[0:01:16] Thoughts About this Podcast
[0:06:51] My Bastardized Version of a Carnivore Diet
[0:09:13] Podcast Sponsors
[0:12:35] Hearing About the Carnivore Diet and Paul Saladino
[0:17:19] Why Paul Is A Raving Fan of Salmon Roe
[0:20:51] Why Paul Doesn’t Consume Black Pepper
[0:26:08] Antioxidant Pathways
[0:30:56] Why Paul Refused A Cup of Kion Coffee
[0:35:24] Plant-Eating, Too Much Can Be Harmful
[0:40:37] Why would humans be different than animals in terms of our evolutionary capability to be able to eat plants?
[0:43:20] Podcast Sponsors
[0:46:33] Storage Organs in Plants That Result in Larger Brains and Smaller Guts
[0:50:52] “Survival Food”
[0:53:30] Broad Overview of What A Carnivore Diet
[1:02:51] Do you need plants to consume adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals?
[1:06:39] Fiber on A Carnivore Diet
[1:13:50] Why I’m Hesitant to Embrace A Full-On Carnivore Diet
[1:23:27] The Carnivore Diet and Longevity
[1:28:43] Carnivore Vs. Ketosis
[1:37:53] The Carnivore Diet and Amino Intake
[1:40:59] Concern About Constant Activation of mTOR On the Carnivore Diet
[1:45:30] More on The Ethics/Sustainability of The Carnivore Diet
[1:54:50] Closing the Podcast
[1:55:53] End of Podcast
Paul: But still what you’re saying is even if we can ferment and soak and sprout, which I think we should do if we’ve got a choice between a ribeye steak or a plate of soaked and sprouted quinoa, fermented sourdough bread, a nice sweet potato, the latter would still be traditionally a plate full of survival food. Even though we’ve rendered it digestible, you’re saying, “Why not just eat the meat? That’s way easier.”
Ben: I have a master’s degree in physiology, biomechanics, and human nutrition. I’ve spent the past two decades competing in some of the most masochistic events on the planet from SEALFit Kokoro, Spartan Agoge, and the world’s toughest mudder, the 13 Ironman triathlons, brutal bow hunts, adventure races, spearfishing, plant foraging, free diving, bodybuilding and beyond. I combine this intense time in the trenches with a blend of ancestral wisdom and modern science, search the globe for the world’s top experts in performance, fat loss, recovery, hormones, brain, beauty, and brawn to deliver you this podcast. Everything you need to know to live an adventurous, joyful, and fulfilling life. My name is Ben Greenfield. Enjoy the ride.
Alright. This is it, and I’m excited. What you are about to hear is probably one of the most comprehensive podcasts I’ve ever recorded on diets, and particularly, the carnivorous diet, also known as the carnivore diet. I don’t know. Is it carnivore? Is it carnivorous? Who knows? I think it’s carnivore. But either way, my guest on today’s show, Dr. Paul Saladino, I guarantee is going to blow your mind. Now, here’s the deal. You’re probably going to be asking about my final thoughts, which I get into towards the end of this episode.
But I also want to comment going in without giving you too much bias as you listen in what my takeaway thoughts are and my own dietary approach is after speaking with Paul comprehensively, both during this show and after and before, and also delving into a lot of the research studies that he sent over to me along with his YouTube videos. All of which I’m going to put a ton of resources. I mean, you guys can take a deepest dive as you wanted to, everything from curcumin to piperine to plant pepticides, if I can talk, plant pesticides, to fiber, to ketones, everything that we talk about in this show. I’ve got a lot of research. That’s all going to be over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/carnivore.
But anyways, after reviewing all of that, my approach–because even my kids were asking last night as I was eating a ribeye steak and they were eating a tuna melt on sourdough bread with a spinach salad that mom had made while watching dad eat something completely separately or separate. They asked me if this was the new diet, and I told them what I’ll tell you. First of all, I think that everything should be practiced in moderation, including the consumption of meat and plant-based foods. Yes, plant-based foods have built-in defense mechanisms. Yes, as you’ll discover during this episode, plant-based foods may not even be biologically or physiologically necessary.
I’m still convinced though that because we’ve adopted those foods over thousands of years, they’ve become integrated into our culture as traditional staples built around things like enjoyment and sitting around the dinner table eating the foods that perhaps your Okinawan or Sardinian or Nicoyan or Northern European ancestors might have eaten like fermented foods and salads and seeds and nut butters and all manner of things that are indeed plants with built-in defense mechanisms.
The idea of including these does provide for some enjoyment and some amount of tradition, including the cup of coffee in the morning and the glass of alcohol in the evening, which I will still continue to do. I enjoy it. But I do think that everything should be consumed in moderation, and furthermore, I think that there are some people that will benefit quite a bit from reducing all plant-based foods including beverages derived from plant-based foods for certain periods of time in the form of an elimination or an autoimmune-based diet.
In addition, the fact that even though we can survive solely on meat, and I think we can, especially meat-eating nose-to-tail as we get into in this interview, the plants that were developed over a period of time, survival foods, as Paul calls them during the show, have been foods that have developed along with the Agricultural Revolution, and the massive increase in the world’s population or the Earth’s population as a whole. And as we talked about during this interview, I’m also not convinced that based on that, just eating meat is sustainable any longer, like we’ve painted ourselves into the corners as a human race to rely upon plant foods to be able to feed the global population. And I think that an omnivorous diet for most folks allows that to happen.
We also need to consider the fact–I know many of you listening in, you’re athletes, right, and you’re out there doing unnatural activities like big long Spartan races and daily CrossFit workouts and training for Ironman. Well, here’s the news for you. If you’re out doing something highly unnatural from an ancestral standpoint, especially from a glycogen exhaustion storage, carbohydrate exhaustion standpoint, you may need to introduce some things that some would argue would be unnatural, like carbohydrate refeeds and the consumption of starches and some amount of sugars that would go over and above what you might get on a ketotic or a carnivorous diet because that’s the path you’ve chosen, right? If you’re going to eat ancestrally, you may want to consider that you also have to live ancestrally, and vice versa. So, you have to cheat, so to speak, sometimes if you’re doing some of these unnatural activities.
And a couple of other things. First of all, we didn’t get into the microbiome much. Paul sent over his own bacterial analysis of his gut, which was actually quite impressive, a wide amount of bacterial diversity even though he’s just eating meat nose-to-tail. Furthermore, in my own testing and my shift towards a strict carnivore diet for a period of weeks, I’m going to actually test my own microbiome before and after. I’ll probably use either Onegevity or Viome, and I will give you the results of that when I finish with that.
In the meantime, though, I’m following kind of a bastardized version of a carnivore diet to eliminate a lot of the roughage and plant-protective compounds that Paul and I discussed during this episode. For me, what that looks like is I’m eating small amounts of root vegetables and tubers, usually pureed, mashed and created to make them easier to digest without the skins, et cetera. I’m still making my wonderful homemade fermented yogurt. I’ll actually release the recipe for that fermented yogurt that I make from coconut milk and an L. reuteri probiotic strain on my weekly roundup if you go sign up for my newsletter, BenGreenfieldFitness.com. I’m pushing that out this Friday. Or if you listen to this podcast at a later date, you can just go to my website and look up Ben Greenfield coconut yogurt recipe.
I’m doing a little bit of raw organic honey, a few small berries like blueberries and blackberries worked in, like I mentioned, a little bit of bitter and tannin-rich beverages like green tea, organic coffee, some red wine. I am doing a little bit of nut butter, and also some nutrient-dense vegetable powders. I’m using some of my friend, Dr. Thomas Cowan’s vegetable powders. So, I’m adding in a little bit of extra phytonutrients, again just for the spice, just for the taste. Not necessarily because I’m convinced I need them. I just like to spice things up. And then because I feel that with a high amount of protein and meat consumption, I could get a lot of mTOR activation, a lot of activation of anabolic pathways, I’m being very strict with the 12 to 16-hour intermittent fast. And as I mentioned during this podcast episode, I’m even consuming some of my friend, Dr. Joseph Mercola’s autophagy tea before my nightly fast, which is a mix of things like Pau D’arco and glycine powder, some chamomile, some quercetin, some Garcinia.
I did a whole Facebook post on my own bastardized version of the carnivore diet and I will link to that in the shownotes as well over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/carnivore. I realized that was a boatload of my own thoughts and I apologize if that creates bias for you to listen to this interview, but I also feel like I’d be remiss not to at least give you a takeaway of my own before you dive into the show. Again, I’m going to link to all of this stuff in the shownotes.
I’m also working in, as Paul and I discussed during this episode, kind of a source that’s very similar to collagen, and it’s actually one of the sponsors of today’s show, my own company, Kion. As you’ll hear during this episode, collagen comes from animal tissues like the joints, bones, skin, hair and hose from cows and pigs and fish and things like that. About 50% of collagen comes from four of the non-essential amino acids; proline, glycine, hydroxyproline, and arginine. Collagen is missing in the essential amino acid tryptophan and is also deficient in isoleucine, threonine, and methionine.
What I’m doing more of instead of collagen is a complete amino acid profile, particularly, essential amino acids. It’s easy for me because I own the company that makes them. I have quite a few in my pantry. I’m using these instead of going through collagen as much. I find them to be very, very well-absorbed, especially pre-workout or post-workout. They can be very anabolic but at a very low caloric cost. So, those are the Kion Aminos that I’m using. If you want to use Kion Aminos, there’s a wonderful tasting berry powder. You can get that at getkion.com and you can use code BGF10 and save 10% on those Kion Aminos if you want an alternative to collagen. That’s possibly even superior to collagen.
This podcast is also brought to you by, ironically enough, Organifi Greens, which is a green juice powder. I can hear all of you laughing, but they do kindly allow this show to happen by bringing to you a wonderful, wonderful tasting green juice. And the saving grace here is, of course, it doesn’t involve a lot of the roughage and a lot of the digestive distress gas and bloating that eating a few giant salads a day could, Paul and I talk about during this episode. What they do over at Organifi is they make this green juice, and it’s got things like lemon and ashwagandha, spirulina, a whole host of different organic compounds in it.
My friend Drew Canole owns that company. They make some very good tasting nutrient-dense powders. Organifi Green is very, very easy to just stir into a glass of water for a big dose of phytonutrients without necessarily having all the juicing and the mess and the cleanup and the chopping and the digesting, et cetera. So, you actually get a 20% discount on any of the Organifi products. They also do a wonderful chocolate powder. They have like a beet juice. They’ve got all sorts of wonderful tasting products. They have a red, a green, and what they call a gold, which is almost like the golden milk lattes you get at Starbucks without all the crap in them. So, you get a 20% discount on that if you use code BenG20 at organifi.com/ben. That’s Organifi with an I dot com/ben.
Well, hello, everybody. As you know, if you’ve been tuning into any of my Instagram or Facebook feeds, you know I have taken a keen interest of late in this thing called the carnivore diet. I decided after lots of pondering and self-experimentation with this whole carnivore thing, I wanted to hunt down somebody who could actually speak intelligently on the topic. I heard a debate between Lane Norton, the research scientist, and this functional medicine practitioner named Paul Saladino on my friend Mark Bell’s podcast a couple of weeks ago. It was the first time I’ve ever really had my ears perk up when it comes to the carnivore diet being anything other than just our ancestors ate meat. So, maybe we aren’t designed to eat vegetables and massive amounts of fiber.
But it was presented in a highly scientific manner, backed by research, and it really got me thinking. It even got me thinking so much that over the past week, I have begun to heavily shift my diet towards lots of grass-fed, grass-finished ribeye and wild caught salmon and my own little bastardization of the carnivore diet that my guest on today’s show may or may not comment on that includes things like tubers and some berries and the small amounts of alcohol in the evening with a glass of red wine and a cup of coffee in the morning and some herbs and spices with my logic being I want to limit the heterocyclic compounds that might form when I’m charring my meat, et cetera.
So, I had my own pathway. I went down on the carnivore diet. But after this week of experimentation, I thought, “What the heck? I need to get this guy, Dr. Saladino, on the show.” So, not only did he agree to come on the show, he got in his car, he’s sitting right here at my kitchen table with me, and we punished an amazing dinner of ribeye steaks and salmon roe last night. We crushed an amazing workout this morning. We’ve been doing lots of cold pool and sauna and hot tub. And if you don’t know anything about Paul, I’m going to link to his bio, his website, his very informative YouTube channel on the shownotes, which you can find at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/carnivore. That’s BenGreenfieldFitness.com/carnivore.
But in a nutshell, he’s a certified functional medicine practitioner. He’s an MD. He trained at the University of Arizona. He got his MD in 2015. He was a physician’s assistant before that and practiced in cardiology. And he’s actually completing his residency in psychiatry at University of Washington right now, which is very interesting because as we were discussing while releasing crap tons of sweat last night in the sauna, he has found some pretty interesting connections between the gut and the brain and specifically how the brain responds to carnivore diet. He’s also in the hunting down the best wave in the frigid waters of the Pacific Northwest. He’s a fit guy. He’s very well-spoken and we have connected, and you are about to take probably the deepest dive into the rigorous science of the carnivore diet that you ever have on today’s show.
So, Paul, welcome to the podcast, man.
Paul: Ben, it’s so good to be here. It’s amazing to share this space with you in Spokane. We’ve got this snowy wonderland to play in and I survived that grueling workout with you this morning.
Ben: Have you enjoyed that?
Paul: That was amazing.
Paul: That was brutal.
Ben: So, for those of you listening, we did a quick workout. We did a partner workout in my garage, which was at about 20 degrees. I commented that you got to pay a lot of money to go workout in a cryotherapy chamber at Burn Gym in New York City, and we instead have our own little 20 degrees cryotherapy chamber out there. We did a Tabata sets on the bike and some 30, 20, 10-squat, what did we do–30 squat, 20 push up, 10 swing, 5 pull up, AMRAP sprinkled with Tabatas for about 35 minutes, jumped in the cold pool, hopped in the hot tub. And as we were sitting there in the hot tub, you–what did you ask me, Paul?
