Category Archives: Toxins and Toxicity - Page 3

The Oldest Profession: Quinoa, Millet, and Emmer and Einkorn Wheat

I thought I’d bring some information up from the comments so it can be visible to people doing searches.

In the book we speak of “safe starches” whose safety is well attested: rice, sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes, taro, tapioca, sago. We also speak of the high toxicity of grains and legumes. But a variety of less popular foods were left unmentioned. These include quinoa and millet.

Mark asked about quinoa and I gave this view of it:

Well, quinoa is not a grain or legume and so does not fall in our excluded foods, but we haven’t been including it in our “safe starches” list either, mainly due to caution and unfamiliarity on our part.

Quinoa does contain saponins (http://pmid.us/18452959) even after being debittered (http://pmid.us/11829658), and needs proper handling including washing before cooking. With proper handling it seems to be relatively safe. A Pubmed search on “quinoa toxicity” yields nothing; “quinoa saponins” yields 22 hits.

Quinoa does have a lot of protein (12-18% per Wikipedia), which makes me suspicious. Plant proteins are behind nearly all the toxicity effects of grains and legumes, and I prefer to avoid plant protein. It’s possible there are undiscovered toxicity effects.

There was a debate in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in Nov 1999 about quinoa. (See http://pmid.us/10570670 and http://pmid.us/10570669.) One writer notes that the Celiac Sprue Association classed quinoa as “unsafe” because some celiac patients have had bad reactions to it. This does not mean that quinoa would cause problems to someone with a healthy bowel, but there is a lack of evidence either way.

Off the cuff, tentative view? Quinoa seems to be quite a bit safer than grains, and since “the dose makes the poison” it can probably be eaten in moderation as a way to diversify the diet. However, its safety is not as well proven as, say, rice or sweet potatoes or taro, and personally I wouldn’t make it my primary starch source.

This is the basic problem: we just don’t know. We know about the toxicity of wheat because billions of people have made it their primary calorie source and we can see that after 60 years of eating it, people have much worse health than those who made rice their primary calorie source. Then, because wheat is so important, scientists have studied it and identified most of its toxins.

With quinoa, we lack that kind of usage and there has been little scientific study.

Since the Perfect Health Diet only calls for around 400 starch calories a day, it’s not too arduous to confine one’s self to only those starches known to be safe. At least, that’s my view.

Becky then asked about millet. I replied:

Millet is a grain and so it is guilty until proven innocent. Grains in general are very rich in toxins, so odds are millet is no exception.

That said, it is an ancestral variety which may not have undergone a lot of modification by breeding. Dr. Davis has presented some evidence that the biggest problem with wheat may be that it has twice been hybridized, expanding its genome from 14 chromosomes in its ancestral form (einkorn wheat) to 28 chromosomes (emmer wheat) through hybridization with goat grass, later to 42 chromosomes through another hybridization with Triticum grass to create modern wheat. This means wheat has toxins from three separate species, which may explain why it is the most toxic grain.

Dr William Davis has reported that some people who cannot tolerate modern wheat can tolerate einkorn: see here and here.

I recommend avoiding millet and other grains except rice, whose safety is well-attested. Since we only need about 400 carb calories a day, it’s not too difficult to confine one’s self to known-to-be-safe carbs.

But, daredevils, drunkards, and other risk-lovers may find millet worth the risk!

I was fascinated by Dr Davis’s report that ancestral wheat varieties may be much safer than current strains. It makes sense: tripling the number of plant toxins through hybridization must increase toxicity.

It appears that the progress of agriculture through hybridization and breeding has caused our food to become progressively more toxic. And this toxification of food was not an innovation of modern industrial agriculture, but was already underway in the early Neolithic.

So next time you’re tempted to criticize Big Pharma and Big Agriculture for placing mammon ahead of safety, remember that Natufian farmers were doing the same thing! Perhaps the oldest profession was not prostitution, but genetic engineering of food.

Wheat and Obesity: More from the China Study

Obesity seems to have the same cause the world over, in both humans and lab animals: It results from food toxicity compounded by malnourishment.

The most important food toxins are cereal grains (especially wheat), omega-6-rich vegetable oils, and fructose from sugar and corn syrup.

