Nutrition Reviews

I intend in this post to discuss various news reports on nutrition, interspersed with comments on nutrition based upon what we know happens physiologically in the body. I will assume that most readers will have learned a lot of the basic physiology mentioned in this post, and will not just re-iterate the dogma about nutrition that is rampant on the news broadcasts and popular literature. Some of the statements made by doctors and researchers, as well as news reporters, are based on good science but most of them are not, and are conclusions made on assumptions that have never been shown scientifically to be accurate or applicable to what is being stated. I will try to point out all the assumptions made by researchers that I review. However, since the nutrition research has a very long record of assumptions, this will take time for me to find and report all of them. Many of these assumptions are in the textbooks, which notoriously do not cite the original research that lead to the conclusions upon which these assumptions are made. This is how myth perpetuates and multiplies.

The following topics are reviewed under news reports from NPR:

  • Dietary Supplements
  • Gluten-Free
  • Doctor Talk
  • Hormones and Obesity
  • Proteins

This post also will be updated in the future as more news reports on nutrition come out. Please see my post “Nutrition and Chemistry” for more in-depth discussion of the physics and chemistry of nutrition and the role of the brain in regulating eating.

Dietary Supplements

Comment on “Americans Urged To Rethink Dietary Supplement Use” on Morning Edition 10/17/11 and “Supplements Look Risky in Study of Older Women” where I discuss different reports on nutrition and on the fact that our nutrition depends upon the chemistry of our food, that we should make food choices based upon the chemistry. If we seem to choose unhealthy foods, we need to ask our bodies why it is choosing those foods and not others that have the same chemical elements needed, using mind-body medicine techniques.


NPR reporter John Knox states that there is a strong trend toward taking a multivitamin as a supplement to feel better, either on the advice of their doctor or on their own. John Knox discusses information on recent research on the use of supplements in older women (report is based upon data collected on these women over 18 years in the Iowa Women’s Health Study, published by Mursu et al 2011). The results of the study showed an “astounding” increase in the number of women taking supplements and that women taking the supplements did not live longer. Knox says that the study shows that women taking the supplements died 10% earlier than those who did not, the time varying with the kind of supplement taken.

He interviews Mursu who says that the study does not “prove” that taking supplements is dangerous but they do not show that taking them does any good, either. Dr. Rita Redberg (editor of Archives of Internal Medicine) that if getting a little amount of vitamins is good for us, more is not necessarily better for us. She says that research in the past has shown that supplements have not helped to prevent cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease or other diseases. Our health is best served getting our vitamins and minerals from our diet, not from supplements. She says that very few people need dietary supplements.

In fact, some studies seem to suggest that taking supplements may make a disease worse. Knox reports on a study recently published in JAMA that showed that men who took either vitamin E or selenium, or both, to prevent prostate cancer were not successful. Furthermore, men who took vitamin E had a “17% higher risk of prostate cancer.” He interviewed Dr. Ian M. Thompson, Jr. who co-lead the study, who suggested that men who are taking vitamin E to prevent cancer should stop taking it.

Knox interviewed Taylor Wallace, Senior Director, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, who takes issue with these studies, claiming that the researchers study the supplements as if they were drugs. Supplements, he says, were not meant to prevent disease but to support a healthy lifestyle. However, Knox suggests that most people (including doctors) seem to be “buying in” to the idea that supplements prevent disease.

My Comments

This report is based on one done at NPR Health Blog, “Supplements Look Risky in Study of Older Women“, which is a comment on a study by Mursu, J. et. al. 2011. One major problem with this study is its methodology. As a result of poor methodology, this survey can’t allow anyone to say that supplements cause or are even linked with early death in older women. See the report by Robert Verkerk, PhD where he meticulously takes apart the study and lists major criticisms of the methodology and conclusions. He also offers free access to a pdf download at that site (I do not know for how long it is available there).

Other sites suggest that the AMA is encouraging junk science to create an environment where no one uses supplements (ANH Pt I, ANH Pt II) Both of these sites find a lot of detail to criticize in this study. The second site points out that the Archives of Internal Medicine had published a study with a much larger sample size in 2009 that concluded that vitamin supplements “neither helped nor hurt mortality”. The CRN (mentioned in this report) also criticized this study.