Paul: I said, “Ben, do you want to go eat some vegetables right now or you want to go hunt down some animals? Let’s go hunt down some animals.”
Ben: I don’t know, man. I would love to have a stalk of broccoli right now and maybe a Pink Lady apple, something like that, for my antioxidants and my post-workout glycogen. Actually, we had that wonderful salmon roe.
Paul: We did.
Ben: Why do you like salmon roe so much, by the way? You brought like cans and cans
Paul: I love salmon roe. I’ve talked about this on my Instagram and my YouTube. One of the interesting things about humans is that we cannot make omega-3 fatty acids, and we also can’t make many omega-6 fatty acids but we need omega-3 fatty acids, and this is probably something that many people are familiar with. But the cool thing about salmon roe is that the omega-3 fatty acids in salmon roe, which are primarily DHA, are in the phospholipid form, which has been shown at least in rodent models to cross the blood-brain barrier much more efficiently than triglyceride or ethyl ester forms of omega-3s.
Ben: Which you’d find in most fish oil capsules as triglyceride or ethyl ester.
Paul: Mm-hmm. The two sources that I’m aware of phospholipid derived DHA are krill oil and salmon roe. And the other nice thing about salmon roe is that you are eating maybe a tablespoon or two tablespoons of salmon roe and getting a heck of a lot of DHA without any significant exposure to the metals because it’s such a smaller amount of the actual fish product. You kind of get the best of both worlds. You get omega-3 fatty acids in the phospholipid form. It crosses the blood-brain barrier. It goes to your brain. It does all the amazing things that omega-3s do in the membranes and promote all these kinds of things but you don’t have the same amount of exposure to metals.
One of the things I see clinically in my practice is that patients that try to do the right thing sometimes and eat a lot of wild salmon will end up with elevated levels of mercury in their blood. And certainly, patients, clients that eat tuna end up with elevated levels of mercury. So, this is just one of the things that we have to navigate as humans is how we get the nutrients we need to function optimally while avoiding the toxins. So, salmon roe is my preferred source of omega-3s and it’s just amazing.
Ben: So, as long as you can stomach the texture of it. I know some people don’t like the fish eggie tasting them up. I absolutely dig it. That or krill oil if you wanted absolute bioavailability of the actual omega-3s would be the superior route.
Ben: Not that all fish oil isn’t bioavailable; it’s just that the krill or the salmon roe is even more bioavailable.
Paul: More bioavailable. And then also, the interesting thing about salmon roe that intrigues me is this idea of getting something from a food versus getting something from a supplement. I hope that more research is done about this in the future and we can talk about this with regard to liver and vitamin A in the future on the podcast if you want. But what you find in the limited amount of research is that a lot of times, getting things from foods is different than getting it from a supplement.
One of the concerns I have with fish oils, in general, is the oxidation. You know, when you’re looking for a fish oil, you want to look for the certificate of analysis of that fish oil and look and see what levels of lipid peroxides are actually in that fish oil. So, you imagine that. And I think what’s been shown is that in fish eggs, there’s very little oxidation of the oil because they’re so much fresher and they’re in the actual form in the fish egg. It’s like a fresher type of oil. It’s like the freshest type of fish oil. There’s no processing. In order to get into a fish oil pill, they have to do some processing. Some companies may be better than other companies at keeping that clean and not rancid and not oxidized, but a salmon egg is like–
Ben: It’s fantastic on flaxseed crackers. That’s what I have for breakfast this morning was a wild caught salmon steaks that are–our friend, my chiropractic doc was over last night that get the guys from Valente Chiropractic. Shout out to them. Mike Valente brought us over a fantastic couple of salmon steaks and I had your salmon roe on top of that and just feel like a million bucks. But last night, we had the grass-fed, grass-finished ribeyes there. I had those US Wellness Meats ribeyes.
And what struck me is quite interesting, and this was one of the very first conversations I had with you last night was I got out all the spices. I had some black pepper and some sea salt. I had some cayenne pepper. I had a little bit of kind of like a rosemary thyme spice blend. I was putting all of that on top of the steaks and you said, “Wait, wait, wait. Hold the pepper. Hold the pepper on mine. I’m just going to do salt.” So, I kept yours separate from the rest of the steaks. Why the hell did you not want me to put pepper on your steak?
Paul: This is a really interesting story and a great entry to the world of plants and plant pesticides and plant toxins that people may not be aware of. One of the overarching messages that I’m interested in the context of a carnivorous diet is this idea that plants are not really on the earth to serve humans or to feed humans, and that they develop a lot of potentially toxic compounds to defend themselves from other animals that are eating them. And pepper is interesting. So, pepper is from a peppercorn, which is the seed of a plant. I think that sometimes we become divorced from that idea, like we don’t actually remember, “Oh, pepper is a seed from a plant.”
If you look at seeds of plants, those are some of the most highly toxic places where these pesticides and toxins reside because they are the plant’s reproductive parts. They are the most highly defended parts of the plants in the seeds. But in the pepper seeds, or in the peppercorn, there’s a compound called piperine, and there’s very strong evidence that piperine actually inhibits an enzyme, which is a mouthful, but all of the amazingly intelligent people who listen to this podcast will surely appreciate this. It’s the UDP-glucuronosyltransferase and it’s an enzyme in the liver that adds a glucuronide moiety to compounds that the liver is trying to detoxify. This is the process of glucuronidation, one of the Phase 2 processes in the liver.
In the liver, we have Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification, and UDP-glucuronosyltransferase is an enzyme that adds a glucuronide moiety to compounds that the liver is trying to detoxify in order to make them water-soluble and excrete them. So, piperine actually inhibits UDP-glucuronosyltransferase. What’s interesting to me about that is this is a compound that’s in a plant’s seed that’s actually working against our own intrinsic detoxification biochemistry. Anything that you might get in that meal, any other compounds that you might take in at that point are not going to be able to be glucuronidated or excreted in the same way from the piperine. This is relevant to this whole rabbit hole of curcumin. And if people–
Ben: Curcumin. Well, you look at the label of a lot of compounds of that curcumin, they have piperine for enhanced bioavailability.
Ben: That’s what most labels say. That’s a big thing in the supplement industry.
Paul: Yes. And so, what is going on there? We’ll have to talk about curcumin and the value or non-value of curcumin.
Ben: Feel free. We got time.
Paul: Yeah. But what’s happening is the reason piperine is added to curcumin supplements is because that is how you get more levels of curcumin in your body. If you don’t take piperine with your curcumin, your body doesn’t absorb much curcumin, to begin with, and then it immediately detoxifies what is absorbed. This is sort of the pattern that you see with plant compounds, in general, is that our bodies don’t use plant molecules for our intrinsic human biochemistry. And this is I think a misconception within the popular press–
Ben: I was going to say it’s going to be confusing to a lot of people because polyphenols, antioxidants, resveratrol, all of these things that we’re consuming plants to get, well, there’s, of course, the argument about the hormetic benefit which we can get into right from those built-in toxins in the plants. But supposedly, they’re quenching free radicals and assisting with mitochondrial biogenesis and all these different things that we say we eat plants for.
Paul: Right, right. So, this is a common misconception for all the plant molecules that we take in, whether it’s sulforaphane or resveratrol or curcumin. What our body does is it immediately recognizes it as foreign and detoxifies it, and they’re all detoxified in various ways. Sulforaphane is detoxified differently than resveratrol, but our body immediately takes these compounds through Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification and excretes them, sometimes in the urine, sometimes in the stool.
But this is a real paradigm shift in the way that we’re thinking because I think that there’s this subtle propaganda in the supplement industry that we are actually using these molecules directly in human biochemistry. But this is essentially like Macs and PCs. Plant molecules don’t get used in human biochemistry directly. They can, through a potentially hormetic effect, increase our endogenous glutathione, which is something that we can talk about, but they don’t use–they’re not inserted into our own biochemistry. So, we don’t actually use sulforaphane in any human biochemistry. We don’t use resveratrol in any human biochemistry. We don’t use curcumin in any biochemistry.
Ben: You could say they’re being used to potentially activate certain pathways that we already have to produce our own antioxidant.
Paul: Yes, which is primarily glutathione.
Paul: And the interesting thing about this is that that mechanism is not unique to plant molecules. We see that happening with all sorts of things in our lives, whether it’s other stressors which we can talk about can also activate those mechanisms increase glutathione. So, one of the arguments–
Ben: We called Tabata sets.
Paul: Exactly. Even things ironically like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines–
Ben: From cooking meat.
Paul: From cooking meat can activate the same pathway in the liver, which begins with Nrf2 activation, which can increase our endogenous glutathione. So, this idea that one of the arguments, proponents of plant-eating make is that plants have unique compounds which are somehow valuable to humans in a singular way. And I would argue that that is not true, and we can delve into some examples of that as we move through. But these plant compounds are actually–in some ways, I would say they’re redundant in their effect on glutathione. There are plenty of ways to increase glutathione to fully optimal and healthy levels without these plant molecules.
And as we will see, as we dive into this, these plant molecules, because they are essentially not our operating system, they are not the same language that we are programmed in, often end up having other detrimental effects in our bodies. They may have a hormetic effect by spurring Nrf2, but then they often do other things which are detrimental to our bodies because our bodies don’t recognize them.
Ben: Yeah. Well, I want to hear you comment on that here in a little bit because they’re often packaged with fiber of course. I know you have some very interesting views on fiber, which I want to get into, but basically, what you’re saying is that although plants could induce, these plant compounds like piperine from black pepper or curcumin from turmeric, those could induce our own antioxidant pathways, those could up-regulate our own antioxidant pathways. The problem with that is that there may be other ways to up-regulate those same antioxidant pathways without the potential for the accompanying toxins or potential damage we could get from all the other things that are carried into us along with the ingestion of that plant matter.
Paul: And yes. I will also say that those plant molecules, while–sometimes inducing Nrf2 at the same time simultaneously do other toxic things in our bodies. Curcumin and piperine are maybe not as good example as sulforaphane. Sulforaphane, we know, comes into the body.
Ben: Can I back up for just a second?
Ben: Sulforaphane, for those of you listening in, that’s made popular by say–I think Dr. Rhonda Patrick is probably one of the chief proponents of sulforaphane. I’ve certainly spoken of its benefits before. I have frozen broccoli seeds right here behind me in the freezer–
Paul: We need to talk about that.
Ben: –that sometimes get thrown into smoothies and also lined up in my shit, which I can comment on the quality of my sh– in the past week, by the way, the complete lack of seeds, nuts, skins, all the things that used to show up in my shit. It is now just shit. That’s all it is.
Ben: It’s big, brown, beautiful turds that do the first time and almost, I would say in my life where there haven’t been things in my poo. That’s not to say maybe that doesn’t reflect underlying leaky gut issues or something else happening in my gut that might be causing that to happen. But ultimately, sulforaphane, back to that, that’s this stuff that we get from broccoli, cruciferous vegetables. It’s now being found in a lot of supplements and it is considered to be a highly beneficial molecule as a precursor to these glutathione pathways.
Paul: Exactly. The sulforaphane pathway is so interesting. The story is so fascinating that we should go down that rabbit hole completely. But I’ll just say briefly, as a prelude to that, that that molecule, while inducing Nrf2, is also known to be a goitrogen. Meaning that when it circulates in small amounts in our bodies before we can detoxify it, it can compete with iodine absorption at the level of the thyroid and actually induce hypothyroidism.
So, this is an illustration of the concept that I’m suggesting here that these plant molecules may have a hormetic effect on our bodies because our bodies are pretty amazing. We have figured out a way to take toxins and get stronger from them across a variety of exposures. But what we find with these plant molecules that are not part of our operating system is that in addition to doing these potentially beneficial hormetic effects, they also appear to have detrimental effects, this collateral damage that can happen with them. And so, one of the theses that I think is useful to consider with regard to a carnivorous diet or a diet which excludes plants is the idea that the things that these plant molecules are doing are not unique to the plant molecules, and we can optimize those systems without the potential toxic effects of these molecules.
Ben: Okay. You could simulate the benefits that you’re getting from the plants by eating meat.
Paul: Yes. And basically, living a healthy life, right?
Ben: That’s right. And engaging in other forms of hormesis; sunlight radiation, heat, cold, exercise, et cetera.
Paul: The things that we would have been doing evolutionarily.
Ben: Moving on, living at Chernobyl, as somebody was commenting on last night, which is actually rodents living near Chernobyl are actually displaying some amount of enhanced longevity. And so, there’s a potential hormetic effect there as well. And so, the reason that I asked you that is because I think it’s a great, kind of starting off point for this podcast to allow people to begin thinking about some of the things that you’ve gotten me thinking about now in the past week.
I have another question for you about something else that I think a lot of people hold dear in addition to their spices and their herbs and their plants before we jump into a more broad definition of the carnivore diet because I want to definitely step back and give people the big picture over you here. But you also turned down a cup of amazing coffee this morning and I’m very curious as to why that is.
Paul: This is an interesting thing and it’ll wrap us back into the discussion of piperine and pepper in general. But coffee is felt to be beneficial because of a couple of polyphenolic compounds in coffee, specifically chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid. And this gets to broader themes around plant molecules and illustrates what I was mentioning yesterday, or mentioning just a moment ago, this idea that I have concerns that plants are not on the earth to feed humans. And generally, these molecules, if we look at them in terms of the way plants fit into ecosystems, have been evolved as protective mechanisms against animals, and we see that in rodents, we see that in other insects. And I think that we need to realize that that’s probably happening in humans too that these molecules that we considered to be polyphenols are often evolved by the plants to be protective mechanisms, to be toxins, to be pesticides.
Ben: Right, because plants can’t run. They don’t have fangs or horns.
Paul: Exactly, exactly.
Paul: And their evolution has the same goal as ours, right, to pass their DNA on. And so, in the context of herbivorous animals and omnivorous animals and insects eating plants, if plants were just completely healthy for everyone to eat, then they would get wiped out immediately, right? Plants don’t exist on this earth to feed humans or feed dinosaurs or elephants or giraffes or rodents or shrews. Plants need to have their own defense mechanisms. And so, plant evolution has, in some ways, been hand-in-hand in parallel with other mammalian evolution and other rodent evolution, and the fact that there’s this constant changing of plant pesticides and then the animals have to evolve to potentially detoxify them.
