Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ghee: Food of Gods.

I have a new article at esvasa.com. Check it out.

Ghee can only be described in superlatives. It has a very important place in our Culture. It is called one of the 5 Amrits which are must when preparing prasad during festivals. Its required to burn Ghee diyas at all Hindu festivals. It is essential in "Havanas". It is mixed with honey and given to a newly born infant during the Naming Ritual aka "Namkaran Sanskar". It was the most preferred weaning food in the past. It is also required for burning a dead body during the "Dah Sanskar". It is required in our culture literally from cradle to grave.

Butter is also considered important in other dairy based cultures.

In Ayurveda, it is considered the best form of fat, above butter. No meal is considered balanced without ghee. It is said to ignite the fires of digestion, so that the food digests properly. It is also said to balance Vata and Pitta Doshas, and must be avoided when Kapha dosha is dominant. It is said to be very important for the development of brain, intelligence and memory power. It is said to be very good for the skin, eyesight and bones.

But modern medicine calls it the worst fat. It is said to be high in Saturated fat and Cholesterol, both are supposed to cause heart disease, diabetes and other diseases.

So how do we reconcile the two. Obviously one position is wrong. Ayurveda's position is based on observation of the whole body. Modern Medicine's position is based on looking at just two things Saturated Fats and Cholesterol. In my opinion the Modern Medicine, misses the forest for the trees. It is so intent on looking at things from the bottom up that it fails to see the over all effect.

Contrary to Modern Medicine's expectation due to Saturated Fat and Cholesterol content, Ghee is not associated with increase in LDL Cholesterol. I have personally experienced it. My HDL increased and LDL reduced. This has been observed in studies too. In fact if you search for Ghee and cholesterol most of the articles talk about how it does not increase cholesterol. The only study on the first page stating otherwise is highly speculative, and does not account for a change of diet from mostly natural food to mostly packaged food.

There are several studies and individual reports from people who know nothing about Ayurveda and are Medical doctors and scientists who have endorsed several of the properties given by Ayurveda.

Bones, Teeth, Eyesight, and Skin
Dr. Weston A Price was a dentist in the early 19th century. He went across the world searching for people who had the best teeth and bone structures. He also studied the diet of such people. He later devised a medicine for fixing teeth. It was made up of Cod Liver Oil and Ghee (Butter oil as he called it). His research was published as a book called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. His work agrees with Ayurveda that Ghee is very important for building healthy bones.

At the time of Dr. Price, the factor in Ghee which caused the development of strong bones was not known. But now it is found to be Vitamin K2. Ghee is quite high in MK4 version of Vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 has been found to be very important in Calcium metabolism. When there is enough Vitamin K2, the Calcium goes into bones and does not deposit in arteries or any other places. It reduces plaques and calcification.

Vitamin K2 is also associated with a softer skin. This effect is quite easily seen, when supplementing with Vitamin K2. Remember Ghee contains more Vitamin K2 if the cows ate grass.

Ghee also contains some preformed Vitamin A, which will be helpful for the eyesight. Ghee from Pastured cows is richer in Vitamin A. It also contains some beta carotene which gives it a golden yellowish color.

So we have seen above that the single factor Vitamin K2 provides multiple benefits, better bones, low calcification, better eyesight and a softer skin that resists wrinkling. As a bonus it also prevents heart disease, by reducing calcification of the arteries. Heart Disease was probably not very common in Ayurvedic times, so they didn't notice this effect.

Ghee is also the fat that is highest in Short Chain Fatty Acids, particularly Butyric Acid. SCFA's are known to feed, lubricate and heal the walls of the intestines, and hence improve digestion. Ghee contains about 10% short and medium chain fatty acids. These fats are very easy to digest. This property makes Ghee very easy to digest compared to other fats. Coconut oil has too much Medium chains which is not handled well by everybody. 

The primary benefit of fibers in the body is to feed the bacteria in the intestines and colon. The bacteria produce the SCFA, which helps the intestines remain healthy. This effect maybe impaired for people with gut dysbiosis and other digestive disorders. In these cases Ghee is a very good substitute for SCFA from fiber. Fermented foods like curd also provide some SCFAs.

The SCFA, Butyric Acid and the moderate amount of medium chain fats, makes Ghee the ideal food for a good digestion, as has been observed by Ayurveda.

Brain, Memory, and Intelligence
Unfortunately there has not been any research on the effects of Ghee on the brain, memory and intelligence. But one scientist (not a medical researcher) Seth Roberts, who measures everything he does, has found that of all the different foods he tried, butter gives the biggest boost to his mental capacity. One reader actually conducted an experiment with 45 volunteers and compared Coconut oil with Butter. Result was Butter improved memory function while Coconut oil had no effect.

If I am to guess why butter helps brain more than other fats, it would be the fact that Brains and neurons are made up of Saturated fats and cholesterol. Butter has both. The grass fed versions of butter or ghee also have a good amount of DHA, EPA, and Arachidonic Acid, which are also required by neurons. The exact ratios may be the best in Ghee and Butter, compared to other fats.

Although there is not enough information about this particular property of Ghee, but it is quite possible that Ayurveda is right about this fact.

Vegetarians do not eat animal products except milk, and possibly eggs. For people not eating eggs, the only source of preformed fat soluble vitamins, like Vitamin A and K2, and also preformed DHA, EPA, and Arachidonic Acid is Dairy fat, particularly Ghee. Since India is the only country with very large number of Vegetarian people, there must have been enabling factors. I believe one of the most important enabling factor apart from around the year Sun is Dairy tolerance. Milk also provides Vitamin B12 and Zinc, which are quite a bit lower in Vegetarian foods. Ghee by providing the number of important fats and fat soluble vitamins assumes a much greater importance for Vegetarians.

It is possible that the emphasis Ayurveda places on Ghee is because at the time of Charak and Dhanvantari, India had substantial number of Vegetarians at least in the Brahmin class.

Ghee really is very good for the body. If you are a vegetarian, then it becomes even more important for you. Ayurveda developed in a period when Hindus were living a vegetarian life, and the authors knew how important Ghee was for the vegetarians. So for your own health eat ghee at all meals. Try to get pastured cow's ghee, which is much more healthy compared to ghee from normal farmed cows.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A crash course in Fats

This article will be a bit dense, as crash courses go :-), but I will summarize at the end for simplified guidelines.

The fats can be broadly classified into 3 types based on their saturation levels. The Saturated Fats (SFA), the Mono-Unsaturated Fats (MUFA), and the Poly-Unsaturated Fats (PUFA). As any chemistry student will tell you, the higher the unsaturation the lower the stability of the fat. So PUFA are the most unstable and SFA are the most stable.