This published study was a survey of what these women remembered they took as supplements during this time, based upon the what they state in questionnaires administered in 1986, 1997 and 2004. The results show that 85% of the women were taking supplements in 1985. The researchers then correlated the results with the age at death and found that the number of deaths for women who took copper supplements was a bit higher than average, and the number of deaths in those who took calcium supplements was a bit lower. However the statistics clearly show that the number of deaths on any supplement fell within the average for most of the women. The authors conclude in their abstract that “In older women, several commonly used dietary vitamin and mineral supplements may be associated with increased total mortality risk; this association is strongest with supplemental iron. In contrast to the findings of many studies, calcium is associated with decreased risk.”

In reality we should only take supplements when we need them. Unfortunately taking “recommended doses” doesn’t help because many people do follow the assumption that “more is better”, especially if we take the supplements when we hope they will make us feel better. The best way to know is to just ask your body if you need it and when you need it, just like you should do when you want to eat something. I found that using mind-body medicine techniques like “Mindfulness” and Muscle Reflex Testing are the best ways to find out what our unconscious mind knows and what chemicals we need to ingest.

Most nutrients that are needed do not just break down to proteins, carbs and fats, but also to their individual chemical elements. These chemical elements make up what are called “micro-nutrients”. However, that name is not understood very well, because it implies that we need only trace amounts. That concept does apply to the dangerous chemical elements like copper, iron, and zinc, but does not apply to calcium, boron, phosphorus, manganese or even elements needed in only moderate amounts, like sodium, potassium, magnesium.

For example, we need more calcium than we realize, just for day-to-day physiological activities. However, the form we take it in dictates how much we get, and the recommended doses do not take into account how much calcium gets lost because of the form it is in when we take it. We cannot eat elemental calcium, it has to be combined with some other element(s) to be absorbed and used. Calcium glutamate is not available in supplements, but it is abundant in most foods that carry it: meat, wheat, avocado, broccoli, cabbage, dairy, nuts. In fact, we can call it the universal calcium storage mode for all kinds of life forms. See my blog post “Calcium Supplements“.

The second study that John Knox reported (Klein, et. al., 2011) was on 35,533 men from the US, Canada and Puerto Rico (over a period of 3 years, from Aug 2001-June,2004). Science News also summarized this study.


Klein, Eric A.; Thompson, Ian M., Jr.; Tangen, Catherine M.; Crowley, John J.; Lucia, M. Scott; Goodman, Phyllis J.; Minasian, Lori M.; Ford, Leslie G.; Parnes, Howard L.; Gaziano, J. Michael; Karp, Daniel D.; Lieber, Michael M.; Walther, Philip J.; Klotz, Laurence; Parsons, J. Kellogg; Chin, Joseph L.; Darke, Amy K.; Lippman, Scott M.; Goodman, Gary E.; Meyskens, Frank L.; Baker, Laurence H. 2011. Vitamin E and the risk of prostate cancer: The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT). JAMA. 306(14): 1549-1556

Mursu, Jaakko; Robien, Kim; Harnack, Lisa J.; Park, Kyong; Jacobs, David R., Jr. 2011. Dietary supplements and mortality rate in older women: The Iowa Women’s Health Study. Arch. Intern. Med. 171(18): 1625-1633.
Freely available

Verkerk, Robert. 2011. ANH Feature: Iowa Women’s Health Study: Do supplements kill older women more quickly? Alliance for Natural Health, Europe.


Comment on “Look Who’s Going Gluten-Free” on Morning Edition 10/17/11, where I suggest that the problems with gluten may lie in its interaction with toxins present under the epithelium lining the gut.


