Are egg yolks, cheese, butter, milk, and liver good for us?
[Note: I am personifying Nature with a capitol “N” to make it easier to describe its actions, but it is not a sentient force, i.e., it is not God. Nature doesn’t care about us or anything else for that matter. Nature is just what happens and the downstream effects of those things.] Can these ingredients from Nature help us in preventing aging?
“To Everything There is a Season, and A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven”Ecclesiastes 3:1
The genome and the soma
The genome is the living genetic material that contains the code that has been passed down through generations since the beginning of life. As long as it is successfully transferred from parent to child, it is immortal. The Prime Directive of Nature is to preserve the genome, because what works is what survives. If a society (or any living organism) does something that helps them, they are more likely to pass on their genes. If they do something that hurts them, they are more likely to die and end that germ line. Some things have random effects that neither help nor harm, and those may or may not be passed on.
The physical body that houses and protects the genome is called the soma. The soma only matters to Nature for its function in preserving the genome. Nature is done with us as soon and we have reproduced and raised our offspring until they can survive without us. For humans, a few elders may be useful as a repository for the wisdom that increases the survival of our DNA in our children and grandchildren, but old, sick people are a drain on limited resources. To Nature they are expendable.
Preventing aging is a concern unique to humans. The rest of the animal kingdom has no awareness of aging at all. In an effort to keep the soma alive and healthy long enough to reproduce, Nature has developed some strategies to help us get through difficult times to make sure we have the chance. We can use some of them to trick her into helping us live a long and healthy, post-reproductive life.
Dr. Ron Rosedale
I’ve been re-examining the theories of health and longevity expert, Dr. Ron Rosedale, and seeing them in a new light. I first met Dr. Rosedale at a Nutrition and Metabolism Society convention in Seattle. The other speakers all emphasized lowering carbohydrate and raising protein. They looked back to the Paleolithic and pre-agricultural eras to find a blueprint for the natural diet for humans; Dr. Rosedale was the first to advocate lowering protein as well. He goes back much, MUCH further for inspiration, to the Precambrian age, about four billion years ago, when one-celled organisms first appeared. There was no oxygen since plants didn’t come along until a few billion years later to start making it. All life was anaerobic, in other words, it did not use oxygen for fuel. And, he says, all life was cancerous: immortal, single cells, endlessly eating and dividing, which is a good description for what we still call cancer today. The earliest one-celled life forms consumed glucose and protein, but not fat since oxygen is required to metabolize fat. Rosedale believes that the key to fighting cancer and increasing longevity is to starve the body of glucose and protein and force it to live mostly on fat.
All organisms have genetic mechanisms to delay aging. One strategy that Dr. Rosedale includes in his bag of tricks as a way to fool Nature into sparing our post -reproductive bodies is to pretend that we are going through a famine. Researchers have found that if you reduce the rations of rats by one third, they live twice as long. He spoke about a colleague, Dr. Andrezei Bartke, who won the Methuselah Award, a prize for the researcher who could keep mice alive the longest. By down regulating insulin and IGF (insulin-like growth factor) signaling, he coaxed his mice to live six years beyond their normal two-year lifespan. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170724005465/en/22nd-Longevity-Prize-Fondation-IPSEN-Awarded-Andrzej
Of course nobody wants to live in a state of constant hunger when food is plentiful, but by manipulating our signaling hormones we can eat less without feeling hungry. Insulin, IGF, mTOR, and leptin tell the body when to eat and when to stop, when to store fat and when to burn it, when it’s a good time to reproduce and when to try to stay alive. And what tells the hormones which signals to send? Our diet. Of the three macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fat, only one of them has no effect on the hormone signals—and that is fat. He says, “Fat is a free ride.…We have nutrient sensors that tell the body and tell the genes how much nutrition is available right now, and it is a liaison between nutrient stores and genetic expression that determines whether the body will move toward reproduction or maintenance and repair….Life is a constant battle between damage and maintenance and repair. It is repair that we have the most control over, and it is therefore the most important.”
Rosedale’s diet emphasizes fish, fish oil (up to two tablespoons of cod liver oil a day!), and omega-3 fats, which are considered to be anti-inflammatory. Unfortunately, they are also high in vitamin A, which is highly pro-inflammatory, hence my concern about his advice. However, I think the high fat part might be a good idea, if you choose the right fats. (He has a new book due out in March. I am eager to see what changes, if any, he has made to his diet.) http://drrosedale.com/blog/2011/11/08/ron-rosedale-insulin-leptin-and-the-control-of-aging/#ixzz64HnCTFwp
“Your health and your lifespan will likely be determined by the proportion of fat versus sugar you burn over a lifetime: the more fat you burn as fuel, the healthier you will be. The more sugar you burn as fuel, the more disease-ridden you will be, and the shorter your life will be.”Dr. Ron Rosedale
On Preventing Aging
With limited resources, the body must choose between reproduction and growth or maintenance and repair. Rosedale names two major sources of damage (aging) and how to minimize them. I have added a third.