A good rule of thumb is to use high heat only on SFA and MUFA fats. PUFA fats should not be heated as far as possible. I am ignoring the fact that all oils/fats that you will buy on the market or get in real life will be a combination of all sorts of fats. I will get back to it later.

SFA fats can be further broken down into 3 types based on the length of the carbon chains. Chains shorter than 8 carbon atoms are called Short chain fats (SCFA). 16 and above are considered to be long chain (LCFA). The ones in the middle are called Medium Chain Fats (MCFA). The three fats have slightly different use in the body. The SCFA are generally used by the digestive system (gut) as food, and much of it gets used there.  These are also created by the bacteria in the gut by decomposing fiber. Butyric acid which gives Butter its distinctive smell is a SCFA. The MCFA are broken down into ketones by the liver and are used for energy immediately. Lauric Acid is the major component of Coconut oil and is an MCFA. LCSFA are primarily stored and then used while fasting. Most fats in meat are LCFA, both SFA and MUFA. The LCFA are also used in the body to provide structure. These have a high melting point and form the bulk of cells, neurons, and cholesterol. These are also required for hormone production.

The MUFA are of two types the Long chains and the medium chains. The long chains again can be stored and the medium chains are used immediately for energy. The predominant long chain is Oleic Acid, the major constituent of Olive oil. The Oleic acid is also called Omega9. The medium chain MUFA are not very common. These are as far as I know used primarily for energy. Primarily natural MUFA are cis fats, while artificially created MUFA are generally trans fats. Cis fats have a bend at the point of unsaturation, but transfats don't. So they behave like SFA. These transfats are solid at room temperature, just like Saturated fats, and are confused with saturated fats. These are bad for the body, as the body can confuse it with saturated fats, and use these wrongly.

The PUFA are primarily divided into 2 types, Omega3s and Omega6s. Omega3s are fats that have its first unsaturation at 3-4 carbon from tail. Omega 6s have them at 6-7. Oleic acid (olive oil) has it at 9-10 and so is also called Omega 9. Omega3s generally have more unsaturated bonds than Omega6s. So in effect Omega3s are even more unstable than Omega6s. Much of the Omega3s and Omega6s cannot be created in the body (so are called essential fats), although the body can increase the chain length, to create longer chains. PUFA are very unstable. This fact is used by the body, for communication. These are primarily used on the cell walls as receptor sites. These are not used for energy. Some of the Omega3s are used for anti-inflammatory signalling and some Omega6s are used for Inflammatory signalling, both are 20 carbon LCFAs called ecosanoids. Some Omega3s are required for brain development, EPA and DHA.

The anti-inflammatory and inflammatory signalling factor means that you want to have a balance of Omega3s and Omega6s. A higher level of Omega6, compared to Omega3 will induce high levels of inflammation. Excess of inflammatory signal can thicken the blood. A higher level of Omega6 will reduce the level of inflammatory signalling, one side effect is that blood clotting stops working effectively. It is best to keep TOTAL Omega3:Omega6 consumption ratio in between 2:1 and <->1:2. It is generally difficult to get Omega3s from plants. There are a few exceptions like Flax seeds. Be careful with high PUFA oils (including cod liver oil), you should keep them in the fridge to prevent damage.

The inability to use it for fuel also means that the consumption of PUFA should be very low. There are indications that Omega6 consumption should not exceed 4%, ideally it should be at 2% of total energy consumption. This is quite low, around 2gms in a diet of 1800kcal. Also remember you do get some PUFA from your food.

Also remember that Vitamin E keeps the Unsaturated fats stable. So it is best to get some Vitamin E when consuming high PUFA fats. Unrefined oils generally have enough Vitamin E to keep the PUFA intact at room temperatures.

Our body fat depends on our diet. On a low PUFA diet, it resembles the content of Red Meat, which is about 50/50 division of LCSFA and LCMUFA. The ruminants (eg cow, goat) can convert the PUFA into stable fats so their fat content does not depend much on the PUFA content of the diet. Non-ruminants also have body fat depending on PUFA content, eg birds, pigs, horses, etc.

Seeds are generally higher in PUFA, with a very few exceptions, eg Coconuts.

Now that you have a rough idea of what different fats are, you can have a look at this table, for the constituents of different oils. Unfortunately it does not list the animal fats, but it contains a lot of the plant fats.

The C number in the fatty acid composition section, gives you the type of the fatty acid. The table does not list any number below C8, which means that plants fats rarely have any short chain fatty acids. You will also note that they are all in even numbers. There are some with a colon, eg C18:1, C18:2, C18:3. These indicate the degree of desaturation, ie there is 1, 2, or 3 unsaturated bonds. C18:2 is an Omega6 and C18:3 is an Omega3.

Before we get into dissecting each common oils and fats, one word of caution. Fats are essentially nutrient free, except for some fat soluble vitamins. These vitamins are important, but its best to get them from whole foods. Added fats should be avoided generally, just like low nutrient grains/legumes should be avoided. There maybe some conditions in which some particular fats can help.

Now lets try to use the above given information on the different common oils.

1) Coconut oil: Around 80% of the fats are Medium chains, and only 20% is long chain. There is some MUFA, but PUFA is very very little. As we know that Medium chains don't get stored, so it would be difficult to gain weight if Coconut oil is the main calorie source. Also PUFA is very low, so it is the ideal frying oil. It will not go bad easily. At around 1% PUFA, you could have it as much as you want, without overshooting the PUFA budget. You will note that Palm Kernel oil has very similar characteristics. It is IMO ideal for fat loss.

2) Ground nut oil: Around 60% MUFA, 20% PUFA. Wikipedia gives a bigger number for PUFA (32%). Assuming that it has been used a lot in our traditional diets, it should have been low in PUFA. So I would go with the numbers given in this paper. at 20% PUFA it would be a fairly stable fat for cooking, but not frying. The fact that all of the PUFA is Omega6 makes this oil difficult to balance. At 20% 2 tsp will complete your daily Omega6 requirement. Other 1gm of PUFA to be exclusively Omega3s.

3) Mustard oil: 47% Erucic, 14% Omega6, 7% Omega3. The Erucic acid is a MUFA and gives it the pungent smell. At Omega6:Omega3 of 2:1 its fairly balanced. Also at 20% PUFA it would be fairly stable for normal cooking. Again 4tsp would be sufficient for the days allowance.

4) Olive oil: 75% MUFA, < 10% PUFA. The low PUFA content means that it is stable enough for cooking. Note commercial olive oil can have PUFA as high as 30%.