NPR reporter Allison Aubrey investigates the extent of gluten-free diets, who is going on them, and what doctors and researchers say about them. It appears that many people have celiac disease. Others who are just sensitive to wheat and its gluten are also on gluten-free diets. Gastroenterologist Dan Leffler suggests that many people with irritable bowel disease may also be sensitive to gluten. His understanding about why gluten appears to be a problem for some people is that it is a difficult protein to break down, and is generally left to the bacteria in the colon to do the job. These bacteria produce gas and acid which cause the symptoms. He goes on to say that many just think a gluten-free diet is healthier. Some use it to lose weight. However, some people gain weight on it. He hypothesizes that they are probably avoiding what but eating more ice cream.

My Comments

The problem with defining a cause based solely upon the symptoms is that it tends to prevent people from asking the “why” question. Dr. Dan Leffler did not ask why in some people the gas and acid produced by gluten digestion by colon bacteria cause pain and other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, but not in others. Gluten cannot be digested in the stomach by anyone, not just those with IBS.

The people going gluten-free may be feeling better because gluten combines readily with some toxins. I suspect that when the toxins cannot be combined with gluen, celiac disease may develop.  Most likely if they controlled certain chemicals in their foods, they would not have the symptoms, all of which sound a lot like what happens with phosphorus or sulfur in foods (e.g. very spicy hot foods) which can interact across the gut epithelia with toxic elements like metals. The trail of damage left by metal poisoning is massive.

It is easy for the metals to get to a sub-epithelial position in the gut if they get into the hypodermal fluids (e.g. through the eyes or through the gingiva in the mouth). If they get into the hypodermis, that is a direct highway for all interstitial fluids to everywhere else in the body. This highway is linked to the lamina propria which sits just under the epithelium in the gut and other tubes of the body (bronchi, nose, urinary and reproductive systems). When there, metals interfere with the easy flow of necessary nutrients to cells and then cause disruption in normal activity of the organs. Many metals are gathered near nerves, causing disruption in transmission of nervous impulse, or irritate pain, pressure, and motor nerves that cause peristalsis. The results of this irritation is pain, gas buildup (peristalsis comes to a screeching halt), resulting in bloating. The discharge of gas from gut-lining cells is caused by improper breakdown of food which could result from these metals interfering with the secretion of acids and enzymes necessary for that breakdown. See my discussion about how toxins affect our physiology at “Toxins”.

Defining “Organic”

Please see my blog post “Health From Organic Foods.

Doctor Talk

Comment on “Why Doctors And Patients Talk Around Our Growing Waistlines” where I discuss how our difficulties with interpreting the results of scientific research in ways that can help patients.

My Comment Posted at NPR

Maybe nothing changes because the patient has tried to do what the doctor says but cannot lose weight no matter what or cannot stay on the diet he tells her. Maybe she cannot stay on the plan because she desperately needs the nutrition she got from the previous, “wrong” diet because the cells in her body cannot do the work they are supposed to do, e.g. absorb the nutrients needed. For instance, she cannot metabolize fats because her fat cells are damaged. To get long-term energy she needs to eat more fat. See my blog post “Nutrition and Chemistry“.

How many doctors have even taken a sample of hypodermal fluid and done a spectral analysis of that fluid? I have yet to hear of one. This doctor keeps saying the same dogma, implying that obesity causes diabetes, heart disease, etc. when there is no evidence of such. All of these assumptions are based upon survey research, where no cause and effect have been determined. Obesity is ASSOCIATED with diabetes, heart disease, etc. People using the term “risk” assume which condition is the cause. However, diabetes could just as well be a “risk” for obesity.

For all that doctor knows, the obese patient may already have the beginnings of diabetes and/or heart disease before he/she started to gain weight. Glucose levels in the blood may be a “lagging” indicator. Diabetes should be apparent before this happens in low interstitial fluid levels of carbon dioxide and water within 20 min after eating something. No research has been done which has adequately controlled for internal environment–e.g. level of toxins.

Can Marcia Noyes keep her present weight with only 30 min of exercise a day? The amount of exercise she is doing now is beyond the level that anyone should have to do to maintain a correct body weight. Will she ever be able to get to the body weight that she should have had when she stopped growing? Or will her weight loss level off? Very few obese or overweight people are able to lose weight to the point that they are the correct body weight for their height. Most doctors are just glad to see weight loss. Again, this attitude reflects a desire to “see results” rather than cure the patient, contributing to our spiraling health care costs.

