Q: You touched on nitrates and nitrites in passing previously. With all the reading I’ve done, I’m still confused regarding how bad these compounds are for you as well as how pertinent the source is.
I’ve also read that 80% of our nitrate intake actually comes from fresh vegetables and that a lot of the food that is “nitrate and nitrite free” actually uses celery juice which is naturally high in nitrites and therefore isn’t really “nitrite free” at all.
While a quick overview would be great, I would certainly appreciate a more involved look at the effect of nitrites and nitrates in the body, the mechanism by which the are deemed harmful, etc.
A: It is a very interesting subject, and you are right in that it is confusing and conflicting because there are some confusing and conflicting data out there. Nitrates and nitrites are in the same family but seem to affect the body in different ways. Very briefly, nitrATE itself is not toxic to humans. But it is metabolized to nitrite in the body by a couple of mechanisms. Nitrites are toxic to humans, but it takes a large amount of them to be toxic by themselves. The much more worrisome reaction is the reaction between some amino acids and nitrite to form something called nitrosamines in the GI tract. Nitrosamines are known potent carcinogens and there is strong data showing increased consumption of nitrates and nitrites in cured meats and increased incidence of GI cancers. The worry is primarily with the cured meats due to high amino acid content and high potential nitrosamine formation. This worry is not present with the plants that you correctly described as having lots of nitrates in them due to the relative lack of amino acids.
A: I prefer a higher ratio of DHA to EPA simply due to the fact that the DHA conversion is limited from EPA in the body and DHA is such a vital structural component in the central nervous system. Of course EPA is also vital for prostaglandin synthesis, so that shouldn’t be ignored. If there were a 1:1 oil I would think that to be ideal, but usually what I do is either mix cod liver (high DHA) with regular fish oil (high EPA), or simply rotate taking them on a daily basis.
A: Eggs will not become allergenic if eaten long term. Allergies develop from an acute immunological response to a foreign protein. If its going to happen, it will happen but usually food allergies develop early on in life. You should be fine.
A: I’m extremely impressed with berberine. I’m quite surprised we haven’t heard more about it in the US. Although the MOA is unknown it has shown significant promise in improved glucose tolerance and enhanced energy partitioning (less body fat, more lean tissue), and it has been shown to improve blood lipid profiles. You all know my thoughts on cholesterol, but if you are an individual with high LDL type b or familial hypercholesterolemia, the unique MOA of berberine makes it far more desirable as a treatment than inhibiting the mevalonate pathway via statins and the tremendous adverse effects that causes on the entire body.
Regarding cinnamon: from the studies I have read Cinnamomi cassiae extract (Cinnamon bark: Lauraceae) is the most potent form. Great results on fasting blood glucose, LDL, and triglycerides were found starting at 1 g a day. The response was somewhat dose dependent up to several grams a day, but 1 gram gave most of the benefits of the 6 g (was not linear). I would say start at 1 g.
A: Thank you for the question. It is an excellent question and one that I get a lot so let me try to address it in a general manner. Before we get to supplements, let me say that our goals for our nutrition should start with the foundation of a diet that very closely mimics what we as a species ate for our entire history up until the proliferation of processed foods in the 20th century. We were either designed or adapted through selective pressures to thrive on a diet of natural foods, with natural meaning very minimally processed with no genetic mumbo jumbo in the DNA of the plants or animals. Most of the limited research available shows that it really isn’t very important the exact macro breakdown of the food as much as the minimal processing of the food. So 10% or 50% of carbohydrate doesn’t seem to make a big difference in the life expectancy or quality of life of people as long as the food they are eating is natural. Which brings us to the point of “what is ‘natural’ really”?
I define natural as the condition that food USED to be available as pre-industrial agriculture. Plants were full of the correct vitamins and minerals due to natural fertilization and rotational planting instead of having only a few minerals available to them for replenishment by commercial fertilizer. Commercial fertilizer does make large, good -looking fruit but it is deficient in many of the minerals that the plant should contain naturally. With animal products, animals should be raised on their natural diets in order to contain the appropriate fatty acids. Ruminants should eat grass their entire lives, fish should be caught in the wild, chickens should roam and scratch the ground, eating the insects and worms they turn up, etc. So how do you address the dietary deficiencies if you absolutely must rely on industrial food sources? Here is where supplements play a role.
Supplements in this scenario are exactly what they are named. They should be used to provide that bridge back to the natural diet that we are conditioned to thrive with. For example- magnesium, selenium, and zinc to replace the magnesium, selenium, and zinc that are supposed to be in the plants we eat, omega 3s to mimic the meat lipids that we were conditioned to eat for thousands of years, probiotics to replace the bacteria we used to consume before the advent of pasteurization, etc. In essence, we are retro-engineering our food supply back to what it is supposed to be. The only way to thrive as an organism is to consume what the organism has adapted to consume in its totality. Sure, we are adaptable organisms and can survive on many different foods and many different intake levels. But to be truly healthy and to thrive we must seek to consume our body-adapted diet.