5) Sunflower oil, Safflower oil, Wheat Germ oil, Soybean oil: At >50% PUFA these are best avoided completely. If you want to use keep it in fridge and use with a dropper :-).

6) Sesame oil: At 40% PUFA, it is an unstable oil. It could be used as a seasoning oil, when used rarely.

7) Flax Seed oil: At ~70% PUFA, its a very unstable oil. The only good thing about it is that it can be used to balance Omega6 fats from other foods, as it is high in Omega3 and low in Omega6. The ratio being 3:1 Omega3:Omega6. Not more than 1tsp per day, mostly as seasoning or drunk straight up. Buy only cold pressed and keep it in a dark bottle in the fridge. One thing to remember is that plant Omega3s (ALA) are inferior to those in plant sources, as we get preformed EPA and DHA. The conversion rate in men is pathetic of the order of 1% and 4%, while in women and children its 10% and 30% for DHA and EPA respectively.

For the animal fats lets get the data from other places.

8) Milk Fat aka Ghee: 65% Saturated, with some small chains and some medium chain fats. 30% MUFA and less than 4% PUFA. The composition of PUFA depends on the feed of the ruminant. Grass feds generally have a balance of 2:1 Omega6:Omega3. While non-pastured milk PUFA is almost completely Omega6. The milk fat also contains some natural trans fats called Conjugate Linoleic Acid (CLA) and Vaccenic acid. Vaccenic acid is a precursor of CLA. These are byproducts of the animal trying to convert the PUFA into safer MUFA or SFA, and are at worst harmless. They are sold as supplements though. The < 4% PUFA means that 100 gms can be consumed if pastured and 50gms if unpastured. 

9) Ruminant Fat: 43% SFA, 50% MUFA, and 4% PUFA. Nearly same as Milk fat, except, that the chains are longer, and the short chains are missing. The vitamin content is also lower compared to the milk fat. Milk fat has an increased vitamin content to provide for the growth of babies.

10) Fish oil: The fatty acid composition varies a lot across fishes. But still we can note a  few things. First Omega3:Omega6 varies from 2:1 to 3:1. The amount of PUFA is higher in fish from colder regions. The PUFA content is generally very high. This means that no more than 1tsp and keep it in a fridge. The other benefits of fish oil is that these have Vitamin A and D. I buy my CLO (cod liver oil) in February in bulk so as to get a discount, and I can ask for a recent production. It is possible to get october or november oil, which would have deteriorated much less as the shops don't keep them in fridge. I buy and freeze them. And keep them in fridge one bottle at a time while consuming.

11) Bird and Pig fat can have as much as 30% PUFA if the diet is rich in soy and grain meal. This happens to animals raised in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). Pretty much all of commercialized chicken is CAFO.

Ghee and Coconut oils are the best fats for consumption. Mustard oil and Peanut oil are ok within limits. Good quality Olive oil can be used regularly, but most commercial olive oil is not good. It is a good idea to have a tea spoon of Fish oil or Flax seed oil for extra omega3s for balancing if not using pastured ghee or animal fat. Ruminant fat is good. Bird and Pig fat is only ok if the feed is not grain based, and low in PUFA. Most seed oils should be avoided.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Vitamin K2: The unknown Activator X

Weston A Price was a Dentist, who didn't know why there were so many people with bad teeth. He took on a world trip to find out people who did not have bad teeth. He wanted to find out what can be done to enhance the quality of teeth. He discovered many natives and tribes that had excellent jaw structure and teeth. He discovered the dietary practices of these people, and distilled the knowledge to come up with fish oil and butter oil (ghee) as the two ingredients that can provide the basic necessities for recovering and building teeth and skeletal structure. At that time it was known that Vitamin A was the crucial factor which helped and was obtained from fish oil. The factor from Ghee was not known, and Dr. Price called it Activator X. Vitamin K2 was discovered in 1993, and is now expected to be the Activator X.

Vitamin K comes in 2 forms K1 and K2 and have quite a bit overlapping functionality. K2 seems to have a high effect on forming bones and teeth. K1 reduces the requirement of K2 a lot, so it is also a good idea not to concentrate solely on K2, as K1 is easier to obtain through natural sources.

Vitamin K1 is created by the gut bacteria from elements in green vegetables. Some people may be able to create K2 as well as K2 is also created by bacteria. But the real trouble is that most of the creation happens in the colon, where it is not absorbed. This is the same problem with Vitamin B12. Still it is beneficial to eat plenty of green vegetables.

Vitamin K2 comes in two forms, MK4 and MK7. The MK4 has a very short half life, and is gone within a few hours. MK7 is the storage form and persists for several days. MK4 is made by mothers in their mammary glands, which is an important source of Vitamin K for the newborn children. MK4 is converted to MK7 by bacteria.

Milk from Cows or Buffaloes, which eat green grass have MK4 form in their milk. It is heat stable and ghee from pastured cows is a good source. Long aged cheeses created from pastured cows milk contains a lot MK7. Actually the MK7 content of Cheese is much higher than in ghee. Natto a Japanese condiment made by fermenting soy, is the largest source of MK7, and is used in MK7 supplements.

Green Vegetables, Ghee, and aged Cheeses are a good way to get the full spectrum of vitamin K. But since most of the milk these days is not pastured, and our gut bacteria are not in the best of health, so Vitamin K2 content may still be lacking, particularly for people with impaired gut.

Super K from Life Extension is a good supplement which contains all three varieties. MK4 in supplements is normally synthetic, which may contain some trans version of MK4, and maybe problematic. So it is still better to try and get the vitamin from pastured dairy. Several Pastured butters and cheeses are available from Europe and Australia. The supplement is also quite expensive, but imported butter and cheeses in India would be prohibitively expensive.

Update: Be aware that Vitamin K2 does not work well with Blood thinners like Warfarin, which are actually Vitamin K antagonist. Vitamin K is very important for our body and Warfarin can cause quite a bit of side effects, including osteoporosis, due to this effect. IMO a better option is to use mega doses of Omega3s, which will suppress Omega6 signalling and act as an anti-coagulant.

Updated2: Vitamin K2 requires several cofactors to do its job, some of them are Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Magnesium. It also helps with the uptake of Vitamin D and Sulfates.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What is the deal with Wheat?

Wheat is one of the oldest grains to have been cultivated, along with Rice and Sorghum. There are a few facts about wheat that are not generally known.

1) No traditional populations with hundreds of years of consumption history of wheat eats unfermented wheat.

2) In India, Punjabis and Muslims are the only traditional wheat eaters. Both used fermentation. Muslims still do it sometimes, but Punjabis have converted to roti completely, with the loss of their Sanjha Chulhas.