The United States government in its wisdom chose to give agricultural subsidies to wheat, corn, and soybeans, thus reducing the price of the most toxic food crops. The natural result was to make Americans the fattest people in the world, as this chart comparing body-mass index (BMI) in 30 countries attests (from http://diabetescure101.com/BMI.htm, via Matthew Yglesias):

Look at the two low-obesity countries at the left of the chart: Japan and Korea are the only two Asian countries in the sample. What are they doing right?

Well, everything:

  • Their staple starch is rice, not wheat. Rice is the only non-toxic cereal grain and one of our “safe starches.”
  • They consume far less vegetable oils than Americans.
  • They consume far less sugar than Americans.

With a minimally toxic diet, it’s almost impossible to become obese.

Of the three main toxins, which is the most important single factor in causing obesity?

An interesting place to look for an answer is the China Study. Since some regions of China traditionally eat wheat and others rice, the China Study is especially effective at distinguishing the obesity-promoting effects of wheat toxins. The China Study compiled massive epidemiological data by region, including correlations between wheat and rice consumption and body weight and body-mass index (BMI).

Denise Minger, who is fast making herself the world’s leading interpreter of the China Study, has continued her analysis of the raw data. Denise points out that in China, wheat eaters are “fatter with fewer calories”:

In both China Study I and II, wheat is the strongest positive predictor of body weight (r = 0.65, p<0.001) out of any diet variable. And it’s not just because wheat eaters are taller, either, because wheat consumption also strongly correlates with body mass index (r = 0.58, p<0.001). 

Here is the data in pictures:

Denise goes on to point out that the correlation of BMI with wheat intake is 56%, with calorie intake only 13%.

It seems the evidence is consistent.  It’s not eating more calories that makes a person fat. It’s overdosing on toxins – especially wheat toxins.

Statin Idiocy

You may have noticed the ludicrous proposal from a group of British doctors, published in the American Journal of Cardiology [1], that statins should be distributed with McDonald’s value meals to reverse the cholesterol-raising effects of cheeseburgers metabolic syndrome induced by sugar and omega-6 fat toxicity.

Various bloggers have discussed their proposal, and if you are interested here are some links:

We rarely discuss drugs, since we’re diet and nutrition focused, but briefly, statins should be avoided because they do a mix of benefits and harms, of which the benefits are minor and can be better achieved by other means, and the harms can be immense:

  • Coenzyme Q10 deficiencies impairing mitochondrial function and producing potentially life-threatening muscle weakness (myopathy).
  • Cholesterol deficiencies impairing cell movement, cell division, and wound healing and increasing risk of infectious disease and cancer.
  • A myriad of other effects, including liver damage, kidney damage, and cataracts.

It appears that the benefits of statins are achieved mainly through two mechanisms – an elevation of vitamin D synthesis and a mild anti-inflammatory effect. (Cholesterol-lowering drugs which lack these effects have proven to be highly poisonous.) Normalizing vitamin D levels through sunshine and supplements would eliminate the first benefit; eating a diet low in food toxins would eliminate the second benefit. So for people practicing healthy diets, there is likely to be no benefit from statins at all, and much harm.

It’s telling that clinical trials conducted since trial regulations were tightened a few years ago have failed to show any benefit from statins. [2] Earlier trials were biased in various ways, including in many cases a failure to report overall mortality or deaths from infectious disease and cancer, and a severe publication bias in which trials producing negative effects were suppressed.

Meanwhile simple, inexpensive steps like supplementation can have much bigger health benefits than statins. Normalizing vitamin D levels can cut mortality in half [3, 4] and supplementing vitamin K2 can reduce mortality by 26%. [5]

So, if we don’t normally discuss drugs, what prompted this post?  My eye was caught by Stephan’s observation that farm subsidy modifications could greatly improve public health:

Rather than giving people statins along with their Big Mac, why don’t we change the incentive structure that artificially favors the Big Mac, french fries and soft drink? If it weren’t for corn, soybean and wheat subsidies, fast food wouldn’t be so cheap. Neither would any other processed food. Fresh, whole food would be price competitive with industrial food, particularly if we applied the grain subsidies to more wholesome foods.