The problem with the treatment of obesity today is that doctors talk about “motivating” patients with stories of the “effects” of obesity. However, they all seem to forget that motivation has internal causes as well as external causes. Internal effects on motivation come largely from chemistry, but can also come from emotional trauma (something that most people think of as external motivation because it involves people in their lives–clearly belonging to a category of “external environment”).

All emotional trauma causes physical damage to neurons in the brain, and most likely, to a large number of centers in the brain involved with linking and processing emotional content with physiological status. The brainstem monitors internal chemistry to determine what nutrients you need to eat in order to satisfy local cellular needs throughout the body. It is only in the conscious part of the brain that neurons determine what foods will satisfy unsatisfactory nutrition needs. We can conclude that craving for fat in the diet may reflect damage in the brainstem, and not to conscious choices. Doctors don’t know enough to treat these patients. Repeating dogma clearly does not work.

Hormones and Obesity

Comment on “Hormones And Metabolism Conspire Against Dieters” on All Things Considered 10/27/11 where I discuss the how hormones are not the only chemicals that affect metabolism.


NPR reporter Allison Aubrey reports on a study of 50 overweight and obese people who voluntarily submitted to a severe dietary regime of 550 calories per day for 10 weeks. Before the study began and again at the end of the study, their hormones (insulin, leptin, ghrelin, peptide YY, gastric inhibitory polypeptide, glucagon-like peptide 1, amylin, pancreatic polypeptide, and cholecystokinin) were also measured, along with each subjects ratings of his/her appetite level,  to see if they changed in their levels with the weight loss. Most subjects managed to last 10 weeks on such a diet and lost an average of 14% of their body weight at the end of this period. The researchers continued to monitor the, now, ex-dieters. Fifteen months later, most regained some weight, but on average weighed 8% less than they did before the study. However, most had high levels of ghrelin (appetite stimulant) and low levels of leptin (appetite suppressant). They also continued to have low metabolic rates, about 65% lower than expected. Aubrey interviewed, Dr. Louis Aronne, of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, for his opinion of this study, used an analogy of a gas gauge to represent the subjects’ metabolic rates. He states in his interview that for most of the subjects who had lost about 10% of their body weight during the study, instead of their gas gauges going down 10% with that 10% loss of body mass, they went down 65%. Low metabolism means not being able to metabolize fat as fast as high metabolism can. Allison Aubrey implies that the gauges (hormones) responsible for telling the brain the state of their fat reserves acted as if they still needed fat. Dr. Aronne concludes that for some dieters, it is not lack of willpower that is causing these dieters to trip up in weight loss efforts–they have a more powerful mechanism causes them to push their weight back up.

My Comment in Brief

You cannot just assume that hormones are the reason. You have to get to the cause of the problem. Hormones respond to local signals that something is wrong in the case of problem dieters. 10% loss in body weight, mentioned in this piece, is loss of accumulated water associated with fat–in other words, they have not lost fat but only water and no fat has been metabolized. For most problem dieters, the reason they cannot lose weight may be because toxins in the hypodermis have damaged the fat cells so that they cannot metabolize fat anymore. When they cannot metabolize fat, they cannot produce leptin or ghrelin and thus, the nervous system thinks that no fat is available, even if body weight is off the charts. Because the nervous system cannot see what is wrong, the inability to get more energy from fat stored within the body causes it to continue to signal to the liver that more fat cells are needed. See my continuing blog post “Nutrition Reviews” with links to other posts on nutrition and the nervous system there.

My Extended Comments

Assumptions About Weight Control

I am not sure that these researchers did not assume that people are overweight or obese because they are taking in more calories than they use, but I must applaud them for tackling other causes of their condition. However, I am always amazed at how most biomedical researchers, when they have to think about chemistry, only consider the organic chemistry of the body, and assume that hormones are at the root of a problem when they think they have controlled for all external factors (such as behaviors like lack of exercise, diet, motivation from doctors, etc.) and they have ruled out infectious agents that might cause these people to overeat. That is the root of all of these studies, though, that over-eating causes overweight or obese conditions. Inorganic chemistry is also important and might point to a non-behavioral cause.  To contain their reasoning in this research study to the level of hormones is to be very short-sighted.