3) Using ground flour (not just of wheat) that had been ground more than a week ago, is a fairly recent phenomenon. See mycotoxins.

4) Using quick rise yeast along with sugar for fermentation is also a recent development.

5) Wheat Bran (the so called healthy wheat fiber) causes people to burn through their Vitamin D stores at an accelerated rateWhite skin of Caucasians is known to be due to a grain based diet, but maybe the grain being wheat also added to the problem.

6) The most reliable outcome of The China Study, was that Wheat is highly related to heart diseases. Denise Minger tried to find relationships that could absolve wheat from the blame, using the data. She couldn't. Read the article.

7) Digesting wheat requires a very good digestive system. Unfortunately our digestive systems are suffering from Anti-biotics, lack of fermented foods, hygienic habits, inadvertently consuming chemicals that are designed to kill bacteria.

8) Gluten Free and Casein Free diets are advised to Autistic people.

9) The highly productive dwarf wheat plant is very low in nutrients. This is where most of the wheat comes from today. It may be a source of problems.

10) The wheat in commercial food products undergoes some changes that cause it to become poisonous. A quote from Chris Masterjohn.
In our day, we still refine the flour, but bleach it with chlorine, chlorine dioxide, or potassium bromate instead.  Rather than trying to reconstruct the nutritional composition of the original flour, we add a small handful of nutrients based on "current science," including synthetic "folic acid," which is otherwise not found in the food supply.  We often chemically or enzymatically deamidate it, mimicking the inflammatory process within the intestines of a celiac patient.  We then combine it into foods that have been engineered to maximize their addictive qualities so food companies can maximize their profits.  Is it any wonder that "wheat products" would cause disease?

Milk and Wheat connection:
In almost all places where Wheat is eaten Milk is also consumed. I suspect that this is because Milk is effective in counteracting the damages caused by wheat. This research shows that its not entirely obvious why milk tolerance was selected. It is also interesting that milk tolerance did not get selected in Maize eating populations of America, or the Rice eating populations of the Far East Asia. The only places it was selected for were wheat eating populations. This means that probably, wheat (even in the older times) was so bad for the body, that only people who could survive for long were adapted to milk digestion. This means that drinking pastured whole milk (possibly raw as well, but definitely not UHT and Homogenized milk) is an absolute requirement for eating wheat..

Wheat if eaten should be freshly ground from clean grains, then fermented, before cooking, and eaten along with pastured whole raw milk. Since this is a lot more work than people would normally want to put in, and it is very difficult to get good milk, it is best to avoid wheat. It must never be eaten by people with damaged gut. There is still a chance (IMO only a small chance) that Dr. William Davis is right about the dwarf wheat variety being evil :-).

A Note on China Study: It is one of the few studies that provided all their data openly. The good thing about this study is that there is a lot of variations in the diet. A funny thing is that the conclusions the researchers reached from their data is not supported by their data. There are several reviews of the study data that give very different conclusions.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Controlling Cravings: The Deconditioning Diet

I recently came across the excellent blog Getting Stronger of Todd Becker. It specializes in Hormesis. Hormesis is the beneficial effect arising due to the body's reaction to small stresses (small in time or intensity).

Hormesis is a very important concept. This is mainly how exercise or vegetables/fruits benefit us. Without hormesis their would be no benefit of exercise as it is a stress to the body. Also vegetables/fruits contain natural toxins, which stresses our body. Hormesis is the principle behind green teas and other herbs benefit.

I found an interesting idea for reducing cravings, based on hormesis, which I realized that I also tend to do. I will go into bakeries and sweet shops just to have a look and then not buy anything. It seems that this creates a craving in the body, and if the craving is not satisfied, the craving diminishes over time.

Todd calls the diet he prescribes as the Deconditioning Diet. The most interesting thing about the diet is that he does not recommend or restrict any foods. Of course this diet will work even better on a paleo based diet. Todd defines 3 stages.

The first phase is called General Insulin Reduction phase. Here you want to go on a lower carb diet, to keep your insulin levels stable. It is required that you restrict all food intake to 3 meals at fixed times, ie no snacking. The 3 fixed time meals may take some time and Todd provides some general ideas to reach that point. Last but the most important part is to start a craving log. Basically when you don't eat in between and you eat only 3 times, you will feel the need to eat in between. At this time you would want to note, which food you would like to eat most.

The second phase is called Cue extinction and Counter Conditioning. In this phase the goal is to always eat when you are not hungry. This might seem counter intuitive. But the point is that whenever you feel hungry, if you delay food you will stop feeling hungry after some time. At this point if you eat, you will train your brain to limit the hunger pangs, as they will not provide it food.

The most important part is to devise a counter conditioning plan. Basically you want to find activities that you can do which will take your mind off food, immediately after exposing yourself to the foods that you crave. These activities should last for at least 15 minutes. The longer the better. Next you will want to see some food that you crave and avoid eating for as long as possible. Also when you do eat, you eat something that does not contain foods that you crave. The best way is to walk around in a bakery or sweet shop, and exit without buying anything. Go home and then eat the normal food. Make sure there is enough gap between the shop excursion and the meal.

You don't need to do the above all the time, a few times a week will help a lot. You could do this everyday while returning from the office if you have a handy shop on the way. If you are a cook prepare the food, but don't eat it. That would be real tough though :-).

The final phase is the weight loss phase, aka Meal Skipping.

This is a very abbreviated summary. The actual article is very detailed.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Importance of diet in Auto Immune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases have become very common. I am seeing a lot of thyroid problems. This article explains why you should try to go on a hypo allergic diet, to prevent future autoimmune diseases.

An Autoimmune disease occurs when the body's own immune system attacks the tissues of its own body. This normally happens because it reacted to some proteins and those proteins looked like the proteins in your body, eg Thyroid cells, pancreas cells, etc. The triggering proteins could come externally from an infection, insect bite, or from food.

We know that it can happen due to food only when the digestive system is not doing its job properly. In a normal digestive system, foreign proteins will be properly broken down and the amino acids will be absorbed, or else the offending proteins will be properly discarded.

If you have one type of Autoimmune disease, it is also likely that over time you could develop another type of autoimmune disease, unless the cause is eliminated. So if you discover one type, you have to treat it, to avoid developing another type. Unfortunately once an autoimmune disease has been triggered you can only control it. You can never eliminate it because the immune system never forgets.

The digestive system can get compromised in several ways. The stomach could suffer with low acidity, which prevents proper digestion of proteins. The intestine may suffer with what is called the Leaky Gut Syndrome, which allows proteins to enter the blood stream without proper digestion.

