….that would be us.

    Time and again after reading countless research papers I’ve found at the end “more research needs to be done”. Yet very little is done in these important areas when considering the hundreds of billions that have been spent on research.

    Perhaps you could be supportive of this endeavor among your network of colleagues and contemporaries to such an extent that there is a wide-spread will to have it done.

    Thank you for such a great blog. Again, I hope you find the above articles on the subject of inflammation of interest.

    Truly,
    Kyle

  33. 60 years ago in the US the consumption of sugar per-person per year jumped. Sugar’s is one of the substances we eat that causes inflammation, and causes it to be worse.

  34. Food can’t prevent or cure joint pain, but certain nutrients not only enhance muscle and bone strength, they also take a bite out of joint pain. Fill your plate with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, pain-fighting polyphenols, and vitamins C, K, and D.

  35. I also would like to see more studies, including the use of both CAFO and grass-fed meats red meats and poultry. I would also like to see how carbohydrate feedings compare to fat and protein. I see many diets and foods promoted as anti-inflammatory, but precious little evidence that backs up the claims. I would like to minimize OA symptoms through food choices as much as possible, but I do not want to unnecessarily restrict foods. More studies in this vein would help me make better informed decisions.

  36. What were they feeding the wagyu beef. Was it grains and soy or was it pastured fed. Would the different nutritional profiles of pastured vs grain fed effect the amount of inflammation?