- Oxidation: We have limited control over oxidation since breathing is not optional.
- Glycation: Don’t eat glucose. Your body can make all that you need.
- Inflammation: Don’t eat food that contains vitamin A and don’t put topical vitamin A on your skin.
Things that favor reproduction and growth at one time of your life may not be good for longevity and vice versa. Some of the very things that get us off to a good start may contain the seeds of our destruction.
Are egg yolks good for us?
The Better Baby Book, by Dave and Lana Asprey, is a manual for how to conceive a healthy child; it contains a recipe for ice “cream” made with eight egg yolks. (The recipe is appropriately named, “Get Some.”) It is basically four eggs and 4 egg yolks blended with two cups of coconut oil/pasture butter/mct oil, plus xylitol, and vanilla. Egg yolks are an excellent food to fuel reproduction. Their ice cream will send a message to the fertility gods that you are rolling in clover; that there is plenty of good fat and protein in your environment to allow you to expend energy on creating and nurturing new life and that there is a good chance that your offspring will prosper. But a diet with a lot of egg yolks over an extended period of time might not be such a good idea. It is not cholesterol or saturated fat that you need to worry about, it is the high amount of vitamin A that may accumulate over time.
On the flip side, female athletes often report losing their periods during times of hard training. Nature thinks they are under extreme stress and makes the decision for them that they need to try to stay alive and wait until conditions improve before starting a family. So a lot of exercise may be a good thing, but not necessarily good for fertility.
Are cheese, butter, and milk good for us?
The Dutch eat more cheese than any other country. Traditional Dutch cheeses, like Edom and Gouda, are made with raw milk and aged with a particular bacteria found in the local caves. It contains a lot of vitamin K2 (MK-4 and 7), which helps keep calcium in the bones where it belongs and not in the arteries, the kidneys, or other tissues. The Dutch people are also the tallest of any country in the world. So it sounds like a jolly good thing to eat a lot of, right? But Dr. Richard Feinman, author of The World Turned upside Down, noted that both he and Dr. Michael Eades, author of Protein Power, observed that “Three things that looked okay, but may actually be trouble, are cheese, nuts, and peanut butter.” All three are easy to over-eat; peanut butter is often contaminated with aflatoxin; some nuts are high in inflammatory omega-6 fats; and I would add that cheese, which is ubiquitous in our modern diet, is high in vitamin A.
Milk is the ideal food (and should be the only food) for babies. It contains growth hormones that fuel the explosive growth of a newborn. Most babies will double their birth weight in four months. (The equivalent of a 140 pound adult reaching 280 pounds in 4 months.) Their chubby cheeks and plump bellies are adorable, but they don’t look so cute on an adult.
Milk was designed by Nature to make things grow like crazy. That’s good for babies, but bad for cancers. A 2008 study of 140,000 men found that every 35 grams of milk protein can increase their risk for developing high-grade prostate cancer by 76%. A cup of cottage cheese per day could increase one’s risk by about 50%. Cheese is more concentrated than milk so it contains even more growth hormones. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/hormones-in-skim-vs-whole-milk/
Then there is this report from Science Daily: Un-growth hormone increases longevity, researchers find.
“A compound which acts in the opposite way as growth hormone can reverse some of the signs of aging, a research team at St. Louis University has shown. The finding may be counter-intuitive to some older adults who take growth hormone, thinking it will help revitalize them.
“The scientists studied the compound MZ-5-156, a ‘growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) antagonist.’ They found that it had positive effects on oxidative stress in the brain, improving cognition, telomerase activity (the actions of an enzyme which protects DNA) and life span, while decreasing tumor activity. MZ-5-156, like many GHRH antagonists, inhibited several human cancers, including prostate, breast, brain, and lung cancers. It also had positive effects on learning, and is linked to improvements in short-term memory. The antioxidant actions led to less oxidative stress, reversing cognitive impairment in the aging mouse. The results led the team to determine that ‘antagonists of growth hormone-releasing hormone have beneficial effects on aging.’”
Pasture butter that has been clarified is probably the best bet of dairy products and may be worth the vitamin A it contains as long as you have the capacity to handle it. Clarified butter is just the butter fat, which has been separated from the solids. One tablespoon contains 46 mcgs or 6% of the RDI of vitamin A, but no lactose, whey, or casein. Ghee is the version traditionally used in India because it did not need to be refrigerated. Clarified butter is more healthful than ghee because it is separated at a lower temperature; in making ghee, butter is cooked until the solids are browned, causing oxidation (rancidity). Even though pasture butter may have health benefits, it is still wise to limit all butter, even clarified, to two tablespoons or less per day while trying to detox from vitamin A overload.
Is liver good for us?
The Inuit are often cited (including by me, in my first book) as an example of people who were healthy while eating a diet of mostly animal meat, fat, and liver. The following is from the introduction of Carb Wars; Sugar is the New Fat, 2007.