The proper solution is to avoid eating stuff that you are not able to digest easily, and avoid the foods that are commonly associated with allergies. Wheat is a special case as it is associated with a lot of digestive issues, and is known to directly cause the autoimmune disease of the intestines called Celiac.

The first step should be to get rid of all of the major allergens (gluten, soy, eggs, casein, seafood, and Peanuts), from the diet, completely. Fish are ok, but the rest of seafoods are a problem. Next we get into personal sensitivities.

You would need to determine your personal sensitivities. There are some tests available (look for allergy tests), but they are all not very reliable. They have both the chance of false positives or false negatives. These could serve as a starting point but never the destination. The only good way is to test your reaction after an elimination diet.

A good elimination diet for mostly vegetarians which also is good for the gut is Ghee, Rice and some vegetables that you tolerate well and are very low in fibers, eg gourd family with peels removed. You can eat meat/fish/chicken, but avoid any shellfish or other seafood. Also add a lot of probiotics, eg fermented vegetables, rice, kaanji, kimchi, pickles. Keep the spices very low in cooking, and instead use fermented pickles. You want to make all the fermented stuff at home, unless you know a reliable source.

You should stay on the elimination diet for around 2-3 months, and then start introducing foods one at a time that you would like to have regularly. Avoid adding grains and legumes first. You could test fermented grains legume combos like dosa, idly, etc. Don't use the common allergens anywhere. Also avoid grains/legumes that are ground with their skins. You should keep one day in between introductions, to allow for delayed reactions.

Anything that gave you mild reaction, you can retest after a gap of 2-3 months. Avoid anything that gave you a large reaction or the common allergens till you can consume foods without problem that gave you mild reaction before. The probiotics should eventually fix your gut and allow you to eat the rest.

Sufficient Vitamin D is very important, as one of its major functions is to help with the proper running of immune system. It has been seen that most people with autoimmune diseases have very low Vit D.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Managing blood glucose levels of another friend

I have been working with another friend to normalize his blood glucose levels. It took nearly 2 weeks of measuring and adapting the diet. There were some constraints with this friend as he is not ready to ditch the wheat or rice. He has provided the following chart and the food log.

You will notice on days 18th and 19th. His blood sugar did not rise much even though he had rice and rotis. We might think that his body is able to absorb the given sugar. But that is not the case.

We can see that his fasting is higher than his post breakfast. This happens when the body is not able to absorb the morning glucose due to cortisol. This happens only when insulin resistance is high. So why is his bg level low. The clue is that he is complaining about hunger if he is not eating for a long time.

This almost always happens due to bg getting too low. This happens with high insulin resistance and high carbs in the diet. Admittedly he has reduced carbs from his diet, but not enough. He will see reduction of this hunger problem only when he reduces his carb levels further.

Also his diet has lower fat than it should have to counter the carb load. I have recommended to get his rice fried in ghee. Paratha is better than roti. Unfortunately it reduces the nutrient content in diet.

Now I am recommending him to also check his blood sugar before lunch and dinner. This will hopefully slowly nudge him to get rid of wheat and rice. These are the real problematic factors in his diet.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hypothyroidism: Some more information

I have since last week learnt some more about Hypothyroidism, mostly from Chris Kresser's excellent blog.

Low T4 high TSH is the normal case, where Thyroid is not functioning properly, and possibly it is being damaged due to autoimmunity. This is Hashimoto's Thyroiditis in 90% of the cases. So it is important to get tested for Anti-TPO, to determine whether there has been ever Autoimmune activity. This number cannot be easily reduced. The other test is Anti-Thyroglubulin or Anti-Tg. This number is high during an active attack. The other most probable case is Iodine deficiency, which is not very common. In these cases it is helpful to take Thyroxine (aka T4) medication.

Low T3, with normal T4 is the problematic case. Because in this case it is likely that there is a chronic condition in the body. To avoid stimulating the condition, the body has reduced T3. In this case we should find and eliminate the underlying problem. Because just adding T4 or T3 would likely cause the issues that the body is trying to prevent.

Low T3 can also be possible due to damage of Pituitary gland, due to an autoimmune issues.

One case which seems to be helped by T3 (cytomel) is when the body temperature is also low along with Low T4 and low T3. This doesn't seem to be very common though. If you happen to have low body temperature then measuring it and adding T4 and maybe T3 to get the body temperature might be possible. But we don't know what side effects this would cause.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Supplements: Overview and Vitamin D3

A good and balanced paleo inspired diet should in theory provide all nutrients. But reality does not meet the theory very well. There are several issues because of which we may not get enough nutrients. In this article we will just discuss the general reasons and Vitamin D.

Digestion may not be very good
Many people these days have bad digestion. Bad digestion results in incomplete absorption of nutrients. Bad digestion normally occurs due to impaired gut flora, which provide some of the important nutrients, Biotin and Vit K. We should improve the digestion, but while we get it fixed it would be best to get some extra nutrients in the form of supplements.

Food restrictions
Many people in India are vegetarians. Vegetarians need to eat enough ghee and curd. Unfortunately its very difficult to get very good quality of either easily in the present environment. This results in reduced Vit B12, Zinc, and Fat soluble vitamins like K2 and A.

Reduced nutrient content in food
This is by far the major reason for malnutrition. These days fruits and vegetables have undergone modification, via breeding, Genetic Modifications, enforced mutations, etc. These are done in most cases for increasing production. A breed that provides a larger fruits and vegetables or in a significantly increased quantity will have a much lowered nutrient content. Plants are also bread for blander and sweeter fruits and vegetables, further reducing the nutrient contents.

Consumption of refined foods, salt and water
People these days are eating refined flours, refined sugars, refined salts, and purified water. These might be prudent in some cases, but overall affect the nutrient intake. Refined flours, white rice are not a problem if the intake is not significant. Sugars are bad even if not refined and should be avoided. Refined salts are created to remove the problematic magnesium chloride, which is hygroscopic, and makes the salt absorb water. Unfortunately it is difficult to find unrefined salt. In Bangalore it was easier, but in Delhi I haven't been able to source it. Purified water is mostly a necessity because of the chlorination process that goes in the potable water, but it also removes important nutrients like magnesium.

Lack of Sunlight or Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) deficiency
Vitamin D is generally very low in people, because we are living in houses, and work in offices, both confined spaces, with no exposure to sun. Contrary to popular belief, sunlight does not cause damage to the skin, as you can observe in people working the whole day under the sun. The problem normally is bad nutrition, and very occasional sunlight exposure. UVB component of Sunlight is used by the skin to create vitamin D. This vitamin/hormone is a very important nutrient. It is required for the proper functioning of the immune system. It is required by the liver for handling toxic chemicals. It is also required for absorbing Calcium from food.