If something is wrong with hormones, take a look at the cellular level to see if the cells producing the hormones are working correctly, what the immediate environment surrounding the cells is and if that is the problem.  All hormones are produced to encourage the brain or other organ to respond to local conditions that are not right, either where the hormones are produced or at some other location that the nervous system is monitoring. Hormones can travel long-distance via the blood vascular system or go very short distances from the cells immediately surrounding the cells that are not behaving as they should. In particular, hormones like ghrelin and leptin are produced by the fat cells themselves which are not behaving correctly in overweight and obese people. The doctors did not sample hypodermal fluids to monitor the environment immediately surrounding the problem fat cells, something that is far easier to do than to sample blood.

Not all chemicals found in the hypodermal fluids make it into the blood, especially toxic chemicals that do damage to blood vessels and other epithelial tissues. Some of these toxins damage only connective tissue cells like fat cells and not epithelial cells. Toxic chemical elements can distract or deflect important ions like calcium away from fat cells by either setting up a positive charge field surrounding the fat cells or by combining with the calcium, making the resulting molecule too big to cross the cell membrane. By preventing something like calcium from making it to the cell membrane, the cell cannot get enough calcium to metabolize the lipids inside it. Because fat is not being metabolized, the cell doesn’t produce ghrelin to stimulate the appetite.


Hormones are what we can consider as local responses to local needs. Most of what we study in their actions is what we should expect to see if the brain were not stepping in to promote actions that affect the whole body or a future expected condition. Because these overweight and obese subjects are dieting to create a future expected condition, which involves the whole body, the researchers should have also been monitoring nervous system activity. This is rather difficult to do and it is a lot cheaper to monitor hormones. For this reason, the results of this study are very much as expected for most hormonal conditions observed if the body’s cells are trying to maintain the body conditions held at the beginning of the study.  The cells do not care about the body weight. Only the brain will see the effects of too much weight. In this constricted view, hormone activity without brain interference should be as what one would expect under local conditions, not whole body conditions.

The response as described above for ghrelin and leptin is exactly what you would expect if you are only concerned with local mechanisms, no brain influence, and if you are balancing calories in with calories out. However, the act of eating and metabolizing fat uses up energy, so one would expect leptin levels to rise and ghrelin levels to drop during a meal. After a meal is finished, metabolism should rise because of the available energy. After a period of activity lasting between 20-50 min, depending upon the activity level, we should see leptin levels start to drop and ghrelin levels rise. With loss of body weight causing an increase in “hungry” fat cells, we would expect to see a rise in ghrelin levels and drop in leptin levels so that the body wants to get back to the original weight. This is exactly what we see in these subjects who are having such difficulty losing weight. Therefore, it is difficult to tell from the activity of ghrelin and leptin that the fat cells are damaged or not. Furthermore, none of these actions are expected if the brain is trying to step in to regulate body weight, which it is known that it can.

I emphasize that leptin and ghrelin are “local” hormones, acting locally on where it is produced and responding to local conditions. The brain coordinates all of these hormones mentioned in the summary to look beyond the local, beyond the immediate to long-term, and it is in the interest of the brain to maintain a healthy body.  A healthy body is not an overweight or obese body, so the brain needs to consider a much more expanded view of the body, and monitors other hormones as a result. The other hormones monitored either act locally or from a distance from where they are manufactured. None are produced where fat cells store fat, and so have to rely upon transport in the blood.. All are related to weight maintenance might be expected to change in people who are on a diet, or who have damaged endocrine organs that produce these hormones.

Complex of 6 Molecules of Insulin

Insulin is produced by the pancreas and does not act locally. Instead it acts on muscle, liver, and fat tissue It combines with glucose to enable its uptake by muscle, liver and fat cells. It gets stored in the liver and muscle as glycogen. It also encourages the synthesis of fat and inhibits the release of glucagon in the liver which otherwise would convert glycogen back into glucose. By doing this, a rise in insulin levels should lead to the inhibition of fat metabolism. It dropped as expected in people who lose weight.

