Humans: Herbivores, Carnivores Or Omnivores?

herbivore

carnivoreomnivore“A fair look at the evidence shows that humans are optimized for eating mostly or exclusively plant foods, according to the best evidence: our bodies.”  This quote is the lead-in to an article I ran across on Monday, shortly after I blogged about the paleo diet falling short of sound nutritional basis because it promoted the consumption of meat.  In this extensive article by Michael Bluejay, he cites medical, scientific, anthropological and anatomical experts in making an overwhelming case that we humans were put on this planet to eat primarily plant-based food.  He also provides an interesting psychological examination of why so many people desperately hang on to the contrary view, despite the overwhelming, credible evidence.  The chart below is his summary of just the anatomical evidence supporting the fact we should be plant eaters.  You can read his entire article here.

Humans are biologically herbivorous

Carnivores

Omnivores

Herbivores

Humans

Facial muscles

Reduced to allow wide mouth gape

Reduced

Well-developed

Well-developed

Jaw type

Angle not expanded

Angle not expanded

Expanded angle

Expanded angle

Jaw joint location

On same plane as molar teeth

On same plane as molar teeth

Above the plane of the molars

Above the plane of the molars

Jaw motion

Shearing; minimal side-to-side motion

Shearing; minimal side-to-side motion

No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back

No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back

Major jaw muscles

Temporalis

Temporalis

Masseter and ptergoids

Masseter and pterygoids

Mouth opening vs. head size

Large

Large

Small

Small

Teeth: Incisors

Short and pointed

Short and pointed

Broad, flattened and spade-shaped

Broad, flattened and spade-shaped

Teeth: Canines

Long, sharp, and curved

Long, sharp and curved

Dull and short or long (for defense), or none

Short and blunted

Teeth: Molars

Sharp, jagged and blade-shaped

Sharp blades and/or flattened

Flattened with cusps vs. complex surface

Flattened with nodular cusps

Chewing

None; swallows food whole

Swallows food whole and/or simple crushing

Extensive chewing necessary

Extensive chewing necessary

Saliva

No digestive enzymes

No digestive enzymes

Carbohydrate digesting enzymes

Carbohydrate digesting enzymes

Stomach type

Simple

Simple

Simple or multiple chambers

Simple

Stomach acidity with food in stomach

≤ pH 1

≤ pH 1

pH 4-5

pH 4-5

Length of small intestine

3-6 times body length

4-6 times body length

10-12+ times body length

10-11 times body length*

Colon

Simple, short, and smooth

Simple, short, and smooth

Long, complex; may be sacculated

Long, sacculated

Liver

Can detoxify vitamin A

Can detoxify vitamin A

Cannot detoxify vitamin A

Cannot detoxify vitamin A

Kidney

Extremely concentrated urine

Extremely concentrated urine

Moderately concentrated urine

Moderately concentrated urine

Nails

Sharp claws

Sharp claws

Flattened nails or blunt hooves

Flattened nails

From The Comparative Anatomy of Eating, by Milton R. Mills, M.D. * “Body length” measured from neck to anus, as with the other animals

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Paleo Diet: Stupid?

cavemenI seem to be running into more and more people talking about the “paleo diet”, which is usually a serendipitous signal for me to write something about it.  Wikipedia’s definition:

“The paleolithic diet (abbreviated paleo diet or paleodiet), also popularly referred to as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet, is a modern nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various hominid species habitually consumed during the Paleolithic era—a period of about 2.5 million years which ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture and grain-based diets.”

Having now looked into it, my personal reaction is that this lifestyle or diet plan, taken as a whole, is just plain “stupid”.  The paleo diet takes sound, modern day science and clinical data on the one hand and condemns processed food, but then totally ignores it on the other hand when recommending meat as part of the diet.  The faulty overriding premise of the paleo diet is the myopic look at ancestral eating, which was instinctual and solely for the continuation of the species, basically just surviving long enough to reproduce.  One of the most impressive physiological traits of we humans is our ability to eat just about anything for survival, thus characterizing us as “omnivores”.  However, just because we can eat almost anything to make it to procreation doesn’t mean we should eat anything.  As evolved, intelligent human beings living in an age of science and technology, making it to puberty is a piece of cake (?).  Our primary focus now is on longevity and quality of life.  The cavemen never made it to the point where the long-term effects of certain foods manifested in the debilitating chronic diseases modern day humans now face like heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes.

cavemen2There was recently an international consortium of anthropologists, archaeologists and molecular biologists gathered in Germany for two days to examine the topic of the paleo diet and in a rare professional consensus, they expressed an “exasperated sigh” over its popularity.  Richard Wenkel, a biostatistician who chaired the panel, explained: “As long as the diet of an individual keeps them alive long enough to successfully mate, then that diet has conferred an evolutionary advantage.”  He refereneced the example of a British girl who survived 18 years on nothing but chicken nuggets.  From an anthropological, species-survival perspective the diet was effective, but it does not address the myriad health issues she will likely encounter for the rest of her nugget-induced, limited lifespan.