The best way to get vitamin D is from the sun. If you are fair skinned, an hour or two of morning sun in the summers in Delhi would be enough to produce enough vitamin D. But for darker skinned people the whole day in winters in Delhi may not be adequate to meet the demand. The skin color is mostly determined based on the vitamin D requirement, sun and genetics.

It is also possible to get Vitamin D from Fish and fats of animals that have been exposed to sunlight most of their lives.

Majority of the people are deficient in Vitamin D, with values less than 20ng/ml. The best values are somewhere between 30ng/ml and 50ng/ml. There is quite a controversy regarding what is the healthy range. Read Chris Masterjohn's post on the subject if you want to get more technical information. He is of the opinion 30ng/ml - 35ng/ml is the best range. Vitamin D can have some significant negative effects, if attempted to increase by exogenous intake. Many people handle it well though.

Normal bad reactions are increase in serum calcium, if there are issues with excretion (ie impaired kidneys), or increase in calcium deposition. Serum calcium increase is easy to detect if you are aware and mindful of the symptoms. Calcium deposition is much more probable and difficult to determine.

Calcium absorbed by Vitamin D requires several cofactors to utilize it. Some of them are Vitamin K2, Vitamin A and Magnesium. These nutrients should also exist to prevent calcium deposition.

Cod liver oil is the most natural way of getting extra vitamin D. It contains Omega3s, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and some other good things as well. In India Seacod sells cod liver oil in 100ml bottles. They also sell capsules. Each capsule contains only 300mg of the oil. This is quite less. A person can consume 1 to 2 tea spoons, ie 5-10ml of the oil. If you wanted to get that much oil from caps you would need to consume 10-30caps. Clearly, excessive. Another issue is that taste can tell you whether the oil has gone bad. This is not possible with caps. Each 5ml of Seacod contains.

EPA - 333ml
DHA - 500ml
Vit A - 4700 IU
Vit D - 470 IU

It does not contain a lot of vitamin D, but it is a very good supplement. You will see your immunity improve a lot with it.

Seacod unfortunately prefers selling the capsules, so we had quite a bit of trouble finding the real values. Kudos to Raj Ganpath for finally nailing someone there to provide sensible numbers.

The fresh cod liver oil will have very little fishy smell. Unfortunately it is difficult to find it very fresh. So try to find as fresh as you can, and store them in fridge or even in freezer for longer term storage. If it tastes very bad, its better to throw it.

One important point is that never supplement calcium along with Vitamin D. Vitamin D supplementation is already has dangers of calcium deposition, adding more calcium to the mix can only be worse. An aside, milk is not required for calcium, as many cultures which can't handle milk have shown (asians are an example). There is plenty of calcium in green vegetables and tubers. Pastured full fat dairy is ok as it contains enough K2 to handle extra calcium. It would be better to avoid reduced fat dairy, when supplementing with Vitamin D.

Gelcaps are the best way to get extra vitamin D (over and above cod liver oil), because they are filled with an oil to improve absorption. NOW foods has a very reasonably priced 5000IU, with 240caps in a single bottle. I have used this almost exclusively.

Where to get Vitamins and Minerals
iHerb and Swanson Vitamins are good online stores in the US. I have used them. The trouble is with the shipment and customs part. I personally never faced any issues with the shipment and customs, but my brother has faced problems. The cost of supplements in the US is very low. The shipment and customs can add quite significant costs to the supplements. This option may still be quite a bit cheaper if the cost of supplements being ordered is at least a couple of hundred USDs.

If you cannot get someone to bring them for you and you want to order only a few items, then you may want to check out local companies. There are two online shops in India, which are selling supplements, Healthkart and Biovea. I haven't tried these yet.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Latest learnings on Hypothyroidism

I have been trying to find more information on Hypothyroidism.

One interesting paper shows that there is a circadian rhythm to Thyroid hormones. Some practical implications of the graphs are
1) T4 is lower in the night, while TSH and T3 are higher in the night.
2) Sometime around 10:00 both TSH and T4 rise, while T3 dips.
3) The time when all 3 are steady for some time is afternoon 3:00 pm.

This means that the best time to get tested is around 3:00pm.

If you are supplementing T4, the best time would be when it is lower, ie night time. Also Mary Shomon reports that patients see the best results when they consume it just before sleeping. There is also a research paper published in 2007, where they saw significant difference between taking it in the night and taking it in the morning.

Remember the same strategy will not work for T3, because T3 is higher in the night. T3 is best consumed split up few times during the day, as it has a very low half life.

I came across a document explaining the various thyroid tests. It also has a table at the end summarizing the tests.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Feedback from a glucometer for a prediabetic.

I collected some data from a friend, who is pre-diabetic, on how his blood sugar reacted to different foods.
I had asked him to get his blood sugar below 140, preferably below 120. And to do this he had to experiment with what he ate.
With a diet he self selected based on the feedback from glucometer, he could normalize his blood sugar within 2 days.
I analyze the first 5 days of his food log, and these provide some very interesting information.

Day 1
Fasting 140
Upma aampana, half apple -190
Ghiya Chana dal bhindi 2 rotis curd - 193
predinner 112
3 drum sticks + salad (tomato + cucumber) 118.

From this we can see that Upma caused a massive increase in bg level, due to the high content of carbs in upma. The lunch caused another big increase again because of the high carb content in the daal and rotis. The dinner was low in carbs and medium in fiber and resulted in very little increase.

Day 2
Fasting 127
methi rotis-2 apple pommegranate 175
pre lunch 96
moong dal cauliflower soup rotis-2 curd 169
lassi 105
salad(cuc+tomato) soup 110
The fasting has dropped due to the low carb dinner. Again a 50point increase due to rotis and fruits at breakfast. The lunch increase was huge >70points due to the dal and rotis. Dinner was low carb.
The lassi shows that curd is being handled very well, and not causing much rise.

Day 3
Fasting 108
4 eggs baked anar, jamun, water melon 112
pre-lunch 100
poha(1/2 bowl uncooked) dahi 164
roasted chicken 123(2 o'clock late night)

Fasting has actually become good, in just two days. A low carb and low fat breakfast, not much increase. Poha caused 64 point increase, due to being mostly carbs. 123 at 2 o'clock is probably more due to the late night stress rather than the (lack of) carbs in the chicken.            