Peptide YY (PYY)

Peptide YY (PYY} is produced largely by cells in the ileum and colon in response to the presence of food and appears to inhibit appetite once a person starts to eat. It also increases the efficiency of digestion and absorption. A smaller number of cells producing PYY are found in the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, and jejunum. It is expected to drop in these subjects as they ate less food, and it did. We see the effects in the subjects on the diet in is less inhibition of appetite when they eat.

Gastric Inhibitory Peptide (GIP) is produced by cells in the lining of the duodenum and jejunum and carried by the blood to act on the pancreas to increase insulin secretion. It is also thought to increase metabolism of fats in adipose cells. However, because of its diffuse activity, its effects are subtle. It is expected to drop or stay the same in these subjects over time, but it increased, even though metabolism level dropped.  Could this result occur because it could not cause changes in metabolic rate that induced the nervous system to stimulate the production of more of GIP over time?

Action of Glucagon-like Peptide 1 (GLP)

Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) is produced by cells lining the ileum to act on the stomach, pancreas and brain. In the pancreas, it promotes insulin-sensitivity, increases insulin secretion and inhibits glucagon secretion. It also acts on the stomach to reduce its digestive activity and on the brain to increase satiety (and so reduces appetite). Its secretion is triggered by the presence of protein, carbohydrate or lipid in the ileum. Its purpose is to increase carbohydrate absorption in the small intestine. It is expected to increase over time in this group of people as a response to fewer carbohydrates as a result of the nervous system attempting to get more energy from less food, but its levels did not change in this group of people.


Amylin is secreted by the pancreas along with insulin when a person eats. It slows the digestive process down by helping to reduce appetite, rate of digestion, and rate of absorption of glucose into the blood (by inhibiting glucagon). It also acts on bone in a similar way to calcitonin (Pittner, et. al. 1994), by inhibiting the release of calcium from bone into the blood (calcitonin inhibits osteoclasts). Because of its effects on glucose, its activity would be monitored by the Area postrema in the brain which is a satiety center. It is expected to increase satiety there when secreted by the pancreas. It is expected to decrease in these subjects to make them feel hungry because they are losing their fat and eating less, and it did.

Pancreatic Peptide in Mouse Pancreas (dark spots)

Pancreatic Polypeptide is produced by the pancreas and acts locally on the pancreatic cells to produce proteases. We secrete more after eating protein, during a fast, or exercise and in conditions of acute hypoglycemia which would occur in a person on a diet of 550 calories a day. It is expected to increase in level in these subjects while on the diet but not necessarily after they go off the diet, which it did in this study.

Acid Secretion Control by Cholecystokinin

Cholecystokinin (CCK) is secreted by cells in the lining of the duodenum. It stimulates the release of bile from the gall bladder and enzymes from the pancreas and suppresses hunger. Therefore, its action will increase digestion of protein and fat. CCK also acts on the nervous system throughout and does the opposite of what grhelin does to the vagus nerve–CCK suppresses appetite by increasing satiety. Because these subjects are not eating as much fat or protein, it is very likely that less cholecystokinin will be secreted over time, as this study showed.

Nervous System Control of Body Weight

Let’s look at the effects of nervous control on what and how we eat. One would expect the brain to have a direct effect on either the cells producing the hormones above or on the organs targeted by these hormones. Furthermore, the only aspects of effects of any of these above hormones on the nervous system seem to deal with satiety. However, much more than satiety centers are involved with the regulation of what, when, how, and why we eat (as I discuss in my post “Nutrition and Chemistry”).

More on this later.


Sumithran, Priya; Prendergast, Luke A.; Delbridge, Elizabeth; Purcell, Katrina; Shulkes, Arthur; Kriketos, Adamandia; Proietto, Joseph. 2011. Long-term persistence of hormonal adaptations to weight loss. N. Engl. J. Med. 2011; 365:1597-1604.