“In 1918, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, an anthropologist who had lived with the Copper Inuit in Alaska for a total of five years, wanted to see if he had suffered any ill effects from living on a diet of meat, fat, and water. The results of his examinations were published in The Journal of the American Medical Association on July 3, 1926…in an article titled “The Effects of an Exclusive Long-Continued Meat Diet.” The committee that examined Stefansson failed to find any trace of evidence of the expected harmful effects of the diet.
“The news was greeted with skepticism. One critic reportedly said, ‘You are likelier to meet a thousand liars than one miracle.’ A colleague, Dr. Karsten Anderson, volunteered to join Stefansson in a scientific experiment, under strict supervision, to determine the effects of a eating a diet consisting of only protein and fat for one year. He was not trying to prove anything, he stated, only to discover the facts. The two men checked into the dietetic ward of the Bellevue Hospital in New York City. Stefansson estimated that their diet was 80% animal fat and 20% animal protein. At the end of the year, it was reported that Stefansson had lost 10 pounds of excess weight and his cholesterol was lower than when he started. Neither man had suffered from scurvy or any other deficiency disease, nor had they damaged their circulatory systems or kidneys as had been predicted.” Vilhjalmur Stefansson, “Adventures in Diet,” Harper’s Monthly Magazine, December, 1935.
Steffannsson did not mention the possible effect of excess vitamin A in the diet of the native people of the Arctic because he could not have known about it in the 1930s, just as I did not know about it in 2007. The Inuit, however, did know. They must have learned by experience, passed down through their oral history, about the devastating birth defects it caused and how to avoid them.
The Inuit were hunters; they had a natural rhythm of feast and famine. Stefansson tells of experiencing extreme hunger during his time living with them. (Fasting depletes vitamin A stores.) Also, they had a special diet for pregnant women to insure that they produced “perfect babies.” It included the intestines of herbivores with the fermented plant matter inside, as I recall.
The description of the traditional way of butchering and eating a seal says that the men ate before the women (because they were cold and hungry) and that the liver was consumed first, which would have been another way of preventing pregnant females from getting too much, if any, of the liver.
“Women and children are accustomed to eating different parts of the seal because they wait until the hunters are done eating. Intestines are the first thing to be chosen and then any leftover pieces of the liver are consumed. Finally, ribs and backbone are eaten and any remaining meat is distributed among the camp.”Borré, Kristen. “Seal Blood, Inuit Blood, and Diet: A Biocultural Model of Physiology and Cultural Identity.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 5 (1991): 48–62.
Look at the insert that comes with prescriptions for the acne medication, Accutane, to read the side effects of the drug (which is really just pure retinoic acid, the end metabolite of vitamin A). They are like those of Thalidomide, the drug for morning sickness that caused babies to be born with multiple abnormalities, including missing limbs. The Accutane brochure carries this warning: “There is an extremely high risk that severe birth defects will result if pregnancy occurs while taking isotretinoin in any amount, even for a short period of time.”
The Inuit practiced infanticide when a child was born at the wrong time of the year or when a parent had died. The picture at the top of this post shows a mummified, six-month-old infant who was buried alive with his dead mother. Another child, who was part of the same burial, was found to have a deformed pelvis and to be suffering from Calve Perthes disease, which was destroying one of his thighbones and preventing him from walking. Some newborns were strangled before they took their first breath, but the Inuit did not think of it as murder. They believed that when a child was conceived, it took on the spirit of a recently-deceased relative. They thought they were just sending them back to “Babyland” so they could come back at a more favorable time. (Infanticide could also have been a way to deal with retinoic acid-induced birth defects when they failed to prevent them.)
So was liver good for the Inuit?
If the alternative was starvation, I guess it was good for them in that way. They considered liver to be a “sacred” food. I’m not sure what that word meant to the Inuit, but in English, one of the meanings is “set apart.” They certainly knew there was something different about it compared to other foods and they treated it with respect.
Birth defects are not the only effect of hypervitaminosis A, as I well know. It’s been 10 months since I realized that it was responsible for my 25+ years of autoimmune problems. I’m still suffering some of its consequences, but when Grant Generoux sent out a questionnaire to see how people on the diet were coming along, I marked my progress as 8 out of 10 and it is speeding up at this point. Grant reported that he was still seeing unexpected improvements himself after more than 5½ years on the A-elimination diet. (He continues to get taller as his spine re-mineralizes and his cardiovascular health has improved. He also noted, among other things, that his handwriting was smoother, which seems like an odd thing, but it indicates better fine muscle control.) https://ggenereux.blog/2019/08/11/five-year-update/ He plans to stay on the diet as an experiment but he never anticipated that anyone would keep it up after their symptoms were cured. What we’re finding is that we really didn’t know how extensive the effects of retinoic acid are. We thought we were just experiencing normal aging, but perhaps “normal” is not inevitable.
Are egg yolks, cheese, butter, milk, and liver good for us? Yes, they are. Until they are not.
© 11/17/2019, Judy Barnes Baker