Day 4
fasting 111
4 eggs scrambled anar, jamun   98
2 eggs 2 med potatoes veg curd 131
predinner 94
chicken curry   cucumber

Fasting is higher than PP after a low carb breakfast. This happens because the insulin spike causes the glucose in the blood to be absorbed making the bg level lower. In some people it can trigger hunger, so eating breakfast can make you hungrier. After lunch is a bit higher, possibly because of eggs and potatoes and curd. Protein can and does convert to glucose, when they exceed the requirement. Breakfast and lunch proteins due to eggs is 40gms. Breakfast protein must have been utilized but this protein may have got converted.

Day 5
fasting 111
3 eggs boiled  
Rice chicken 1 spoon icecream 111
roasted fox nut, roasted chana 183
curd rice sambhar 158      

A very low carb and medium fat breakfast must have resulted in a low bg level, though it was not measured. This is probably why rice did not cause the level to go very high. The evening is very interesting. A small amount of roasted nuts and chana caused the level to rise to 183. This effect is called Chinese restaurant effect. It is caused by a very high fiber with very low carbs and very low fat food. This shows that snacking should be avoided, by diabetics. If you need to snack do it with something high in fat. A moderate carb dinner probably did not cause much bg rise, as the pre-dinner bg level would already be higher due to the snack.

I hope the above analysis gives people some idea on how easy it is to control your blood sugar level.

Important Note: This information only applies to people on medicines like Metformin. It does not apply to people on Insulin. Insulin users please do not try this unless you know how it affects your insulin intake.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hypothyroidism: Tests, Diet and Supplements

I have seen a couple of cases of hypothyroidism very recently.

Hypothyroidism is basically an inavailability of T3 hormone to the cells. The cells need the hormone for energy production. T3 hormone is the means by which the brain controls energy utilization in the body. The Hypothalamus indicates to the Pituitary gland that more energy is required. The Pituitary generates TSH to signal the thyroid to create T4/T3.

There are 4 tests that can distinguish different cases of hypothyroidism.
1) Free T3
2) Free T4
3) TSH
4) Reverse T3

For best feeling Free T3 must be in the upper half of the normal range. Free T4 must also be in the upper range. TSH should be around 1, preferably below, but not lower than 0.3. If T4 is high and T3 is low, its quite likely that T4 is being converted to RT3. The RT3 range can distinguish the case.

If T3 and T4 are low and TSH is also low, then there is a problem with the Pituitary gland.
If T3/T4 are high and TSH is also high, then also there is a problem with the Pituitary, and possibly there is a tumor there.
The normal hypothyroidism case is that T3 and T4 is low and TSH is high.
If T3/T4 are high and TSH is very low, then it is a hyper thyroid case. But if the symptoms are hypothyroid then it is probably a thyroiditis case, where the autoimmune attack is ongoing. It could also be a Zinc Deficiency case, but that would be rare.

So how do we get hypothyroidism?

There are two reasons.
1) Thyroiditis - An Autoimmune disorder where, the body's immune system is killing the Thyroid cells. This is the most common cause.
2) Iodine Deficiency - This can happen due to Iodine, Selenium deficiency. This is also fairly common.
3) Zinc Deficiency - Zinc is required for absorbing T3 in the cells. This is quite rare.
4) Other reasons - These are rare, and occur due to medicines or surgical procedures.

Thyroiditis normally happens due to overactive immune system which is not able to identify the right proteins to attack. The ability to identify properly rests a lot on VitD levels. This vitamin unfortunately is pretty low in most people in the present times. The immune system becomes over active because some offensive proteins are entering the blood stream. This is most likely due to a leaky gut, but in rare cases the immune system can get primed from the gut itself.

There are several types of Thyroiditis
1) Hashimoto's - This probably occurs due to leaky gut causing the immune system to become overactive.
2) PostPartum - This occurs after pregnancy, because the immune system undergoes a change at the time. This could also be related to the leaky gut.
3) Others related to medical procedures or radiation.

Thyroiditis can be tested with the following
1) Anti-ThyroGlobulin 
2) Anti-TPO

Diet and Supplements

Diet and supplement depend on the cause of the hypothyroidism.

First we need to supplement to get the T4/T3 hormone to the right level.

The easiest is to supplement with a form of Thyroxine (T4). T4 converts to T3, and both the required hormones are available. This works for most people. But for some additional T3 hormone supplementation is required. People whose thyroid gland is inactive to a very large extent, should consider Dessicated Thyroid gland supplements, because these provide other hormones as well. Particularly calcitonin hormone is required to prevent a possibility of osteoporosis.

Generally people take the Supplemental hormone without monitoring. The monitoring via FT3/FT4/TSH is very expensive. A much cheaper solution is to find the body temperature and monitor it to find whether the supplementation is sufficient.

For measuring the body temp use an analog thermometer. Keep the thermometer in the mouth for around 5 minutes for proper temperature. Also try to avoid doing anything during the test.

Take the temperature at 3hr 6hr and 9hr after waking up. Average the 3 numbers. The aim is to get the temperature to 98.4F, with supplementation.

If there is a lot of variation (>0.6F) in day to day average temperature, then the adrenal might be implicated. This may cause problems while supplementing with T4, and Cortisol (Hydrocort)  supplementation may also be required.

If the supplementation of T4 is not helping raise the Body Temperature, then FT3/FT4/TSH/RT3 tests should be made to determine, what is going wrong. It maybe that T3 supplementation is also required. If a lot of T4/T3 hormone is required then it might be that a large part of the thyroid gland is not working, then it would be better to check the thyroid gland with radiology. If indeed a large part is inactive then it is much better to use dessicated thyroid gland.

If the cause is Thyroiditis, then it is important to eat a very strict paleo diet (ie no grains/legumes/milk) without nightshades. Specifically avoiding things that are major sources of allergies, like wheat, soy, peanuts, milk solids.

For Thyroiditis it is also important to normalize Vitamin D. A low vitamin D is normally associated with Auto-immune diseases.

In any case an effort should be made to normalize Selenium and Iodine intake. Goat/Lamb Kidneys and Brazil nuts are the major sources of selenium. Kelp powder/Lugol's solution/Iodoral are some of the sources of Iodine. Effort should be made to raise the intake of iodine to 1.5-3mg/day, except in case of Thyroiditis.

It is important to remember that T3 levels vary a lot during the day. Even T4 can vary a lot. In case of Thyroiditis the levels vary a lot if the attack is on going. This is why, the body temperature test can be more reliable indicator of Thyroid function if it really Thyroid problem. The 4 hormone tests are important to distinguish where the problem exists.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My presentations

I have created in all 4 presentations.

1) This presentation is the super set, contains whatever I know about losing weight.

2) This presentation contains information only about the requirements for good health.