And so, there’s this gradual process of plant toxins and then animals will eat them or not eat them, but that keeps the plants alive. And so, chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid are actually some of these polyphenolic compounds that are felt to be helpful, but in certain assays have been found to be what’s called clastogenic, which is very concerning because they’ve been found at doses that are present in coffee to actually break chromosomes. This is consistent with what we see with other molecules, even like sulforaphane.
Ben: As in DNA damage.
Paul: DNA damage. And so, if you just take a step back and you think about the idea that coffee is from a plant seed that’s a coffee cherry and you’re taking the seed of the coffee bean or the seed of the coffee cherry and roasting it, again, that is the seed of a plant. That is the most highly defended part of the plant theoretically, conceptually, and that is where the plant is going to put a lot of things that are going to discourage animals from eating it. And if you look in the natural world, very few animals eat those seeds. Or if they have, they’ve eaten them for all of their evolution and they found ways to sort of work around that. They may not always eat the seeds because they know that those are quite toxic, and in some situations, they will potentially be very harmful to the animal if the animal eats the seeds. The goal of the fruit of a plant is to be eaten by the animal and then be passed out in a stool to fertilize the next generation of plants. That’s what we’re thinking.
Ben: Right. Which is why when I am eating a diet higher in plants and I look at the toilet bowl, if I were ancestral man taking a sh– out in the woods, those plants would actually–all the quinoa in my crap would be getting used to make a new quinoa plant.
Paul: The quinoa would be so happy to be in your poop.
Ben: Right, right.
Paul: That’s an interesting thing. So, I hiked Pacific Crest Trail a number of years ago and I would see quinoa every day in my poop. I mean, those things do not get digested. Looking at your poop is interesting thing. We were joking about that this morning. I think that if more humans look at their poop, it sounds like a gross concept but we would get a sense of like how many of these plant foods we are actually digesting versus not digesting. If you look at your stool when you’re eating a meat-based diet, or I should say a carnivorous diet, which I would advocate against a fully meat-based diet, I would advocate for eating nose-to-tail, but if you are eating a truly carnivorous diet that is eating nose-to-tail and you look at your stool, it’s basically this homogeneous mixture. It’s not heterogeneous like a plant-based stool would be with like all sorts of undigested pieces of various things and pieces of an almond, which is not very digestible or an undigested seed or an undigested piece of quinoa.
And so, that’s what the plant is trying to do is to take its seed to get you to eat it and then to have it pass through you. And if you actually crunch the seed, they’re putting toxins in there to discourage you from doing that the next time, either by making it bitter or by sort of creating this aversion to eating the seed in your organism.
Ben: Now, couldn’t we argue though that because the plant has these built-in defense mechanisms that maybe the dose is in the poison, if we were to eat too many of these it could cause damage, but just like exercise in excess could cause endocrine disruption, or heat in excess could cause dehydration or cardiovascular damage, or cold in excess could cause you to pass out and die in the water, shallow water blackout or whatever? If you’re eating smaller amounts of plants on a frequent basis and rotating them and varying them throughout the diet, that you would still get some of that hormetic effect and it could be beneficial without you getting a lot of the gut damage.
Paul: Well, this kind of goes back to the idea of hormesis versus the collateral damage from the plant molecules when they’re in the separate operating system. I don’t think that–the hormesis is the potential benefit of the plants, but when you’re eating things like caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid, they may activate this Nrf2 pathway. But then the question is, like sulforaphane, that may also activate the Nrf2 pathway, but then it gets absorbed and inhibits the absorption of iodine at the level of the thyroid. And then the caffeic acid and the chlorogenic acid isn’t actually creating chromosomal breaks, and at the same time–
Ben: Are there people walking around hypothyroidism linked to sulforaphane injection?
Paul: Yes, absolutely. It’s actually not incredibly difficult to make yourself hypothyroid by eating broccoli sprouts.
Ben: Would that be like throwing them into the smoothie three days a week? Are we talking about the people pushing the giant grocery shopping carts full of kale through Whole Foods?
Paul: It would probably depend on your baseline level of iodine consumption, right? Because that’s what it’s doing. It’s competing with iodine at the level of the thyroid. But I think maybe let’s talk about sulforaphane a little bit because people are probably interested in this, and I think that the example is in parallel as many other things. Sulforaphane is a molecule that does not exist in a plant as sulforaphane. It exists as a molecule called glucoraphanin, which is a glucosinolate. So, it’s a precursor to sulforaphane.
It’s such an interesting story. The way that sulforaphane gets produced is when glucoraphanin combines with myrosinase, and myrosinase is an enzyme that’s also present in the plant. So, it’s a little bit like two components of an explosive mixture that when they’re only combined to become explosive or like superglue, you take the two components and you combine them and they become superglue, they become a different molecule. Well, there’s this enzyme called myrosinase and this molecule called glucoraphanin. And when those are combined in a brassica vegetable, you get sulforaphane.
But sulforaphane doesn’t exist in living brassica plants because it is actually so oxidatively active, meaning that it’s so active in oxidation-reduction chemistry that it would be toxic to the molecule. The molecule couldn’t actually control that level of reactive oxygen species coming from the sulforaphane molecule in a brassica plant. So, it’s a defense mechanism. And the reason it’s a defense mechanism is that when an animal chews broccoli or when we cut broccoli on the counter, we are cutting open the cells of broccoli and that allows glucoraphanin to combine with myrosinase to make sulforaphane.
And so, you can reverse engineer and say, “Oh, this is what’s going on.” This is one of the ways that brassica vegetables defend themselves is they have these two molecules which are okay in terms of oxidative reductive chemistry on their own. Well, one of them is glucosinolates, which are not as oxidatively reactive as sulforaphane, but then this enzyme myrosinase, when it touches glucoraphanin, sulforaphane is made. So, sulforaphane is not something that’s present in native broccoli.
And so, when you are eating broccoli sprouts, you are eating again glucoraphanin and myrosinase, but they’re raw, you haven’t cooked them and so you get the sulforaphane when you are chewing broccoli sprouts. This again is an interesting parallel. If we look at seeds, those are the most highly defended parts of a plant. And then the next most highly defended part of a plant is a sprout because this plant wants its DNA to continue. The plant wants the seed to germinate and it wants to discourage animals from eating the plant as much as possible. If an animal eats a seed, it’s never going to germinate or go anywhere. If an animal eats any part of a broccoli sprout, it’s not going to mature into a full plant.
But if you have a brassica vegetable, whether it’s kale or any of these other varietals of a brassica vegetable, [00:39:45] ______ kale or collard greens, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, we’ve sort of hybridized all these and made these things. But ancestrally, they’re probably just one brassica plant. But once it’s a full-grown plant, an animal could come around and munch a leaf, it’s not going to kill the plant. But if an animal eats any part of that sprout, the plant is not going to grow at all. It’s not very defensible.
So, the highest levels of glucoraphanin are found in broccoli sprouts and broccoli seeds. This is an interesting parallel saying, “Oh, if we think about this intuitively, this is the plant defending its most vulnerable forms. It’s defending its seed. It’s defending its sprout. And this is what’s so interesting about thinking about this way of eating plants is that it totally turns the whole notion on its head because people are saying, “Oh, eat broccoli seeds and eat broccoli sprouts because those are the most valuable part of the broccoli. Those are the most sulforaphane rich.”
Ben: Maybe trying to isolate the most concentrated version could be a bad idea.
Paul: A very bad idea.
Ben: Okay. That’s a very interesting thought pattern. Now, what about animals though? There was that podcast I did with Fred Provenza, the author of the book, “Nourishment,” where we talked about how animals will self-select their diet. And they almost have these built-in nausea mechanisms where they’ll go out and they’ve observed them in nature or out in the field chewing on the new sprouts and also the older plants and self-selecting certain mixes of alfalfa or grain or oats and kind of knowing how much is enough and how much is too much. And they’ve even shown, we were talking about this last night, and they give the animals anti-nausea medication. They’ll eat a whole bunch of the sprouts and the new plants and get too many of these built-in plant defense mechanisms. Yet, they’re still eating plants. Why would humans be different than animals in terms of our evolutionary capability to be able to eat plants? Does it come down to the gut? Does it come down to carnivores versus herbivores? Can you explain that?
Paul: I would say yeah, it’s probably mostly the latter. And this gets into a little bit of the anthropologic discussion. I think that one of the things that differentiates us–I mean, ruminant animals are clearly herbivorous, sheep are clearly herbivorous. The animals that Fred was talking about, that was a great podcast, were clearly herbivorous animals. And so, I think there’s this interesting concept that animals that eat plants have figured this out and they do eat a little bit of this and a little bit of that because if they just ate all of one plant, they would get sick because this is all the plants–
Ben: If they had a freezer full of broccoli sprouts year-round.
Paul: They would get really sick, right? Like he was saying, I think it was sheep eating the new buds of some plant. So, animals realize the same thing. Animals realize that plants are all toxic, that plants have these toxic chemicals. And because they’re herbivores and they exclusively eat plants, they’ve sort of figured out like, “Okay, I can eat a little bit this one, a little bit this one, a little bit of this one,” and that’s been their evolutionary pathway. And through natural selection, they have evolved to do that in a sustainable way.
One of the things that differentiates humans, and I would argue is so interesting about humans, is that when we split off from chimpanzees–Jared Diamond wrote this book, “The Third Chimpanzee,” and apparently, we are derived or most closely related to bonobos and chimpanzees. Our guts changed and we developed this large brain, which requires a lot of energy. And we essentially became hunters at that point. I think everyone probably knows this story that we began eating meat and animals in greater quantities, and that seems to be a very key event in our evolution and our progression as Homo genus animals; Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo sapiens, et cetera, et cetera.
And so, what I would posit regarding a carnivorous diet is that we are actually facultative carnivores. The idea with being a facultative carnivore is that we can get all of the things that we need from meat, all the nutrients, all the vitamins, all the minerals in the most bioavailable forms without any of the toxins found in plants.
Ben: Hey, I want to interrupt today’s show to tell you about meat. Isn’t that convenient? One of the sponsors of today’s podcast is giving you two pounds of free wild-caught Alaskan salmon, which I’ve had, a little lemon juice, a little sea salt, a little olive oil. Paul probably wouldn’t do the olive oil. I do. It’s amazing. It’s wild Alaskan sockeye salmon. But this company also sends you 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef, free-range organic chicken, heritage breed pork. That’s old-world pork before they bred out all the fat and the flavor to make it the other white meat. In other words, it tastes the way that pigs are supposed to taste, wonderfully rich and fatty. It’s really good.
They deliver the stuff right to your door in dry ice with free shipping anywhere in the 48 states. Those of you who are already drooling over this carnivore diet idea, this is your ticket to getting really good meat for a really good deal with a couple of pounds of free wild-caught Alaskan salmon on your order. And for my listeners, another $20 off when you go to ButcherBox. ButcherBox is the company I’m talking about, and it’s butcherbox.com/ben. Every one of their boxes comes with nine to eleven pounds of meat, which is enough for one day I think for Paul and a few days for a more moderately meat-eating family. But anyways, you get a beef, beef and chicken, beef and pork. They’re mixed box. They’re custom box. They get this all from a collective of different ranches. They take out the middleman, get it to you at a really good price and you get all of this at butcherbox.com/ben.
This podcast is also brought to you, as your body looks better and better eating your special diets, by Birdwell Beach Britches. If you see me with my shirt off on the beach, I’m usually wearing Birdwell Beach Britches. These are my favorite pair of shorts. They fashion them from two-ply nylon fabric, one of the most durable fabrics out there. They also have a new very flexible microfiber fabric. They look good. They actually have been made in California since the ’60s. They originally were tailored by a lady named Carrie Birdwell Mann, who transformed her Southern California home into a store where she started making these slacks and they were fashioned from sailboat sails and they call their unbreakable SurfNyl nylon, SurfNyl, S-U-R-F-N-Y-L.
They also have Surf Stretch which is their stretch microfiber. And they’ve progressed beyond shorts. They have all sorts of gear and like a high-quality leather jacket or a really good pair of jeans. These things never go out of style, plus they’ve got a lifetime guarantee. How do you like that? You get 10% off your first Birdwell Beach Britches purchase with a lifetime guarantee and free shipping over $99 if you go to birdwell.com and use code BenG at checkout. That’s Birdwell, B-I-R-D-W-E-L-L.com and use discount code BenG at checkout. Pick up your first pair of birdies and see why they’ve been an American icon since 1960, freaking one.
I want to talk about that. I want to talk about plant versus animals. But before we do, with that whole brain evolution and the gut becoming smaller and the brain becoming larger, Richard Wrangham has this theory that it was the utilization and an emergence of the consumption of underground storage organs like tubers, for example, that resulted in our development of larger brains and smaller guts, and not necessarily our shifts towards animal consumption. Have you looked into that at all or what are your thoughts on tubers and Richard Wrangham’s ideas about this?
Paul: Right. Tubers are interesting. If you look at genus or genera of tubers, they are pretty toxic generally. There are only a few which are actually consumable by humans in any large amount without–
Ben: Don’t make me too guilty but eaten a sweet potato fries last night.
Paul: Well, sweet potatoes are interesting. Sweet potatoes are a type of tuber that has been sort of hybridized and bred by humans to be less toxic. But if you look at ancestral tubers, for instance, they are quite toxic and plants will not hesitate, I know that’s anthropomorphic, but plants will not hesitate to put oxalates and other toxins, we can talk about oxalates, in the tubers as well. And if you look at ancestral tubers, they don’t look like sweet potatoes. They’re not that big. That doesn’t make a lot of sense for the plants, but all that nutrient in the root. They’re much smaller and they’re much more fibrous and less dense and less calorically valuable to humans.