Pittner, R.A.; Albrandt, K.; Beaumont, K.; Gaeta, L.S.; Koda, J.E.; Moore, C.X.; Rittenhouse, J., Rink, T.J. 1994. Molecular physiology of amylinJ. Cell Biochem.55(Suppl):19-28.

Jéquier, Eric; Tappy, Luc. 1999. Regulation of body weight in humans. Physiol.Rev. 79(2): 451-480.

Woods, Stephen C.; D’Alessio, David A. 2008. Central control of body weight and appetite. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 93(11 Suppl): S37–S50.

Morton, G. J.; Cummings, D. E.; Baskin, D. G.; Barsh, G. S.; Schwartz, M. W. 2006. Central nervous system control of food intake and body weight. Nature 443(21): 289-295.


Comment on “A Farmer Bets Better Fake Chicken Meat Will Be As Good As The Real Thing” on Morning Edition 05/17/12 where I comment on how the fake food industry is just duplicating the chemistry of the real food to make fake foods. If made right, they are just as nutritious as the real thing. However, the fake chicken mentioned here does not duplicate all the nutrition of the real thing.

Posted 24 May 2012


NPR reporter Yuki Noguchi interviews Ethan Brown, the founder of Beyond Meat, a company that makes fake chicken from a mixture of soy, peas, carrots, gluten-free flour and processes it via a proprietary method developed at the University of Missouri. The fake chicken smells and tastes like chicken, and the special processing creates a texture much like cooked chicken. The Whole Foods Market chain plans to sell foods prepared with it in Northern California next month.

This story shows how the knowledge of the chemistry of the food helps you duplicate many flavors. I often mix a bit of concentrated blueberry juice and concentrated cherry juice. The concentrate lasts longer in the refrigerator and I can mix it with other juices very easily. This mixture tastes exactly like concord grape juice. Cherry has a different chemistry from blueberry mainly in its ionic content, having less calcium and more bromine in it. Blueberry has only a tiny bit of bromine, and a lot more calcium. Neither has much magnesium, more closely matching the flavor of grapes. For more on the chemistry of food, see “Nutrition and Chemistry“.

However, if you need the magnesium, lime concentrate added (all diluted with water to taste and a bit of sweetener like agave or honey added) will give you a great tasting drink if you need chemical elements like calcium, magnesium and bromine but do not need the relative amounts of these elements as found in orange juice, for instance. If you had bottles of an aqueous solution of each of these chemical elements, you could mix different proportions of these together and get different flavors. This is essentially what happens in food industry to make synthesized flavors. They taste like the original but lack the vitamins and enzymes found in the original fruit.

The more we know about this kind of chemistry, the more healthy the meal we will eat (see my blog post “Recipes for Healthy Eating“). I am not saying that this fake chicken is healthier than real, organically raised chicken. It depends upon what you need. This fake chicken lacks the animal proteins that we all need for growth and repair of damaged tissue. Growing children need it and active adults need it. This is not to say you can’t get by without it for long periods of time. However, most adults, even vegans, get animal protein in some form or another, either in the capsules that hold the supplements they take, the jello they might eat, the added gelatin in boxed and processed foods, etc.

In fact, we tend to maintain an activity level suited for the diet we choose, and we tend to modify our diets in response to changes in activity level. At least we should be. There are many who cannot or will not make these changes as they are needed. I suggest that brain damage from toxins and other physical and emotional traumas affect those centers which should be regulating this adjustment to activity level.

Early “man the hunter” was clearly an active being, making up the group of humans who spread out from Africa to populate the world. Our ancestors in this group were nomadic, following the game and getting plant foods wherever they found meat. However, our ancestors also made major changes in their diets when they settled down to grow their own foods. They kept their “game” domesticated in the form of cows, goats, pigs, sheep, etc. They cultivated the plant foods they used to depend upon when they were hunters.