3) This is a new short presentation, which can complete in one hour.

4) The common myths slide.

A small primer on Genetics, and its implications for a Paleo diet and lifestyle.

This blog has been dormant for long. From now on I will be making an effort to keep the articles flowing.

I heard this question from a person, who thought that since our digestive system adapts to new food we should be able to adapt to chemicals in our lifetime. This is grossly erroneous. This article will attempt to explain why it is wrong.

There are several questions on why to use a Paleolithic Diet. Paleo diet gurus say that there has been very little evolution since the start of the Neolithic Period. While Scientists say that the rate of evolution has quickened since the advent of Agriculture.

Which one is to be believed?

I would side with the scientists. Yes evolution has quickened with the advent of agriculture. And it must be so, because a changed environment (eating habits) necessitates adaptation. This would increase the pace of evolution. By this logic the pace of evolution must be maddening in the present century. And it must be so. You must be hearing news of increased cases of birth defects :-).

Evolution does not involve only good things. It can create adaptations that are good only on the average. For example Sickle Cell anaemia. It evolved for enabling adaptation to malaria. It is not a good adaptation. Some people get too much of it, that is it becomes the dominant factor then it can cause a much increased mortality. Faster adaptations are generally a trade off.

Over time evolution will find a way to solve a problem that does not have any bad side effects, but this takes a very long time.

Remember that evolution is measured in generations, not in time. So a species like humans who have a very long time between generations (20yrs), will take a long time for the same evolution, as bacteria, where the time between generations is measured in minutes. Bacteria can also evolve by direct DNA transfer, so they don't even need a generation.

Now lets consider another question. Is it really genetic adaptation we see in the nature? Do you know that genetic difference between Chimpanzees and us is less than 1%. So why are we so different than Chimpanzees.

The answer is really Epigenetics. Epigenetics is responsible for most of the genetic conditions that we blame genes for. And the good news is that you can affect epigenetics with your lifestyle.

So what is Epigenetics?

Genes are basically recipes for creating proteins. The Nucleus can be considered to be a huge dynamic library of such recipes. The infrastructure used to organize the library is called epigenetics. There is so much genetic information in the nucleus that it would not be possible to make everything available efficiently. So the library arranges itself to provide the most used recipes in the most efficient way.

If you use different recipes the organization will rearrange to allow the new access to be made more efficiently. This rearrangement can take a long time, even generations.

An important caveat is that the reorganization can only help with conditions that have already been encountered before. It cannot help with new conditions. That is where mutations are required for experimenting with the new conditions. And adapting to a new condition takes a much longer time than adapting to a condition that has occured before.

When you eat modern processed foods, the body is struggling to work with them, many of the chemicals in them, it has never encountered before. It does not know what to do about them. They can and do confuse the system.

When you eat neolithic foods, ie grains/legumes/milk, the body knows how to handle them, although the handling may not be entirely good. Some people may react to them badly, eg Coeliac disease, some may handle them sub optimally, ie gas, bad digestion, others may be able to handle them perfectly well.

With paleolithic foods, chances are that the foods themselves have evolved so much, and have created proteins and ezymes that we cannot handle, but mostly they will be handled very well. Allergies to paleolithic foods are rare, but not rare for neolithic foods. With Modern chemicals, the system does not even know how to react. They mostly cause damage, without system reacting to them.

The good thing is that epigenetics can allow us to reverse that bad effects of the modern foods, if the damage is not extensive.

One more important point is that our digestive system is very much dependent on our gut flora, ie the bacteria and other microbes in our digestive system. The microbes do adapt very fast to new inputs, so the digestive system adaptation is very fast, but this doesn't mean that our body will be able to absorb or discard the modern chemicals correctly. They can still enter our system. They can and will still cause damage to us.

The best option is to start a strict paleo diet for a couple of months, then slowly add neolithic stuff, to determine whether we are able to handle them well. Avoid the modern processed stuff completely. That stuff should not even be part of food.

When you eat a good diet that your body can handle well, you will see marked improvement in your well being, as the epigenetic structure will align to where it should be, slowly over time.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why its ethical to eat meat?

This was the question posed by New York Times. Following is my entry.

Evolution, Health, Resource Utilization, Animal's survival, all require that we eat meat. I am touching upon these major reasons in this note.

Humans evolved from Primates. It is a very well established fact that eating meat and their fatty brains and marrow was a very crucial factor in the growth of human brain, which made us human. Humans evolved as omnivores eating meat and plants both. It is what we are. With time and tools we learnt to be a skilled hunter, and caused extinctions of a large number of mega fauna species. Later we learnt agriculture and domesticated animals which provided a stable source of food. This allowed us to stay in one place and form societies, and improve technology. Slowly with agriculture we started transforming the landscape, destroying forests and the livelihood of animals staying there to create agriculture farms. Now humans are so advanced and so much in control of the planet that the only way animals can survive is by hiding from us, or providing us some value. Yes they can be kept in small sanctuaries or zoos. The largest stock of animals in the present times are the animals that are used for food. If humans became vegans, we will render all these animals extinct, because they will not be required.

We are too many on this planet. To feed the whole world we should try to utilize as much solar energy as possible. This can be done by growing more plants and utilizing as much as is possible of it. When we grow plants there are many things that we cannot eat. The problem is that currently we are too fixated on grains. Through cereal crops we utilize only the seed part of the plant. The rest dries out before we can obtain the seeds. This is a collosal waste of energy. Instead we should use plants that give edible food while they are alive. The unedible parts of the plant can be fed to animals, and the edible parts can be eaten by us. The animals will convert the unedible part of the plant, into edible meat. This will maximize energy utilization. Also land that does not grow anything except grass can be utilized. Only an omnivore society can maximize utilization of the production of plants.

We have evolved as omnivores. The longest continuously vegetarian society is in India, which started only some 2500years ago. Veganism has only come into being since 100 years ago. Veganism more than vegetarianism requires technology to be possible. This in itself means its not a natural diet for us. Although we know how to make vegetarian way of eating sustainable for a number of generations, this experiment has still to go for several generations for veganism. There are no uncivilized tribes that are vegetarian. Yes we could equate being vegetarian with being civilized, but for me that is arrogance. It takes a lot of hubris to say that we are better than other animals, and the body that mother nature created for us, should have been created differently. We are not herbivores, we don't have the ability to digest cellulose, doesn't matter how much we may want to. Nor are we carnivores, our brain needs a lot more glucose than those small brained carnivore animals.

Lets remember our place in the world and be omnivores as mother nature intended us to be, for our sake and for the animals that feed us. Growing animals for food in a humane way is possible and is required of us as ethical humans.