So, I think that that’s–when we get into the realm of anthropology and human evolution, it’s a lot of speculation. It’s quite interesting but I think that no one knows for sure–and I would argue that looking at human brains, we needed DHA. This goes back to salmon roe. And I think the counter-argument to that is the way that we evolved as humans to be big-brained is probably bone marrow and brains. We probably ate bone marrow and we ate brains on other animals by being scavengers and getting smart enough to crack open the skull of an animal, which is not something that any other mammal or any other mobile animal can do that I’m aware of.
I would argue that there’s no DHA, there’s actually no fatty acids in a tuber. And so, to make a brain, you need fatty acids in addition to macronutrients. Here, we’re kind of crossing the boundary between micronutrients and macronutrients. The macronutrients, of course, are protein fat and carbohydrates, and I think there are–we were talking about this at dinner last night. There are survival mechanisms in humans which search out macronutrients. In order to survive to tomorrow, you need macronutrients.
Paul: But in order to survive until six months from now, you need micronutrients. In order to pass on your DNA, you need micronutrients. And micronutrients are all the vitamins and minerals. So, something like a tuber is pretty deficient in micronutrients but it has some macronutrients. So, a tuber might keep you alive ’til tomorrow. A tuber is not going to provide you the micronutrients like an animal would or a brain or a piece of bone marrow–
Ben: Well, it’s interesting because a lot of these areas where starch consumption began to predominate. As humans evolved in the [00:49:21] ______ agricultural, you look at–I think, for example, like Sub-Saharan African or Southeast Asian, you see more copies of the AMY1 gene, which allows them to pre-digest this starch more readily and it’s possible that perhaps some humans are more capable of digesting starches, not that that might be the best food for them to choose if animals were available, which I think is part of your argument, but some people are equipped to handle them.
The other interesting thing about Homo erectus is a lot of the fossils that we find of Homo erectus. They’re found near water where there actually is all that bioavailable algae and DHA and marine food that probably contributed to the development of larger brains as well.
Paul: Or animals drinking the water that they can hunt through.
Ben: Animals drinking the water that they could hunt. That as well.
Paul: Hunting grounds, yeah.
Ben: Yeah. So, ultimately, it sounds to me like what you’re saying is that even though–let’s say that tubers were contributory to the development of a larger brain and a smaller gut, that doesn’t mean that nowadays, if we have access to good nose-to-tail animals, DHA and other compounds that we should continue a hefty consumption of tubers.
Paul: Yeah. That’s one of the key tenets of what I would argue that animals do provide all of the nutrients that a human needs in the most highly bioavailable forms. That is a pretty staggering statement when you think about it. It’s like if you could make the ultimate multivitamin for a human, it would be an animal.
Ben: Right. So, if I were like stuck out out in the wilderness and let’s say I’m out hunting and I’m a crappy hunter and I can’t get the animals that I need, that is a situation in which I would revert to what we see many of our ancestors doing the consumption of tubers, berry, seeds, nuts et cetera, but those would be almost–
Paul: Survival foods.
Ben: I don’t want to offend anybody, but like poor man’s food, survival foods, that you turn to if the good animals weren’t available.
Paul: That’s exactly the case. We see that in indigenous cultures. So, we talked a little bit about Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who lived with the Inuit. He’s written a couple of books. “The Fat of the Land” is one. And there’s a quote from that book. He’s an interesting arctic explorer that people should look up. He lived with the Inuit for a year. One of the quotes from that book that he got from the Inuit was that–or one of the things that he stated in the book was that they shunned the plant foods and less animal foods were not available. And they would only eat plant foods when there were not “real foods” available, meaning, animal foods.
So, we see this in indigenous cultures that the idea that humans are actually so incredible that we can eat plants in survival situations, but that doesn’t mean that they represent the optimal food for a human, and that’s part of the argument with the plant compounds.
Ben: I would say that it seems to me that many cultures over time, as a part of their tradition–I just read a wonderful book that I actually recommend, “100 Million Years of Food” by author Stephen Le. He goes into all these ancestral traditions of figuring out how to make, whatever, quinoa by soaking and sprouting, less likely to be coated in these opponents that might irritate the gut. My son this morning was making waffles, which you’re one of the first guests I’ve had at the house who wasn’t like, “Oh, waffles” and start salivating. You didn’t seem to give a shit about the waffles. But he’s got–he used the slow-fermented sourdough to make those waffles, so some of the phytic acid and the glutens were–digested.
Humans, because we’re intelligent and we have opposable thumbs and the big brains, we figured out how to render a lot of these plant foods more digestible. But still, what you’re saying is even if we can ferment and soak and sprout, which I think we should do especially if we don’t have access to animal foods, if we’ve got a choice between a ribeye steak or a plate of soaked and sprouted quinoa, fermented sourdough bread, a nice sweet potato and maybe a smoothie made of broccoli sprouts and sulforaphane, the latter would still be traditionally a plate full of survival food. Even though we’ve rendered it digestible, you’re saying, “Why not just eat the meat? That’s way easier.”
Paul: Yeah. Why not just eat the animals nose-to-tail and get–
Ben: I guess when I say meat, I should say eat the–because meat, would you define that just the flesh?
Paul: Yeah. The ideas get conflated in the carnivore world a lot and some people in carnivore just think about eating meat and drinking water and I think that that’s not a very ancestrally consistent or evolutionarily consistent way of eating animal. So, I just want to make that distinction that yes, eating the animal—
Ben: I think a perfect illustration of that, and this will get back to what I promised people, your definition of a carnivore diet and that broad overview of what a carnivore diet is. Explain to me what you sprinkled on your steak last night and why.
Paul: If people are familiar with the carnivore world like I was saying, they’ll see that a lot of people just post pictures of them eating huge amounts of muscle meat. If you look at the way that human biochemistry works and the way that our ancestors have always eaten animals, we’ve always eaten them nose-to-tail. And so, one of the fascinating things about human biochemistry is that we need a balance of amino acids. And if you look at muscle meat, muscle meat is quite high in methionine, but it’s very low in glycine. And glycine is one of the three amino acids in collagen. And collagen is found in connective tissue rather than muscle meat. So, collagen is found in bones and tendons.
And so, I believe that evolutionarily, this is all quite elegant, the way that it all works in humans that when we are eating tendons in addition to muscle meat, we are getting the full complement of amino acids and our biochemistry works in the best way possible. And we see this in indigenous cultures and we see this in other non-westernized cultures. I mean in Asian cultures, in like pho soup, in pho, you can get tendon. That’s a very foreign concept to Westerners but throughout the world where animals are eaten, people always eat the tendon. They’ll cook it for a long amount of time and it’s actually quite delicious and–
Ben: Shark fins.
Paul: Yeah. We eat collagenous tissue.
Ben: I don’t endorse eating shark fins and turtles. We’ll get to sustainability here in a bit.
Paul: Yeah, we should definitely talk about it. But if you look at the way that our ancestors have eaten animals, they eat animals nose-to-tail. I mean, I was recently talking to someone who had been on Safari in Africa and she said that she got to go out with the bush people in Tanzania and they were able to hunt a bush baby, which is a small monkey. They ate the entire thing. They ate the bones. They ate the brain.
Ben: Indiana Jones, baby.
Paul: It’s Indiana Jones and it sounds gross to our sensibilities but evolutionarily, it makes a lot of sense. We are going to eat the whole thing; we’re not going to waste anything. And if you look at an animal, which gets to my perspective on the best way to be a carnivore, there are different nutrients in different compartments of the animal, meaning that in the muscle meat, there’s a specific set of nutrients. There’s vitamin B6. There are some amino acids. There’s heme iron, but there are other nutrients that are not in the muscle meat in things like liver. And that was one of the other things that I shared with you is liver jerky. Liver is quite a great source of folate. And there’s not a whole lot of folate in muscle meat. So, if you’ve just eaten muscle meat, people will get deficiencies. And I don’t think eating just muscle meat is really a carnivorous diet. That’s just a meat diet. That’s not a carnivorous diet. That’s not an ancestrally consistent diet. But if you eat the muscle meat, and you eat the liver, and you eat the connective tissue, and you eat maybe some source of omega-3, whether it’s salmon roe or the brain of the animal, and you eat the bones or some sort of calcium source–
Ben: Yeah. As a matter of fact, my kids and I, we’ve got a group here from Spokane taking us out for three days to track and hunt animals, but a big part of that class is butchering nose-to-tail.
Paul: That’s amazing.
Ben: Well, we’ll be down hunting before that in May in Kona, and very similar to when I bow hunt down there. And many times, the guides who you’re with, and this always happens to me, they almost get annoyed with you because you spend such a long time filled dressing because I want the liver, I want the kidneys. If I shoot the wild sheep, I want to chop its testicles off. I want the whole animal. And even hunters, in many cases, I’ve found the folks I’ve hunted with are a little bit lazy in that. You quarter the animal and you just put all the innards into a giant black trash bag and walk away.
Paul: Exactly, or you leave them there.
Ben: Or dump and leave before the coyotes or the wolves or whatever.
Paul: Who will gladly eat it.
Ben: Yeah, exactly.
Paul: They’re probably like, “Oh, this is dessert.”
Ben: Exactly. And there’s even the idea that the Native Americans would, in many cases, prize those meats or those organs and give the meat, the flesh to the dogs. My first exposure to the carnivore diet, and one of the reasons that I was disenchanted with the carnivore diet initially was–well, shout out to our friend Mark Bell who had a fantastic podcast.
Paul: I love Mark Bell.
Ben: That was like early in the days of the carnivore diet a couple years ago. I was in a podcast with him and he mentioned he was doing the carnivore diet. I went over his house and he’s like, “Yeah, I just buy a ton of meat from Costco and eat ribeye steaks breakfast, lunch and dinner.” And to me, that was a complete disconnect already being familiar with glycine and the importance of organ meats. And I love Mark Bell, by the way. I’m not shoving him under the bus, but that was my–
Paul: Yeah. He’s a great guy. I love him, too.
Ben: And I think that’s a lot of people’s impression of the carnivore diet; ribeye steak breakfast, lunch and dinner. And even on the Joe Rogan podcast, I called out the carnivore diet as being a lazy diet. And I did it for two reasons. Number one, because prior to some of my discussions with you and me beginning to look into a properly done carnivore diet, which actually isn’t a lazy diet, like you have to go anyway, salmon roe and eat the whole animal and learn how to do sweetbreads and liver and brain and organ meats.
Ben: But my initial impression was, “Dude, ribeye steaks breakfast, lunch and dinner as an elimination diet, that’s an easy way out versus studying up what’s going on in your body and figuring out ways to get these other nutrients. But my other impression of it was why would you just eat the flesh of an animal and leave the rest behind?
Paul: That’s almost disrespectful.
Ben: To me, that’s lazy. Yeah, and disrespectful–
Paul: To the animal.
Ben: –and not sustainable to a certain extent.
Ben: But there are also some things that I looked into was thyroid. And the general notion that carbohydrates, especially in the form of starches or sugars in some sense, can be important for the conversion of T4 to T3. How would someone like an Inuit or an ancestral carnivore diet or a modern carnivore diet tackle the issue of carbohydrate availability for thyroids when we’re talking about eating nose-to-tail?
Paul: You know, it’s interesting. I know you talked about this with Thomas DeLauer on that recent podcast as well. And what I have seen clinically is that I’m not completely convinced with that concept. If people looked at my Instagram and they look at my YouTube, I’ve extensively tested myself. I mean, I think I really appreciate your point that that’s kind of connected with what I’m saying here. I think that in order to eat as a carnivore, it’s the opposite of lazy. You really have to understand where all of your nutrients are coming from. It becomes almost a nutrition class for people who are doing a carnivorous diet.
Ben: Unless you intuitively, let’s say your ancestors, and you kill an animal and you’ve worked your ass off for three days not that animal. I mean, your thought pattern is, “I’m going to eat this whole fu– thing.”
Paul: The whole thing. And the whole thing tastes good, right? The liver is delicious, the brain–
Ben: It could be rendered delicious.
Ben: We’ve had some gamey animals. You got to soak the liver and lemon for 24 hours. There’s a use of plant foods for you, right, like using the acidic medium of lemon to make a liver taste better.
Paul: Maybe, yeah, yeah. But what I’ve seen in myself and my clients, and is that–you know, the T4 and T3 conversion are not really affected that radically or negatively on a ketotic diet, on a ketogenic diet. And I think what we’re basically talking about here is keto–we’re getting into the sort of the blurry ground between a carnivorous diet and a ketogenic diet. What I’ve seen is that my T3 was totally within normal. My T4 to T3 ratio was totally normal and I’ve seen that in many of my clients on a carnivorous diet. What you talked about with Thomas DeLauer was also that even in people in which the T3 might be low, it seems to be a little low, but the basal metabolic rate doesn’t change. And so, this might be one of the adaptations to ketosis that we haven’t fully figured out.
I think one of the interesting things, Ben, is that you can imagine our ancestors might have eaten carbohydrates from time to time. They might have had berries in the spring, and I think that that’s an evolutionary thing that people might freak out and be like, “Oh, that’s not carnivore but–“
Ben: I looked into this a little bit and a lot of traditional cultures would actually eat the thyroid glands.
Ben: I mean, to me, that’s a very simple answer. It’s like eat the thyroid glands and you’re good to go. And granted, if you’re eating the flesh of the animal, you’re also getting some of the storage glycogen as well.
Paul: Yes, exactly. I mean, that’s essentially what Armour Thyroid is, right? In some ways, you’re going to get a little T3 that way.
Ben: You could theoretically engage in better living through science and supplement a carnivorous diet if you didn’t have good access to organ meats with things like desiccated liver capsules or thyroid glandular supplement or things of that nature.
Paul: Yeah. When you’re doing thyroid, you have to be a little careful, and obviously, work with your physician. Thyroid can be a powerful thing and I think this goes back to the idea that a lot of our ancestral wisdom has been lost and it’s kind of tragic, and I love that you’re sort of like taking your boys hunting and teaching these things and exposing them to these things. I wish more of our young would get exposed to those things and that we hadn’t lost all of that knowledge.