I’ve long advocated this change myself. It’s ironic that the US government managed to pick the most toxic foods – wheat, corn, and soybeans – for its agricultural subsidies. 

It’s often pointed out that U.S. longevity is worse than would be expected based on our GDP. Here’s a chart from gapminder.org – click for a legible version:

If you fit a curve and measure distance beneath the curve, among rich nations only Brunei, Qatar, and maybe Luxembourg and Liechtenstein perform worse than the US. Americans die years earlier than we ought.

The reason for this is probably mainly our agricultural subsidies and the high intake of toxic foods they have engendered. (Our high intake of health-impairing drugs like statins may also contribute.) As I commented on Stephan’s blog:

If we ate rice instead of wheat, butter instead of soybean oil, and drank tea instead of corn syrup, Americans might be the longest-lived people in the world.

Diet and nutrition are the keys to health, yet they are the ugly stepchildren of American medicine. Drugs remain the favored and spoiled son, producing little but beloved.

References

[1] Ferenczi EA et al. Can a Statin Neutralize the Cardiovascular Risk of Unhealthy Dietary Choices? Am J Cardiol. 2010 Aug 15;106(4):587-592. http://pmid.us/20691321.

[2] de Lorgeril M. Disappointing recent cholesterol-lowering drug trials: is it not time for a full reappraisal of the cholesterol theory? World Rev Nutr Diet. 2009;100:80-9. http://pmid.us/19696530.

[3] Dobnig H et al. Independent association of low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin d and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin d levels with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. Arch Intern Med. 2008 Jun 23;168(12):1340-9. http://pmid.us/18574092.

[4] Pilz S et al. Vitamin D and mortality in older men and women. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2009 Nov;71(5):666-72. http://pmid.us/19226272.

[5] Geleijnse JM et al. Dietary Intake of Menaquinone Is Associated with a Reduced Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: The Rotterdam Study. J Nutr. 2004 Nov;134(11):3100-5. http://pmid.us/15514282.

Nurse fails the puzzler

A few weeks back we discussed a nutritional brain teaser: what’s the healthiest snack, an apple, potato chips, cookie, or ice cream.  I concluded that, if prepared with the best ingredients, the ice cream and potato chips were the healthiest. (Of course, foods are rarely well prepared, and if I had to buy these things in supermarkets, I might go with the apple.)

LynMarie Daye brings news of a nurse who failed to solve the puzzler. The nurse tried to discourage a diabetic patient from eating ice cream – perhaps a wise move, considering the levels of sugar in most commercial ice cream; but only if better, not worse, foods replace the ice cream. The hospital administration reprimanded her for not providing the ice cream with a smile.

If I am going to give people what they want with a smile instead of what they need with understanding and caring, then I’ll flip burgers. I have ALWAYS greeted my patients (yes patients) with a smile, a caring hand on the shoulder if they allow and carefully explained what, why, and how. Lately I left a bedside with confidence that while not pleased with their situation, they were comfortable with it. An hour later I’m being called into the charge nurse’s office being chewed out for being mean and/or rude to the patient and/or the family! I did my nursing duty, I brought them that extra helping of ice cream with a teaching that this may not be their best choice for a diabetic and perhaps they would do better with the apple slices or sugar free cake I also brought along. But how rude of me to suggest such things! The “client” knows what is best for them, I’m told.

The nurse is well-intentioned but look what she recommends over ice cream – the most fructose-rich of fruits, the apple; and a cake full of toxic wheat proteins. Both these foods provide all calories as carbs, precisely the macronutrient that diabetics are least able to handle. When her diabetic finished the apple slices and was still hungry, would she bring more apples and cake?  At least the ice cream provides egg yolks and dairy fats that satiate appetite and displace carbs from the diet.

I wish I could say the hospital reprimanded her for faulty diet advice. Unfortunately, it seems the hospital’s only concern was the patient’s pleasure. It appears the hospital would be content to help patients poison themselves, if that would increase customer satisfaction.

They say you can lead a horse to water but can’t make him drink.  When it comes to diet, the medical industry has lost the way to the water and has given up leading. Frankly, I’d rather be a horse than a hospital patient.