Dr. Britta Hoyes, who organized the event, was asked what she would tell people who wished to pursue a true paleolithic diet.  Her response was laughingly “You really want to be paleo? Then don’t buy anything from a store. Gather and kill what you need to eat. Wild grasses and tubers, acorns, gophers, crickets, they all provide a lot of nutrition. You’ll spend a lot of energy gathering the stuff, of course, and you’re going to be hungry, but that’ll help you maintain that lean physique you’re after. And hunting down the neighbor’s cats for dinner because you’ve already eaten your way through the local squirrel population will probably give you all the exercise you’ll ever need.”

In my opinion, the paleo diet is just another inconsistent fad lacking strong clinical and expert support.  There are components of it that utilize the modern, growing data base of nutrition’s impact on health, but others that seem to totally ignore the facts.  Also, how many other things do you do today just because it’s the way our ancestors did it 10,000 years ago?  In short, to build a sound, informed nutritional plan around cavemen is ridiculous.

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It’s In Our Genes!

Most of you know I like to have a little fun on Fridays.  I was going through some very old albums and came up with some cute pictures of Krienke, Lang and me that I thought you’d enjoy………….boys will be boys!!

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Even Doctors Are Getting It

Forks Over KnivesFrom time to time, I have included here the testimonies of people whose health has been dramatically improved by following the advice found in the film “Forks Over Knives“.  The consistency in these stories of dramatic, seemingly effortless weight-loss, improved mood and mental function and the elimination of prescription drugs for diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, is compelling.  The following is another powerful testimony to the life-altering effect of the film, but in this case, it comes from the director of prevention and wellness at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis!  If a trained and respected member of the medical community can have his eyes opened to the true path to “prevention and wellness” by watching “Forks Over Knives“, don’t you think you owe to yourself and to those for whom you care to do the same?

Forks Over Knives Changed My Health and How I Treat My Patients

JamesLoomis 570x299 Forks Over Knives Changed My Health and How I Treat My PatientsThe discovery of whole-food, plant-based eating has transformed the way I think about health, both personally and professionally, all thanks to Forks Over Knives.

As the director of prevention and wellness at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis, I had always considered myself knowledgeable about the importance of diet and exercise, tried to eat “healthy,” tried to stay active, and counseled my patients to do the same. My “healthy” diet centered on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meat, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains (although I wasn’t averse to an occasional bowl of ice cream!).

In the fall of 2010, I sustained a knee injury that required surgery and didn’t do a very good job with post-op rehab. The resulting decline in physical activity led to weight gain. In July 2011, I had a physical, which showed, much to my surprise, elevated cholesterol, borderline high blood sugar, and borderline high blood pressure. My primary care physician talked about putting me on cholesterol-lowering medication, but I was reluctant.

A short time later, I chanced across Forks Over Knives while browsing Netflix one night. After watching the film and reviewing the medical literature regarding the health benefits of plant-based diets, I realized that it would be unconscionable for me to not to try a whole-food plant-based diet for three months and then answer three questions: 1) How hard was it to shop, prepare meals, eat out, etc.? 2) How did it affect my energy level and mood? 3) At the end of three months, how did it affect my numbers (weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol)? At the same time, I began to rehab my knee so I could begin exercising again.

At the end of three months, the results were nothing short of miraculous. I found that shopping for and preparing healthy, complete, flavorful meals was not nearly as difficult as I had anticipated. Eating out was more of a challenge, but many restaurants were more than willing to prepare a plant-based meal with advance notice. More amazing were the mental and physical changes that occurred. My mood and energy markedly improved—no more sugar lows mid-morning and mid-afternoon! Also, with a minimal change in physical activity (as I was just completing my knee rehab), I lost 25 pounds, my cholesterol dropped from 240 to 150, and my blood sugars and blood pressure dropped significantly and were now in the normal range.

Since then, as I have added more exercise and continued following a whole-food, plant-based diet, I have lost almost 60 pounds total, have completed five half-marathons and four triathlons, and will soon compete in my first half-Ironman.

As I have a shared this message regarding the power of whole-plant-based eating with my patients, those who have embraced it have had the same astounding results that I had, oftentimes being able to stop the medications they were taking for diabetes, cholesterol, or high blood pressure. It is now clear to me that almost every chronic disease I was trained to treat (often with the help of prescription medication) is directly or indirectly related to living a lifestyle discordant with the one we are designed to lead—we eat things we are not designed to eat, we don’t eat things we are designed to eat, we don’t get enough physical activity, and we deal with stress in ways we were not designed to. This discordant lifestyle has profound effects on the health of our society as well as the health of our planet, and a whole-food, plant-based diet can play a transformational role in improving both.