But I think that this is totally interesting that we can imagine, as indigenous cultures, these were probably not very foreign concepts and we knew that when we killed an animal, the first thing you did was eat the liver raw and you shared it with everyone in the tribe because those are the micronutrients that are most valuable. And the next thing you did was this. You cut the thyroid up and you gave everybody a little peace, et cetera, et cetera.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. So, plant foods, there are a lot of nutrients that are often championed as nutrients that you can only get from plants. I mean, the same could be said of me, like we say, you need your heme iron from meat or your vitamin B12 from meat. But people say things like vitamin C from plant foods, for example. Is that true? Do you need to eat plants or fruits to get your vitamin C?
Paul: No, you don’t. I think that that’s an interesting concept, and this is sort of part of the thesis that I propound or I put forward for a carnivorous diet is that there are no nutrients in plants that humans cannot get from animals. Vitamin C would probably be the only one that I can think of that maybe you can think of others that people would say, “Oh, you can only get that from plants,” and that’s not true. If you look at liver, there’s actually quite a good amount of vitamin C in liver, and there’s a good amount in brain as well. And if you look at the Inuit, there’s a good amount in the whale blubber skin and so–
Ben: So, again, eat nose-to-tail.
Paul: If you eat nose-to-tail, you’ll get plenty of vitamin C.
Paul: Well, that’s retinol, right?
Paul: So, beta-carotene is the precursor to retinol, a form of vitamin A. And retinol is found in huge concentrations in the liver. Are you talking about flavonoids?
Paul: Yeah. So, the carotenoids, the beta-carotene is not a molecule that humans use. We use enzymes like BCMO, for instance. People can have single nucleotide polymorphisms and BCMO, which inhibit or decrease the efficiency with which they convert a beta-carotene, which is the plant precursor to vitamin A into the retinol form of vitamin A, which is what we use in our bodies. But if you look at animals, and this is sort of what I was saying earlier, animals provide all the nutrients a human needs in the most highly bioavailable forms. And I would say the heme iron is a great example of that. Retinol form of vitamin A is a good example of that.
Ben: What about flavonoids like quercetin, for example? That’s a very popular supplement now.
Paul: Right, right. So, now, we’re getting into the realm of like all the individual polyphenolic compounds in plants. So, quercetin doesn’t directly participate in human biochemistry and it gets into like the weeds of how has it been studied and do we know if it’s really valuable. Quercetin is actually a phytoestrogen. It has some estrogenic properties, and again, it gets into this idea that I was suggesting at the beginning that these are different operating systems. These are plant molecules versus human molecules. This is Mac versus PC.
It’s pretty tricky to dig out and really tease out the code of these and see, is this molecule potentially beneficial? But the pattern that we see emerging is that we don’t–none of them have unique benefits. The thing I would caution people with quercetin is quercetin can actually inhibit some of the enzymes in the human body, especially some of the enzymes in the folate cycle, and then it is an estrogenic compound. And so, it can affect estrogen metabolism of the human body. The question is, is that good? I don’t know. Probably not. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a beneficial thing. And we might want to be cautious about taking it in super huge doses, which is–
Ben: So, what you’re saying is you can’t get any flavonoids from meat but you may not need them?
Paul: I don’t think you need flavonoids.
Paul: Flavonoids are another example of a polyphenolic compound that are found in plants. And they’ve sort of been passed on to us as a beneficial thing in the same idea, the same paradigm of polyphenols are good for you because they are antioxidants. We talked about that a little earlier, the fact that they don’t directly act as antioxidants. If they are beneficial, it may be because of a hermetic effect to the liver and the production of endogenous glutathione. However, they often have these other sort of unintended collateral damage effects in the body. And if you look, there is some evidence that flavonoids can be dangerous for people as well.
Ben: That’s very interesting. I know I’ll get some kick-back on the flavonoid piece and some people are going to question that. I would love if you’ve got the research on that. And by the way, you guys, Paul is going to send me lots of research studies and many YouTube videos he’s done with deeper dives into some of the topics that we might be going over too quickly for you. So, you can go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/carnivore. That’s where the shownotes are. What about fiber? Because I don’t think there’s much fiber in meat and I know people are going to ask that, but it’s probably one of their first questions.
Paul: Yeah, yeah. The fiber thing is fascinating and I would refer people to the debate I did with Layne Norton regarding fiber but I–
Ben: I want people to hear it here.
Paul: Well, let’s hear it here, too.
Ben: I mean, go listen to that podcast because it’s good, but I want people to walk away from this podcast not feeling like they got to go do too many other shows aside from some of your YouTube videos.
Paul: If people want to really dive into fiber, let’s talk about it. Fiber is–
Ben: Because I haven’t eaten any for a week.
Paul: That’s amazing, right? And you’re still pooping. Isn’t that–
Ben: Yeah. Somebody comment on my Instagram chat. “What about your big ass?” Not only my pooping, well, I’m pooping as fantastic.
Paul: Right. What–
Ben: Once a day, one giant thump, and no seeds or nuts or anything like that.
Paul: Potentially, what I’ve seen clinically is that people have less bloating and constipation. We’ll talk about it.
Ben: That’s the other thing. I used to get bloating and constipated–big ass salad for lunch about 1:00 p.m. every day. By 4:00 p.m., I could either go take a shit or have gas the rest of the night. I haven’t had that for a week.
Paul: It’s not good for your social life or your life.
Ben: No, it’s annoying.
Paul: It’s super annoying. It’s super annoying. So, fiber is a fairytale, and the fairytale got started with a gentleman–he’s a physician named Burkitt, who went to Tanzania. He went to Tanzania and he was thinking about the incidents of diverticulosis in the Westernized population. What he noted was that Tanzanians or the Africans did not have nearly the same incidents of diverticulosis that Westernized humans had. He committed an error that is often committed by our current society by looking at indigenous people and saying they don’t have diverticulosis and they are eating a heck of a lot of fiber. Therefore, fiber must be protective against diverticulosis. He saw them taking very large dumps and he actually recorded the size of the dumps and they were eating a huge amount of fiber and they did not have diverticulosis.
Now, for those people listening who may not be familiar with the content of diverticulosis, it is the protrusion of the submucosal layer of the colon through the muscularis mucosa of the colon into a diverticulum, which is a blind pouch. And this happens on both the right side and the left side of the colon and–
Ben: It actually results in things like constipation and bloating.
Paul: Well, it can, but generally, it can also result in lower GI bleeding, which can be fatal because blood vessels in the diverticuli can bleed and cause problems. And then diverticulosis leads to diverticulitis, which is when those blind pouches become occluded and they form a pocket of pus or infection, kind of like appendicitis. The appendix is a blind pouch and the appendix is a vestigial structure. Potentially, vestigial has a lot of lymphoid tissue in it, but it’s also a blind pouch and it is analogous to these diverticuli, which happen throughout the colon, right?
And so, Burkitt went to Africa and he says, “I’ve got to figure it out. It is the large amount of fiber they are eating that is protective against diverticulosis,” except that is not what we see in clinical studies at all. In fact, we see the opposite. So, there have been a couple of studies that have been done with colonoscopy and surveys of people regarding how much fiber they are eating. And what we find is that by quartile, the people who are eating the most fiber have, wait for it, the most diverticulosis. And so, this doesn’t–
Ben: Does that qualify insoluble versus soluble fiber? Does it matter [01:10:11] ______?
Paul: I have to look at the study to see how they broke it down, but I think it’s both.
Paul: Yeah. I can give you the link to that study.
Ben: I’m just curious because you know, like an insoluble fiber found in say like an apple, it seems to me as though it could be digested differently than say, what I believe would be the soluble fiber found in lots of roughage and things like that.
Paul: I think you got those mixed up. So, insoluble fiber is like–
Paul: Yeah. Insoluble fiber is roughage. Soluble fiber is like the pectin in an apple.
Ben: Damn it. I had a 50-50 chance.
Paul: Alright. Yeah. So, we can break it down. You can further stratify based on soluble and insoluble, but what we see in this study is that the more fiber someone is eating, the more diverticulosis they have. That’s like, “Oh man, that really argues strongly against this hypothesis that Burkitt had.” And then if you do more studies, you’ll see that the reverse is also true. Constipation and low fiber diets are actually not associated with diverticulosis. This really starts to fly in the face. If people delve into the literature regarding fiber and constipation, fiber and diverticulosis, what you will find is that in most people, and I’ll link to this amazing study, or that I’ll send you this amazing study, that the removal of fiber, as you are finding, Ben, the removal of fiber often results in complete resolution of constipation and associated symptoms.
So, the study that we will link to is called stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduces constipation and associated symptoms. In this study, when they removed fiber, 100% of the people in the zero-fiber group, which was small but it was–I think it was 16 people in the zero-fiber group, 100% of them had no symptoms of constipation or bloating. They had complete resolution with removal of fibers. We’ve really been fed a fairytale with regard to fiber and constipation, fiber with regard to diverticulosis. So, that’s the first part of the fiber story.
Ben: Well, that makes sense. I want to throw this in there because I don’t know if any studies like this exist but just from my own observation of how my gut feels after vegetable consumption, if I steam and boil and mash and puree the vegetables and it’s not roughage as you would find in like a raw kale salad or a carrot stick, but if I steamed carrots or do like a mashed sweet potato puree or a mashed pumpkin or cook up like a winter squash and then blend that to make a soup out of it, I don’t really have any of the issues with fiber and I don’t see anything appearing in my stool. Is there anything that looks into the way the fiber is prepared, whether it’s mashed and steamed and boiled versus eaten raw?
Paul: Nothing that I’m aware of but we could look into the literature more and see if there’s a change there.
Ben: It would be very interesting because to a certain extent, and I know you want to finish your observation on fiber, but some of this for me is a little bit of the enjoyment of food variety, different tastes, different colors, being able to have my ribeye steak but maybe some nice winter squash soup on the side or some steamed baby carrots that are very simple to digest. Regardless, like throwing out the idea that, well, you don’t need the carrots, you don’t need the carotenoids and the carrots because you’ve got the retinol from the liver that you’re consuming along with that ribeye steak. Part of it for me is, and I think my wife is very big on this because she’s super into entertaining people and food and cooking it–vast array of colors on the table. I think part of it, for me, my resistance to going full-on carnivore is just this idea of variety.
Paul: And I think that’s totally valid, and what’s so cool about that is that I would argue that you are a facultative carnivore, so you can do that.
Ben: What does that mean a facultative carnivore?
Paul: A facultative carnivore is different than an obligate carnivore. An obligate carnivore, we would think of as like an animal, like a lion or a tiger that only eats animal products, and if they eat plants, they get sick. But this is part of the evolutionary story that it goes back to the idea that facultative carnivores are like dogs. For facultative carnivores, animals provide all the nutrients they need but they can eat plant foods during times of starvation, and they can actually digest plant foods.
So, you have the ability to digest some plant foods as a facultative carnivore. Whether or not that’s ideal for you is part of the discussion of what we’re talking about here, and there are potentially detrimental side effects for people eating some plants. But as a facultative carnivore, you can do that. You can just have a variety and say, “Hey, you know what? I’m going to eat some carrots.”
Ben: So, you could say plants, if they’re prepared properly, not necessary but could contribute to life enjoyment if you want those as part of your diet.
Paul: Exactly. Totally.
Ben: Okay. Got it.
Paul: Yeah. So, what I’ll just add here is that one of the things that’s fascinating to me about a carnivore diet is that I think people should approach it from the perspective of what’s optimal and then how do they feel. There are a lot of people coming to the carnivore diet because they’re sick. And I think that for people who are sick, the carnivore diet may be particularly interesting because the elimination of plants may lead to resolution of their symptoms, and I think in those cases–
Ben: Yeah. And dairy and other things that could cause autoimmune issues and people who have leaky gut issues or digestive inflammation.
Paul: And that’s exactly what I would say. Perhaps to bring it around again is the idea that I am concerned that many of these plant toxins may be contributing to this autoimmunity, and that much of the autoimmune conditions that we see in society, whether they’re psychiatric–as you know, I really view a lot of psychiatric illnesses as autoimmune, whether they’re psychiatric or endocrine or dermatologic, I think that a lot of these autoimmune issues that we are seeing may, in fact, be related to these plant toxins, whether they’re from the whole spectrum of plant toxins. And so, for people that are sick, they may approach the diet differently the people that are well. I mean, you are clearly kicking a lot of ass in your life, Ben, and for you–
Ben: Kicked your ass this morning in the garage.
Paul: Just wait ’til we go surfing. For people that are well, are kicking a ton of ass, they might have a little more ability to tolerate plants. I would say that my thesis, I would still say, is probably true that animal foods would provide the most beneficial source of the nutrients without plant toxins. But if you’re well, you may be able to handle those better, but people who are sick might approach it from a different perspective saying, “Maybe I should cut out the plants and see if I feel better. Maybe there’s a possibility.” And some of these plant toxins are actually contributing to the autoimmune issues, contributing to leaky gut, contributing to immune activation and the tissue surrounding the gut.
Ben: Right. Shift to nose-to-tail. Start skipping a morning cup of coffee.
Ben: Now, I interrupted you as I was talking about steaming and boiling and mashing my vegetables to potentially mitigate some of the issues you were talking about with fiber. It sounded to me like there was something else you wanted to say about fiber.
Paul: Well, the other thing that people hear about fiber is that either that it is beneficial with regard to cancer or precancerous lesion–
Ben: Or cardiovascular disease as well.
Paul: Well, yeah. We can talk about that as well. So, I can talk about all three of those things. Fiber is just this whole interesting topic to explore. With regard to precancerous lesions which are called adenomas, tubulovillous or villous adenomas in the colon which are precancerous lesions, there is no evidence that either fiber in the diet or fiber supplementation improves that. And this is quite contrary to what people might be thinking. I mean, there is simply no evidence from studies in the New England Journal of Medicine, interventional trials, that either fiber in the diet or inclusion of fiber as a supplement improves adenoma recurrence or colon cancer progression. In some studies, the addition of ispaghula husks, which are in the same genus as psyllium which is Metamucil, actually worsened adenoma recurrence.