It is clear from the archeological record that their diets changed to predominantly plant matter during this time, at least seasonally. When domesticated animals were not breeding, e.g. in the winter, our ancestors ate mostly plant matter and were more sedentary. When the spring growing season came, so did the breeding season. The higher activity needed for planting, growing and harvesting required more meat in the diet, and farmers could slaughter older members of their herds/flocks/gaggles/etc. for spring, summer and fall. Hunters who lived in at least semi-permanent settlements where fish was plentiful could eat the best of both animal and plant worlds pretty much year round. In fact, fish can replace meat entirely in the diet for active people.

If you are very active, you will have a difficult time healing damaged tissue without eating animal protein. You also need animal fats because they have a form that is readily absorbed and sent to places different from those where plant fats are sent. Not all fat gets broken down to CO2 and H2O. Much of the animal fat gets only partially broken down and then used to make cell membranes wherever damaged tissue is. Plant fats just can’t do it as well. If animal fat or proteins are not available, then the body has to work harder to make what they need from the plant material you eat. You have to greatly vary the plant content in your diet, even in winter to supply what you need. It is far easier to eat meat to supply these needs than plants. Plant protein and fat are best for supplying the constituents of enzymes and catalysts needed to break down toxins. Meat can only be used for certain toxins. Because of this, vegans often appear to be thinner and healthier than meat eaters, probably because more vegans have fewer toxins. For more on this topic, see “Nutrition and Chemistry” and “Toxins”.

Many people will say that soy is not healthy. Since it is high in phytoestrogens, many doctors prohibit soy in the diet of women undergoing therapy to kill breast cancers, because estrogenic compounds have been implicated in the propagation of cancer cells in the female reproductive parts. I suggest that soy itself is not dangerous. However, all non-organically raised soy is genetically modified to survive the application of pesticides. Surviving pesticides is of the least importance to us. It is the application of pesticides that should concern us and which might be causing cancer.

Comment on “We Evolved To Eat Meat, But How Much Is Too Much? “ where I mention how our protein intake should be reflecting our activity level. The careful regulation of portion size and quality of food we eat has been disrupted by toxins. If this is happening, a lot of recommendations by nutritionists are being confounded by research.


John Durant is very correct when he says that eating lots of meat has to be accompanied by activity. I have already proposed a theory that we need both animal and vegetable proteins in our diet (“Nutrition Reviews” at ). If we are sedentary, we don’t need as much animal protein, but we still need vegetable proteins. Thus, people may be obese because they continue to eat a lot of meat even when they are sedentary.  There is a likelihood that many people would not choose to eat as much meat if they did more participating in sports and less of watching sports (see my comment on Frank Deford’s essay on Title IX). So maybe our increasing consumption of meat does not reflect a wealthier society but a lazier society.

Colon cancer and other disorders have been linked with eating lots of meat. Since obesity is linked also with both the disorders and eating lots of meat, we tend to confuse a link with cause and effect. We assume that there is a cause when we suggest that we should eat less meat to lose weight and to prevent cancer and other disorders, and now obesity. There is no evidence to show that this strategy works, since we have never done experimental testing of this hypothesis. When nutritionists claim that eating red meat causes diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, they really mean to say that beef and possibly pork eaters tend to be the group who develops these disorders. There is no cause and effect. Nutritionists throw pork in with beef and do not discriminate between organic and conventionally raised animals. Thus, the quality of the “red meat” is never tested. More than likely the pesticides in the meat may be causing the problems, and not “red meat” at all (see my blog post “Obesity and Pesticides“). We do know that pesticides chemically alter the body and are strongly linked to both obesity and diabetes. No doubt the toxic chemical elements in pesticides can also contribute to heart disease, and possibly cancer as well, and in so doing, they tie in all the links that have been proposed. The true “cause” of all these health problems may be toxins. This conclusion should change our health precautions, shouldn’t it?

Other Posts on Nutrition

On Healthy Ice Cream

Eating Wild Greens

The War on Obesity

Coffee and Prostate Cancer

Calcium Supplements

Adolescent Blood Pressure and Obesity

Food Tips for Weight Loss

Obesity and Pesticides

Sweetness Preferences Change at Puberty

“Nutrition and Emotion” (coming soon)

Nutrition and Chemistry

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