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Curing Osteoarthritis

osteoarthritisI have a very dear friend who has recently been suffering from what doctors believe to be a localized flare-up of osteoarthritis.  The pain in her foot has become so intense it has substantially altered her ability to function normally and even walking has become an excruciating experience.  Having suffered with osteoarthritis in my knees before bilateral knee-replacement surgery, I can relate to the impact constant pain can have on your ability to enjoy everyday life and withstand depression, although I never experienced pain this intense.

Armed with a relatively new understanding and respect for the power nutrition can have in both preventing and treating chronic diseases, I set out to examine the evidence available for the effective treatment of osteoarthritis through diet.  I ran across a quote from a patient whose words mirrored my friend’s experience; ” I started getting a lot of pain in my right wrist, and no one knew why. I had been to eight doctors, and I thought that there was no hope for me. I had an MRI, many X-rays and a bone scan to try to find out what was wrong.”   This patient ended up on drugs like Methotrexate®, Oraval®, Voltarin® and others; “each drug had a different side effect and I still wasn’t getting better.”   She then discovered Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of #1 NY Times best-selling book, Eat to Live and a specialist in nutritional medicine  and “in just a few short months, Dr. Fuhrman eliminated the pain in my wrist.”

footx-rayHow?  Dr. Fuhrman believes “osteoarthritis is a disease that can be prevented and helped via nutritional excellence.”  He has clinically demonstrated that “dietary modifications and the judicious use of appropriate nutritional supplements can eliminate pain and induce a remission in those with osteoarthritis.”  The bottom line is, once again, a plant-based diet supplemented by vitamins and minerals shown to be particularly effective in treating the symptoms of osteoarthritis.  Aside from obviously avoiding all animal products, here’s a list of foods and supplements that will substantially reduce and potentially eliminate the ravages of osteoarthritis:

It is interesting to note that Dr. Fuhrman believes arthitis is not caused by aging, but rather the cumulative effect of years and years consuming an unhealthy diet.  Making significant changes now can halt and even reverse the effects of long-term nutritional abuse.

God bless

Dr. Greger’s Annual Recap

no doctors' visitsIt’s here!  Take the one hour necessary to watch this eye-opening, pragmatic, even life-changing presentation by Dr. Michael Greger of NutritionFacts.org.  Last year, he examined the top 16 killers in our country and gave an insightful look at the clinically proven impact nutrition has on each one.  This year, he examines the top reasons people visit their doctor and, once again, offers the most current clinical research data pointing to low or no-cost, natural ways to prevent, treat and, in some cases, cure the myriad reasons people seek out their doctors.

Get some place where you will not be disturbed, grab a pad and pen to take notes and I guarantee you will come away with an effective strategy that will address at least one of your own personal health issues.  His delivery is engaging, often humorous, fact-based and should be shared among the people for whom you care.  Enjoy!

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Fish Oil Scare

nofish1At the end of last week, NBC News ran with a story that has sent shock waves through the nutrition world.  Once thought to be a pillar of the optimal diet, fish oil came under attack for raising the prospect of prostate cancer among men.  As you probably know, fish oil is “a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are marketed to reduce the risk of just about everything from heart disease to Alzheimer’s.”  Admitting that the findings were “startling”, NBC pointed out that the study, covered in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute,  demonstrated that “Men with the very highest levels had a 71 percent higher risk of high-grade prostate cancer—the kind most likely to spread and kill.”  Theodore Brasky of Ohio State University Medical Center, who worked on the study with a team from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle was quoted as saying, “A 70 percent increased risk in high-grade prostate cancer, given it’s the No. 1 cancer in men and fish is a commonly consumed thing and is thought to be a healthy food, I think it’d be a concern for people.”  The kicker for me was that the researchers went on to say, “The difference between the group with the highest levels of omega-3s in their blood and those with the lowest works out to about what someone would get by eating salmon twice a week.”  So much for moderation!

nofishoilFortunately, for those of you who follow this blog and heeded the advice given in “Omega-3’s: The Best Source“, these findings have no impact on you whatsoever.  Even the NBC report made it clear that the cancer-producing effects came only from “the kinds found in fish, but not in vegetable sources“.  The researchers point out that, “Fatty acids found in vegetable oils, flaxseeds and other vegetable sources—including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)–did not affect prostate cancer risk”.

We humans don’t make our own omega-3 fatty acids, nor do fish!  If you want the benefits that come with getting the appropriate amount of these essential nutritional ingredients, cut out fish as the dangerous middleman and go directly to the same safe and effective source they do, as explained in “Omega-3’s: The Best Source“.

God bless.

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