What we’re seeing here is quite contrary to what many people may have been told that if you look at the data, not only is fiber not helpful for diverticulosis, it might be associated with diverticulosis, it’s not helpful for constipation. It probably causes constipation for a lot of people potentially through overgrowth mechanisms like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which we know the methane from some of the methane producers, and a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth situation may paralyze the enteric nervous system.
Fiber may worsen constipation and may worsen bloating, and certainly, worsens gas, which is no fun for anyone. And in terms of adenomas or precancerous lesions and colon cancer recurrence, there’s no benefit. And in some cases, with Metamucil like ispaghula husk supplementation, it actually worsens it.
Ben: Yeah. It’s interesting. Many of the benefits of fiber are attributed to its effects on the microbiome and on short chain fatty acid production in the gut, particularly the colon, including most notably, butyrate.
Ben: This is very interesting, and I’ll link to this article. It just came out this week on the Virta Health website. It has host of evidence showing that beta-hydroxybutyrate bodies, which we would find if you were eating a ketosis-based diet, which–
Paul: Carnivorous diet?
Ben: Yeah. Actually, after I comment on this, I would love for you to compare and contrast ketosis and a carnivorous diet.
Ben: But basically, beta-hydroxybutyrate ketones, which you would have if you’re eating a well-structured carnivore or ketotic diet, simulate all of the values that short-chain fatty acids including butyrate produce in the gut. So, you kind of have your option. You could do a high-fiber diet for short chain fatty acid production, but at the same time, get some of the risks that you’ve just talked about including everything from gas and bloating constipation to diverticulitis and diverticulosis, or you could lower your fiber intake, definitely lower your carbohydrate intake, shift into a ketotic diet, and ketosis is different than a carnivore diet to a certain extent, which I’ll let you comment on, and get those same benefits that you get from fiber by simply generating a lot of ketones.
Paul: Right, exactly. That has to do with the idea that butyrate may be fuel for the colonic enterocytes.
Paul: So, the epithelial cells at the level of the colon in the small intestine may use butyrate as a fuel. In many circles, there was a concern that if you didn’t eat enough fiber that you wouldn’t make enough of the short chain fatty acid butyrate. Well, as that article in Virta illustrated, and as I was talking about with Layne, when you were eating a carnivorous diet, what happens is pretty amazing. There are also microbes in your gut that can use protein and fatty acids to make short chain fatty acids. So, the short chain fatty acids butyrate is not the only one. We can also have isobutyrate, propionate, and those can feed the colonic enterocytes, or the ketone bodies can be directly used by the colonic enterocytes as fuel. What we’re seeing here is you don’t need fiber to have a healthy gut lining, which is one of the main concerns of a low fiber diet.
And then you also mentioned something that I want to touch on for people. In the debate with Layne, he consistently brought up meta-analysis, which are epidemiologic studies showing that when people consumed more fiber, they had better cardiovascular outcomes. And what I will point out to people is that those studies are confounded by what is called healthy user bias. And those studies are really only done on Westernized populations that show this phenomenon. If you look at Eastern populations, if you look in Hong Kong or you look in Asia, you don’t see the same association with fruit and vegetable consumption. In fact, you see the opposite. In Asian cultures, what you see is that when people eat more meat, they are more healthy.
So, the fact that we can compare cultures helps us really delineate how the user bias is happening. But in the Westernized cultures that have been studied, most of these studies that suggest that fiber consumption is associated with better cardiovascular outcomes are confounded by this healthy user bias. And this means what this is the idea that for the last 30 to 40 years, we have been told that red meat is bad for us. And so, people that eat less red meat and eat more fiber are generally doing other healthy behaviors, which are probably what are accounting for their better cardiovascular outcomes. These are epidemiologic studies; they’re not causal studies.
Ben: Whenever you talk about that, all I could think of is the SNL skit, Da Bears, the guys who look like they just eat steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Paul: Yeah, exactly.
Ben: I think one of the dudes just has like a heart attack right that in there, cheering for Da Bears. But that’s the stereotypical red meat-eating steakhouse, also, whatever, scotch chugging, cigar smoking–
Paul: French fries, Trilomite–
Ben: Yup. Have a little bit of Brussels sprouts fried in canola oil before your steak comes out, eat the breadbasket, finish up with a little chocolate cake. Hey, I’m a meat-eater. That’s the healthy user bias.
Paul: That’s the healthy user bias and that’s the non-healthy user effect, which is being demonstrated in these studies. What these studies I think suggest to us is that there’s a lot of value in the healthy behaviors that people that were eating a lot of fiber did. But it probably wasn’t the fiber that gave them those cardiovascular benefits, it was the community, it was sunlight, it was exercise, all the things we talked about earlier today which can also create an optimal state in human body, whether it’s from an oxidative reductive perspective and the glutathione production, but those are the behaviors that were beneficial most likely rather than the fiber, because the fiber itself, as we’ve seen, doesn’t really hold up in interventional trials. And if you look across cultures, you don’t see the same protective effects of fruits and vegetables. In fact, what you see is that people in Eastern cultures who eat more meat have the outcomes, which is a crazy thing.
Ben: Right. Yeah, it’s very interesting because you look at the Blue Zones and one of the prevailing characteristics of many of them is high intake of wild plants. And so, this begs the question of, well, if you were to, say, look at the progression of those cultures across time, did that high consumption of wild plant intake result at a time when there was starvation, poor access to fish, DHA, marine food along with poor access to animal food, so they had to adopt these plants as part of their diet? Perhaps, there are so many other things they’re doing; gardening and living outdoors, being out in the sunshine, moving frequently, et cetera, that perhaps the wild plant intake and the enhanced survivability of a lot of these cultures in Okinawa and Nicoya and Sardinia, et cetera, their longevity would still persist, and possibly even be enhanced if they were able to and sustainably able to shift to fish and good organic meat.
Paul: I would agree with that. The other thing I’ll mention about the centenarians, and I think this is an interesting, again a misconception, is that there are a lot of people who really think that the benefits are the longevity of a centenarian. It was actually due to genetics that these people would be healthy in spite of what they eat. No matter what they eat, these people will be healthy.
Peter Attia has talked about this on his podcast, I think specifically with Tom Dayspring, is that we have to be careful when we look at the centenarians. And this concept of Blue Zones I fear has been misinterpreted, incorrectly interpreted and associated with the diet, when in fact, when we look at these cultures, what we see are clusters of longevity mutations in genes like FOXO3, CETP, PCSK9. And so, these are cultures that tend to cluster genetic mutations which improve things like insulin sensitivity, antioxidant status, which we can talk about how those could be benefited. Those are the type of things that improve on a carnivorous or ketogenic diet.
But the longevity type of mutations these cultures have are insulin sensitivity and oxidative reductive status. And so, that I think is the alternative hypothesis for Blue Zones that perhaps, in fact, I think there’s a lot of evidence for this and most people actually believe this is the case now that centenarians are people who would live longer than other people no matter what they eat. They could eat anything.
Ben: Yeah. Now, you mentioned that about insulin sensitivity, but isn’t it true that if you are on a ketotic or a carnivore diet and you do introduce carbohydrates, you see wild fluctuations in insulin and glucose?
Paul: We talked about this a little bit last night in the hot tub, right?
Ben: I know. I’m throwing the softball right now because–I know what the answer is but I want to present it to people because I find it very interesting.
Paul: So, what happens here is that there is this phenomenon that people may have heard of that if you were on a ketogenic diet or a carnivorous diet and you introduced glucose, it takes your body a little bit of time to adjust to the processing of that glucose. It probably has to do with the fact that your body has to do transcriptional changes and place the glute for transporters in the muscle cell membranes to actually import the glucose. So, there is this phenomenon that when people are on a carnivorous or a ketogenic diet, if you do a glucose tolerance test in the first 24 to 48 hours after that–
Ben: Consume a bolus of glucose and then track your blood glucose over time.
Paul: Right. That may look abnormal, but that is an artifact that does not reflect insulin insensitivity; it’s just an artifact that has to do with the fact that it takes the body a little bit of time to adjust the transcriptional regulation of the things in the cell membranes that import glucose and that process glucose in the body. If you refeed someone with glucose or carbohydrates who’s on a ketogenic or a carnivorous diet and you wait a day or two to do the insulin sensitivity testing through the glucose tolerance test, they are extremely insulin sensitive. What we see in general on people on carnivorous or ketogenic diets–I mean, I probably should not put those together, what we see in general on people in carnivore diets is they’re extremely insulin sensitive through measures like hemoglobin A1c, fasting glucose, and especially fasting insulin.
Ben: That’s because there’s a down-regulation of glute 4 and glute 5 transporters that would normally be necessary to get the glucose into, say, muscle or liver tissue. So, when you’re doing a glucose tolerance test, after you’ve been on a ketotic or carnivorous diet, you haven’t had time to re-up-regulate those glucose transporters, so the glucose stays present in the bloodstream for longer periods of time.
Paul: Yeah. I believe glute 5 is for fructose, but glute 4 is for glucose, yeah.
Ben: Okay. Yeah, yeah.
Paul: So, yes, you need to up-regulate that. It’s an artifactual effect, but people are extremely insulin sensitive when they cut out carbohydrates and avoid things like seed oils, which are probably creating a lot of insulin sensitivity. And if people look at overarching products–
Ben: By the way, you had me cook your steak with no oil last night, just flat up on the cast iron.
Paul: It was delicious.
Ben: I’ve never done that before. I’m going to try that for my next cook.
Paul: Totally worked.
Paul: It totally worked. I mean, you could use tallow to cook it. I would never use a vegetable oil to cook it. There’s a lot of really–
Ben: That’s right. You traveled with your own little can of tallow–
Paul: I brought all my good stuff for you guys to try, the salmon roe–
Ben: Liver jerky, heart jerkies.
Paul: Yeah. I wanted to share it, and collagen.
Ben: You’re practicing what you preach. I appreciate that.
Paul: You got to live it, man. It’s a good thing.
Ben: Okay. So, before we tackle another elephant in the room, which is the link between protein and cancer, and the fact that we are talking about a very high protein diet by definition, can you differentiate, compare and contrast ketosis versus carnivore diet? Because I think what we’ve established thus far is that if you are going to do a carnivore diet, it would benefit you from the short chain fatty acid production standpoint, or the beta-hydroxybutyrate standpoint to be sure that you’re staying in ketosis if you’re doing a carnivore diet. You’re not like cheating in and out, and basically, you want to generate a lot of beta-hydroxybutyrate if you’re on a carnivore diet, I would imagine, for the gut benefits. And you can comment on that if you want, but also comment on ketosis versus a carnivore diet and the differences because I think people get confused by that.
Paul: Yeah. What Ben is referring to is the idea that when you restrict carbohydrates in your diet–so there are three macronutrients. There are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Our bodies are pretty incredible. We essentially can run on two fuels. We can run on fat or we can run on carbohydrates. We can’t really run the engine of our bodies biochemically on protein. We can do a little bit of energy metabolism on that, but it’s mostly building blocks at like a very basic level. And so, you have an engine in your body which can run on carbohydrates or fat, and this is probably what was most striking about the ketogenic movement was that a lot of people didn’t realize you could also run on fat, and you can run on your own fat that is stored, or you can run on fat that you are eating, and you don’t need to run on carbohydrates. There’s no such thing as an essential carbohydrate.
And so, when we construct ketogenic diets or diets that place humans into ketosis, we restrict carbohydrates and then the body in the process of adaptation up-regulates enzymes that do beta-oxidation and use the oxidation of fats to make ketones like beta-hydroxybutyrate, which can then be converted into acetyl-CoA, go through the TCA cycle and produce–reducing intermediates and electron transport chain carriers for electrons. And we can run our human engine on ketones.
So, you could have a ketogenic diet that is not carnivorous, and that can include some plant foods. For some people on ketogenic diets, they include a lot of dairy, which can be problematic for some people for a variety of reasons, which we can talk about. But the idea is that the difference between a ketogenic diet and a carnivore diet is that a carnivore diet is obviously not going to have any plant foods, but on a ketogenic diet, you could include some plant foods that may be potentially immunotoxic, like we’re talking about. You could include things that might have immunogenicity. Specifically, I’m thinking of some of the most toxic offenders or the most immunologically active offenders for people are plants like in the genus Solanaceae, which are the nightshade vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, those are all quite immunologically stimulating for people in a bad way. So, you can have those–
Ben: Right. A lot of people on the ketogenic diet are in like resistant starch, for example, green bananas.
Ben: Cooked potatoes that have been refrigerated after being cooked in coconut oil, that type of thing.
Paul: Right. So, you could have a lot of foods on a ketogenic diet, which may have toxins, may have plant toxins like we’re talking about, or may have lectins or other things which could trigger the immune system. Carnivore diet is not going to have any of those plant foods. Now, when you are on a carnivorous diet, when you’re eating nose-to-tail, you will also be in ketosis because there are no carbohydrates or no plant-based carbohydrates. There’s actually a small amount of carbohydrate in meat if you look at it. It’s on the order of like 10 grams a day when you’re just eating meat. You are getting some carbohydrates from the meat but it’s very small.
So, on a carnivorous diet, you will be in ketosis. And if you check your ketone levels, depending on the fat to protein macro, they usually–depending on the person’s individual genetics, what we generally see is 0.5 to 1.5. People on ketogenic diets may have a little bit higher levels of ketones, but it just depends on the fat macro and how much fat to protein you do.
Ben: So, the fact that I have over there in the ice cream, or over there in the freezer behind us ice cream made of egg yolks, butter, coconut cream, a little bit of monk fruit and dark chocolate powder makes that a very non-carnivorous ice cream although it is ketogenic.
Paul: Exactly. And again, I would say that the reason that you would want to cut out those plant foods for a lot of people would be to see if you feel better from an energy standpoint, from a mental clarity standpoint, from a sleep standpoint, from a mood standpoint, from an autoimmune standpoint without the plants that could potentially be triggering immunologic reactions in people, or creating net nutrient deficiencies.
Ben: Coconut oil and coconut cream.
Paul: So, there’s an interesting thing here. Coconut has salicylates in it, which a lot of people can be sensitive to. Coconut butter or the coconut cream has a lot of the husk in it. So, that’s going to have more of the actual coconut fiber and the coconut things in it. The coconut oil, technically, isn’t going to have any of the coconut particles in it but it could still have some salicylates. Then you get into this idea, it gets pretty granular, of oleosins, which are these plant-derived fat-based molecules with proteinaceous structure in them.
So, even some of the plant oils like olive oil and coconut oil can have proteins that identify that as a plant-based food in them, and those may even trigger some people. So, if people are at a very immunologically triggered state, I would recommend that they consider cutting those out completely and then reintroducing [01:34:21] ______.
Ben: Yeah, those dairy eggs, everything.
Paul: Dairy is a specific case. I am really not a fan of dairy. One of the things that we see on ketogenic diets, and this is what I see almost exclusively for people that gain weight on ketogenic diets, is it’s the dairy causing them to gain weight. We were actually talking about this at dinner last night. Dairy is an interesting little sidebar here.
Ben: I think you and I were talking about it with–I think by that point, I was off doing the dishes but you’re talking about breast milk.
Paul: Yeah, we were talking about breast milk. Dairy is extremely addictive for humans because it is the combination of fat and sugar, and that combination of fat and sugar feeds into our infant brains and says, “You should eat a lot of this,” which is a great survival advantage. That’s what we want. We want infants to want to eat as much breast milk as possible. But when we combine fat and sugar, it short-circuits the mechanisms in our brain around satiety. If you look in the animal kingdom, if you look in the natural world, there are no other naturally-occurring foods that have fat and sugar, not necessarily sucrose but fat and carbohydrates occurring together in them. Breast milk is the only substance that does that.
These are some of the ideas put forth by Ted Naiman. I’ll give a hat tip to him. But those type of foods, fat and sugar together, are extremely disruptive of human satiety and are extremely obesogenic. And so, basically, what I was talking about with your wife was that ice cream is the ultimate obesogen because it is essentially like breast milk. Ice cream–
Ben: Breast milk is good to a certain extent, and one could argue that the development of the lactose persistence gene–or is it the lactose or lactase persistence?
Ben: Yeah, the lactase persistence gene, that is something that evolved during the Agricultural Revolution or during the development and domestication of animals. Prior to that point, humans had no need for it and didn’t have a craving for dairy or milk or even the ability to be able to handle it until after that gene began to persist.
Paul: It’s an interesting story regarding that gene. There are other things in dairy as well which can short-circuit our satiety mechanisms, specifically casomorphin, which is an opiate-like compound and dairy, which is why cheese is so rewarding but not satiating. So, what we see, and what I’ve seen in clients and people I’ve worked with and other people in the carnivore community, is that when they cut out dairy, they are so much better able to manage their satiety and sense their satiety for mixed meals.
I had a friend who I do quite a bit of research with and he told me that when he stopped eating dairy, he was much more satiated when eating meat. So, when he was eating dairy with meat or when he had dairy in his diet, he ended up eating more meat and more animal products and he just was more satiated and was more able to sense when he was full when he eliminated dairy. I think it has to do with casomorphin, in general, kind of hijacking some of our satiety mechanisms.
And so, if people are on a ketogenic diet and they gain weight–Dom D’Agostino’s sister–I think Dom D’Agostino, people probably know him, he’s a pretty smart guy in the ketogenic world. His sister gained a bunch of weight on a ketogenic diet, and I really believe that was due to dairy. I think that if you construct the ketogenic diet without dairy, you’re much more likely to be successful in terms of weight loss with that diet. But I also feel like for most people, I don’t recommend dairy on a carnivorous diet. I think there are other ways to get calcium that there are no nutrients that we really need in the milk and the dairy, and it does hijack these satiety mechanisms.
Ben: Okay. There are a lot of studies, especially in yeast and fruit flies, that show that limiting amino acid intake can enhance longevity or inhibit the potential for carcinogenicity. And when we’re eating nose-to-tail, you and I have probably eaten–but in just the past 12 hours alone, how many grams of protein would you say? I would say 200, 250.
Paul: Last night, what I ate was probably a pound and a quarter steak, which is small for me. I usually eat 300.
Ben: I’m sorry, I would have made two.
Paul: It’s all right.
Ben: We got one ready for you–
Paul: I know. We got another one, yeah. It’s all right. I eat extra liver jerky and tallow and some extra heart jerky with it. But yeah, I generally eat three pounds of meat a day. So, I have no shortage of amino acids in my diet.
Ben: So, are you going to get cancer?
Paul: Absolutely not, and I’ll tell you why. The studies that were done in rodents and other animals were looking at methionine, and what they found was that it was generally in terms of longevity, when they restricted methionine, they had longevity benefits. But what they also found, Ben, it goes back to the collagen story, when they added glycine, they got the same longevity benefits. So, it wasn’t necessarily the protein restriction or the methionine restriction that induced longevity; it was the problem of a methionine glycine imbalance.
Just to bring people back full circle, Ben asked me earlier why I added collagen to my steak. Collagen is a three amino acid peptide that forms all the connective tissues in our bodies. And one of those amino acids is glycine, and this goes back to the idea of eating nose-to-tail, eating tendons and all these things. And so, I want to make sure that my body gets enough glycine from an evolutionarily consistent standpoint. This is also based on the research in animals that when they sell them in glycine in animals, they see the same improvements. When you improve the methionine-glycine ratio by glycine supplementation or addition of collagen, you see the same normalization of [01:39:55] ______ that you do, or you see the improvements in the lifespan that you get when you get methionine restriction.
So, it’s probably not that protein itself is causing a problem here, and we can dive further into this, it’s that the addition of methionine without concomitant or congruent amounts of glycine is a problem for people–
Ben: Right. Which returns again to the concept of eating nose-to-tail.
Ben: Do you drink bone broth as well?
Paul: I do, yeah.
Ben: Okay. Yeah. Which can be a source of glycine.
Paul: Exactly, yes. And maybe we can enumerate those for people. So, probably, people can do directly. They can just eat glycine directly. I think collagen is a better source because collagen also has–there are three amino acids in collagen which are glycine, proline, and hydroxylysine, I believe. And so, you’re getting all the amino acids in collagen, which complement the amino acids in muscle meat. You can supplement directly with glycine but you’ll miss out on some of the proline, and then you can get bone broth which will have collagen in it. So, when you put bone broth in the fridge and it turns to jelly, you know that your bone broth is good because that is collagen in your bone broth.
Ben: Okay, okay.
Paul: And so, that’s what you want. Making bone broth is a fantastic addition or substitute for collagen.
Ben: Now, some people are concerned about constant activation of mTOR, and even myself in shifting to a much higher meat intake over the past week. I have focused quite a bit on making sure that I nailed that 12-hour to 16-hour intermittent fasting window. I’m curious, and I’ve even been consuming what I call autophagy tea, which was introduced to me by my friend Dr. Mercola, which actually contains a lot of the plant compounds we talked about earlier. We probably don’t have time to dive down the rabbit hole of inducing autophagy through plant compounds because I think we’ve kind of explored that already a little bit.
Paul: Or the fantasy of it.
Ben: Yeah. Are you concerned about not having enough cellular autophagy and too much mTOR activation inhibiting your longevity? And if not, why?
Paul: No. I’ll tell you about this. This is a really interesting part of the story, Ben. So, two things with this. If you look at carnivores and you actually look at the level of IGF-1, okay, so IGF-1 is insulin growth factor 1, and IGF-1 has been linked to SAMTOR activation, IGF-1 binds the IGF-1 receptor and the insulin receptor, which can trigger mTOR downstream. And so, people are concerned that increasing a whole bunch of protein is going to trigger tons of IGF-1. But what I have seen across the board is that IGF-1 levels are actually lower in carnivores than on people in mixed diets. So, I see IGF-1 levels around 120/125, mixed dieters, 190/180.
I’ll again refer back to Peter Attia who shared a lot of his data about IGF-1 levels. And the reason for this is ketosis, and this is what’s interesting about a carnivorous diet versus a semi-carnivorous diet, right? If you look at the benefits of caloric restriction, if those are mediated by what appears to be the sirtuin family of genes, right–and that’s why resveratrol is one of these plant compounds that has a lot of interests because it appears to potentially trigger sirtuin activation through a variety of mechanisms. But caloric restriction benefits come from the activation of the sirtuin family of genes. That family of genes is also activated by beta-hydroxybutyrate.
Ben: It turns again to beta-hydroxybutyrate. Interesting.
Paul: Amazing, right? So, ketosis, if you look at the molecular mechanisms, ketosis, beta-hydroxybutyrate appear to have essentially the exact same benefits as caloric restriction, activation of the sirtuin family of genes, NAD to NADH changes, right? Sirtuins are NAD-dependent enzymes, their deacetylases. Beta-hydroxybutyrate increases NAD in the cell. It is also an HDAC inhibitor, so histone deacetylase inhibitor.
The mechanisms of beta-hydroxybutyrate and sirtuins are very similar, and actually, I should say that beta-hydroxybutyrate appears to trigger the activation of the sirtuin genes as well. And so, when you’re in ketosis, you actually get more of the AMPK activation than the mTOR activation. So, it’s this interesting balance where you’re eating a lot of protein. You’re not losing muscle. And many people found gains and strength and performance because of the protein–the anabolic effects of the protein. But what you see clinically or what you see biochemically is that IGF-1 does not go through the roof. It’s in the middle. And if you look at it molecularly, AMPK is actually getting activated because of the ketones, and many of these same mechanisms on caloric restriction are getting activated from the ketones, which is one of the things I would illustrate regarding resveratrol because people say, “Oh, isn’t resveratrol one of these beneficial compounds?”
Paul: And I would say, “Yes, it seems to have some benefits. However, just like I said earlier, it also has collateral damage. And the benefits of resveratrol are not unique to resveratrol. We can get those same potential longevity benefits, activation to the sirtuin gene system.”
Ben: That’s just the supplement of resveratrol.
Ben: Do you know most supplements come from grape skins, they make that from peanut skins–resveratrol?
Paul: And it’s really high levels which are not evolutionarily consistent. But we can get all those molecular benefits from ketosis. And so, that’s what’s really crazy is that like, “Oh, this is really interesting like beta-hydroxybutyrate.” There are some amazing articles I’ll send you to link in the podcast notes, but they–I mean, some of these studies are beta-hydroxybutyrate, much more than metabolite, ketone bodies as signaling molecules, ketone bodies being involved in longevity as well, and being all connected with mTOR and the AMPK pathway, NAD, and IGF-1. And so, it’s a really interesting thing because people would say that, “Aren’t you just going to over-activate mTOR, over-activate these things?” But it doesn’t. It’s kind of gets balanced because of the ketogenic state of this diet.
Ben: Okay. Interesting.
Paul: Yeah. It’s pretty wild.
Ben: I have another concern, and this is actually one of the final things that I wanted to cover with you, and that is the idea that if we all started eating nose-to-tail, like I hunt my own meat for the most part and we’re surrounded right now–there’s probably right now peering in through the windows at us, I would say maybe 20 white-tailed deer, minimum, just wandering on my property, enough to feed this entire neighborhood for a couple of weeks.
Ben: Right. But let’s face it, not everybody is going to go out and hunt down their own animals. Not everybody lives in a locale like Washington State suburbs that are conducive to hunting your own meat. Somebody might be listening in in L.A. and be concerned about the idea that if everybody began to eat a carnivorous diet, yeah, maybe we could throw in a bunch of insects, perhaps, which have some value. There are proteins, there are minerals, there are nutrients, but–
Paul: Yeah. Crickets–
Ben: Even with that, is this even something that’s sustainable? Is this something ethical that we should be endorsing for a lot of people to do? What’s your take on that?
Paul: So, that’s a really interesting, really important question. I’ll just back up one point from that and say that I think there are two ways to look at this. The first way that I look at it–you can look at it from a population basis and you can look at it from an individual basis. And by the individual basis, what I mean is that as a physician, I see patients and I see people who are individual stories and that’s how my interest in this kind of got started, this idea that as humans, when somebody comes to see me and they have debilitating depression or a recalcitrant autoimmune disease, that’s an individual. And as a physician, I’m really interested in how to help an individual.
And so, I think that one of the things we need to answer and not jump to conclusions about the inability of a carnivore diet to be helpful for people is we need to answer the individual questions before we talk about the population questions, because if a diet like this, if the exclusion of plant products can be beneficial to some people with really debilitating diseases, we can change individual stories and lives. If we can establish that academically, then we can start saying, “Okay. We know this is valuable, this is a tool. And maybe we don’t use it for everyone, but we use it for people who are really sick and we know this is a tool that works and it returns us to an ancestral way of life.” So, that’s the first piece is that I like to think about things as individuals. And then if we think about things from a population level, I agree with you, we have major problems as humans on this planet.
And what I would argue with regard to this section of the equation is that if you talk to environmental scientists, the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions are fossil fuels. No one would debate that that we are living as humans in ways which are accelerating knowledge sharing. What we’re doing right now is incredible. We are talking and sharing things with people all over the world. But that comes at a cost and we are using fossil fuels by doing this, right? And the majority of our environmental change appears to be related to greenhouse gas emissions connected with fossil fuels, the vast majority.
People say, “Oh, if you put more cattle on the earth, it’s going to increase greenhouse gases.” It may slightly, but let’s just break it down. The vast majority of greenhouse gases come from fossil fuel emissions. That is transportation, industry, electronics, all these things. I think that as humans, what we have to ask ourselves is, where do we place our priorities and how do we allocate our environmental resources? Because I think we’re actually going to get to a point where we can only do so many things environmentally with regard to greenhouse. We can’t do all of it, right?
But then if you look at agriculture, agriculture I think represents about 8% of the greenhouse gas emissions, and of that, only 3% to 4% is animal agriculture. So, half of our agriculture is actually related to greenhouse gas emissions, half of our emissions from agriculture are related to plant-based growing of foods. So, only like 3% to 4% of the greenhouse gas emissions are from animal-based agriculture. So, it’s a very small percentage of the overall emissions. I’m not saying it’s insignificant. I’m not saying we shouldn’t know about it, but it’s not this huge percentage that we’re talking about. Then we’re talking about perhaps more than 60% to 70% of the overall emissions are coming from fossil fuels and industry.
So, we’re sort of saying like, “Oh, okay. Let’s just have a sense of the relative proportions of all these things.” And I get worried when people say like–they sort of short-circuit the whole argument around this saying, “That’s not sustainable. We shouldn’t do it.” Like I said, the first thing I say to them is, “Talk to me when your brother or your sister has a disease that could potentially be helped by this type of diet. You tell me–“
Ben: Right. And I mean, honestly, dude, where my mind goes is yeah, maybe it is an individualized diet that we use in a case-by-case scenario, and maybe we have to face reality. Maybe our earth is populated to the extent where we need to incorporate survival food, right? Like maybe part of it actually is including some amount of plant matter simply because we’ve painted ourself into a population corner to where it might not be the best thing for the human body. And you’ve made a compelling argument that it may not be, but it might just be that we still have to eat tubers and we still have to go out and harvest seeds and nuts and more nutrient-dense foods and work our asses off to figure out ways to render them digestible because this is just life.
Like Jordan Peterson says, we got to carry our weight up the hill, and yeah, if you’re rich and you’re wealthy enough to be able to just go out and either hunt down any meat that you want or you live in an area where you can do that or you can afford to purchase salmon roe and ribeye steaks and everything, then yeah, I mean life isn’t fair, like maybe you can eat a really solid carnivore diet and not have to eat “poor man’s food.” And I realize what I’m saying is inflammatory and potentially disruptive to a lot of thought patterns, but I mean maybe we just live in a situation on planet earth currently ’til lab-based nose-to-tail [01:51:49] _____.
Paul: That’s a whole–we don’t want to talk about that.
Ben: We don’t have the time to get into that, but I mean, maybe it is the case where we do have to eat survival food but we shouldn’t be walking around telling everyone that that’s the ideal diet or the most healthy way to go.
Paul: Well, I agree with most of what you said. I hesitate to agree with the depiction of a carnivore diet is like a rich person’s diet or like some sort of–
Ben: Well, a rich person’s diet or a hunter-gatherer diet. Those would be the two situations.
Paul: Yeah, like a really good hunter. But I do think that, like I said, and I tried to sort of create the context here, I also think about it first and foremost as a physician because that’s kind of my vocation. And for me, if there are things that we can do for patients that will ease suffering, that’s a valuable intervention, and I agree with you. Perhaps everyone doesn’t need that intervention but we need to know what that intervention is, you know, so that when my brother, my sister, my spouse, my child become sick, it’s, “Oh, wow, that person is really sick with autoimmune disease.” Maybe we should try this way of eating which may help them.
But you’re right. Maybe some people have a genetic ability to tolerate some plants more than others. But I think that to dismiss this as a potentially useful therapeutic intervention for humans is to discard something that can be very valuable and brings up a lot of issues around how humans have lived and who we are and how we can leverage medical therapies, because we are spending billions of dollars a year developing very fancy chemotherapeutic drugs and all these fancy things. And it’s like, “Wait a minute.”
I mean, if you look at the way that we treat autoimmune disease now with biologics, they have horrible side effects; tuberculosis, pneumonia, cancers. If for people with really debilitating autoimmune disease, which could include psychiatric disease like I said, we could say, “Wait a minute. Maybe you’re really sensitive to food. Maybe you’re really sensitive to plants and the plant toxins here. And there’s this ancestral way of eating, which is perhaps the most consistent way of humans eating. We can employ this type of diet for you, and that can help someone.”
We need to know that that exists. We need to not stop the conversation and stop asking that, if that can help certain people. Now, if we can accept that or if we can understand that from an academic perspective and say, “Yeah, this is really cool. Look at this. This might be the optimal way for humans to eat.” Then we can also say to the climate change scientists like, “Hey, we have this really valuable therapy but we also have seven and a half billion or eight billion people on the planet. How do we scale this?” And then we can actually have the conversation with people who are much smarter than me in terms of climate-based science and say like, “How do we make this sustainable? How do we do this for more people?” But I think it’s the whole idea and injustice to short-circuit the conversation in the beginning and say, “This isn’t sustainable,” because it can be very valuable in an individual level but I think we have to be ethically responsible to the whole planet and everything as well.
Paul: And also realize, like I said, the relative contributions of all the different sectors of emissions because maybe we could do something where we can increase our animal agriculture and create more supplies of meat in sustainable grass-fed ways. And then Elon Musk figures out how to make Tesla $15,000 and fossil fuel emissions go down.
Ben: Paul, I know you’ve got a ribeye steak to cook up for lunch.
Paul: I’m excited about it.
Ben: [01:54:55] _____ back to Seattle.
Paul: I’m excited about it.
Ben: I’ve got phone calls to go out in the sunshine and make. I am incredibly grateful that you made the trip. You’ve got me and a lot of other people thinking a little bit more intelligently and deeply about this dietary approach, and I appreciate what you’re doing. I’m going to link to your YouTube channel which is fantastic. I think a lot of people will benefit from exploring some of the topics you dive into there. I’m going to link to that debate that you did with Layne Norton, which I originally discovered you. And I’ll link to everything else that we talked about as well if folks go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/carnivore. I’ll have it all there. So, thanks for making the drive over, man, for–
Paul: It’s my pleasure. It’s been a great time.
Ben: –for working out, for eating meat with me and just doing the full experience. I really appreciate it.
Paul: That’s been an incredible experience, the Greenfield experience.
Paul: It’s amazing.
Ben: Alright, folks. I’m Ben Greenfield and Dr. Paul Saladino signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Have an amazing week.
Well, thanks for listening to today’s show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I’ve ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
Prepare yourself for the most epic, deep dive into the carnivore diet that you’ve ever heard.
I recently listened to a physician named Paul Saladino debate research scientist Layne Norton about the carnivore diet on my friend Mark Bell’s podcast. I was so intrigued by the episode that I decided to get Paul on my show to explore the science behind the carnivore diet, carnivore diet dos and don’ts, and whether the carnivore diet is a true, sustainable, natural, ancestral nutrition approach or just a dietary fad.
During this show, we cover:
-Why Paul is a raving fan of salmon roe…17:15
-Why Paul doesn’t consume black pepper…21:15
- A central principle of the carnivore diet: plants are not put on the earth to serve humans
- Develop potentially toxic compounds to defend themselves from other animals
- A peppercorn is the seed of a plant
- The seeds are where a higher concentration of pesticides and toxins reside
- Pepper contains a compound called piperine, which inhibits UDP glucuronosyltransferase
- In essence: black pepper inhibits our body’s natural detoxification process.
- Piperine is added to curcumin supplementsto increase the level of curcumin you can absorb
- We don’t actually use these molecules in human biochemistry
- Used to activate certain pathways to produce our own antioxidants (which is glutathione)
- Plants induce Nrf2, while simultaneously doing toxic things to our bodies
- Sulforaphaneis considered to be a highly beneficial molecule as a precursor to glutathione pathways
- But is known to be a goitrogen(meaning it can induce hypothyroidism)
- Key take away: You can simulate the benefits of eating plants by eating meat and living a healthy lifestyle
-Whether plants like exercise, where you need them, but too much can be harmful…26:05
- Hormesisis a potential benefit of plants
- Linked to hypothyroidism
- Depends on one’s baseline level of iodineconsumption
- Does not exist in a plant
- Glucoraphaninis converted into sulforaphane by Myrosinase
- Highest levels are found in broccoli seeds and sprouts
- Humans are “facultative carnivores” meaning we can get everything we need from meat without ingesting the toxins found in plants.
-Why Paul refused a cup of Kion Coffee when offered by Ben…30:45
- Coffee is felt to be beneficial because of a couple of polyphenolic compounds: chlorogenic acidand caffeic acid
- A coffee bean is the seed of a plant, which contains toxins as a natural defense mechanism
- Very few animals eat those seeds
-Storage organs in plants that result in larger brains and smaller guts…46:35
- Richard Wrangham
- Fairly toxic generally speaking
- Ancestral (non-hybridized) tubers aren’t as valuable to humans due to size, appearance, etc.
- Developed big brains by eating bone marrow and brains of animals (as scavengers)
- No DHA, or fatty acids in a tuber
- Macronutrients for short term survival; micronutrients for long term survival
- Tubers have macronutrients, but not micronutrients
- Fossils of homo erectusfound near water: algae, DHA, other micronutrients
- Just because tubers were efficacious for our ancestors doesn’t mean we should choose them today
- Animals provide all the micronutrients we need in the most bioavailable forms
- The ultimate multivitamin for a human would be an animal
-Why plants may not be necessary, could be harmful to the gut, and are “survival food”…50:50
-Whether a carnivorous diet is sustainable or ethical…53:53
- Eat the animal “nose to tail”
- Book: The Whole Beast by Fergus Henderson
- Muscle meat is high in methioninebut low in glycine
- Best results come when we eat organs and tendons along with the muscle meat
- Different nutrients in different parts of the animal
- Why Ben called the carnivore diet “lazy” on the Joe Rogan podcast
- Carbohydrate availability for the thyroid
- Ancestors would eat the thyroid immediately after killing an animal
- Do you need plants to consume adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals?
-How we would consume fiber on a carnivore diet, or if we even need it at all…1:06:40
- The debate between Paul Saladino and Layne Norton on the Mark Bell show
- Fiber is a “fairy tale”
- Physician named Burkett in Tanzania
- Tanzanians did not have as many cases of diverticulosis as Westerners
- Erroneously equated high amounts of fiber intake with low cases of diverticulosis
- The reverse is true
- Applies to insoluble and soluble fiber
- “Healthy user bias” affects studies on fiber
- People who eat less meat and more fiber, andengage in healthy activities
- Stereotypical “meat eater”: Steak, fries, cake, etc.
-Why I’m hesitant to embrace a full-on carnivore diet…1:13:50
- Variety is the spice of life (colors of food, tastes, etc.)
- Humans are “facultative carnivores”
- Meant to eat animals, but can eat plants when animals are not available
- Plants can contribute to life enjoyment if you choose to use them in your diet
-The carnivore diet and longevity…1:23:30
- Fallacy: centenarians live longer because of genetics. They live long in spite of what they eat.
- Theory of “blue zones” has been incorrectly interpreted
- Not caused by diet (plants, legumes, etc.)
- Clusters of longevity mutation in certain genes; improves insulin sensitivity, antioxidants, etc.
- High insulin sensitivity when carbs are cut out
-Carnivore vs. ketosis…1:28:45
- Three micronutrients: carbs, protein, fat
- We can run on two fuels: fat or carbs
- Fat that is stored or that you’re eating
- No such thing as an “essential carbohydrate”
- You can have a ketogenic diet that includes some plant foods that are potentially immunotoxic
- Carnivore diet is by default a ketogenic because you’re not eating plant-based carbs (trace amounts in meat)
- What about coconut oiland coconut cream?
- Dairy: addictive to humans because it’s the combination of fat and sugar; great for infants
- It’s why we crave ice cream
- Rewarding but not satiating
- Some cut out dairy, and find they’re more satiated when eating meat
-The carnivore diet and amino intake…1:37:53
- Paul typically eats 3 pounds of meat per day
- No risk of developing cancer
-Concern about constant activation of mTOR on the carnivore diet…1:41:00
-More on the ethics/sustainability of the carnivore diet…1:45:30
- It’s not practical for everyone to hunt their own meat
- Look at it from a population vs. individual basis
- Answer questions pertaining to the individual before the population
- Advances in technology contribute to increases in greenhouse gases (fossil fuel emissions)
- Agriculture contributes ~8% of greenhouse gases; 3-4% is animal agriculture
- Greenhouse gas contribution of livestock
-And much more…
-Who is Paul Saladino?
Throughout the course of his life, Paul Saladino has embarked on many adventures that have shaped his personal interests – including his unique, individualized approach to medicine. After studying chemistry at College of William he spent 6 years traveling and exploring. Highlights included a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, a summer in the New Zealand backcountry, and 2 years skiing and climbing in Wyoming’s Teton Mountains.
He returned to academic studies after these adventures, first becoming a physician assistant and practicing in cardiology before training at the University of Arizona, obtaining his M.D. in 2015. He is a certified Functional Medicine practitioner (IFMCP) through the Institute for Functional Medicine and will complete his residency in psychiatry at the University of Washington this June. When he is not researching connections between nutritional biochemistry and chronic disease he can be found in the frigid waters of the pacific northwest in search of the perfect wave.
Resources from this episode:
-My Facebook post on my “bastardized version” of the carnivore diet
-USWellnessMeats ribeye steaks – Use code: GREENFIELD to save 15% storewide – Offer good for up to 2 orders per customer. Excludes orders over 40 lbs, sale items, volume discounts, and gift certificates.
-The Kettle & Fire bone broth Ben drinks – Use code: GREENFIELD for 10% off
Additional resources/research from Dr. Paul Saladino:
-Cyanogenic glycosides in food:
-BHB and signaling/anti-aging mechanisms:
-Ketogenic Diet Improves Lifespan:
Kion Aminos: Building blocks for muscle recovery, reduced cravings, better cognition, immunity, and more. Get 10% off your order of Kion Aminos, and everything at the Kion site when you use discount code: BGF10 at checkout.
Organifi Green Juice: Now you can get all your healthy superfoods in one glass…with No Shopping, No Blending, No Juicing, and No Cleanup. Use discount code: GREENFIELD at checkout and get a 20% discount on your entire order!
ButcherBox: delivers healthy 100% grass-fed and finished beef, free-range organic chicken, and Heritage breed pork directly to your door on a monthly basis. All their products are humanely raised and NEVER given antibiotics or hormones. New subscribers will receive 2 LBS of FREE wild caught Alaskan salmon + $20 OFF their first box by going to Butcherbox.com/Ben
Birdwell Beach Britches: Quality is our Gimmick isn’t just our slogan, it’s a commitment we honor with every stitch we sew. 100% money back guarantee. Get 10% off your order when you use discount code: BENG, PLUS free shipping on any order over $99.