Dispelling Paleomyths: Humans Ate a Lot of Starch, Even During the Ice Age

DuckDodgers in comments, the one who “dug up” all the great info on Chufas, or Tiger Nuts, a starchy highly nutritious tuber that I find tastes great and is very satiating.

He’s been digging up a lot more on other starchy stuff as well, dispelling lots of Paleomyths.


I think (true) paleo is rather low net carb.

There were certainly low starch cultures — as evidenced by low copies of AMY1a genes in those cultures. But the perception that the majority of our evolution was rather low net carb seems to be mostly based on outdated and obsolete evidence. The more I dig into this, the more I’m finding evidence of energy positive tubers, corms, bulbs and rhizomes (and now “forbs”) being available in virtually every environment that our species evolved in including the ice age.

From the PaleoResearch Institute: Many plants produce several different types of starches in a single organ, meaning that one must learn to identify populations of starches, rather than relying on single starches. At PaleoResearch Institute, we have documented starches in human tooth calculus, groundstone washes, ceramic washes, washes of Poverty Point objects, floor samples, other sediment samples, and in nearly every type of provenience that we have examined for evidence of food processing.

Almost every month, more and more advanced research is being published that shows the potential for greater starch consumption that what was previously believed.

I think the “low carb” paleo notion might have come from the fact that our ancestors experienced long ice-ages, forcing people to rely on animal foods a lot of the time.

It’s a myth that there were no plants available during glacial advances. If that were true, then the plant and grass-eating herbivores that all the carnivores were eating would have all gone extinct during the first few months of any glacial advance — and then every animal would have starved. But, that’s not what happened. In fact, grass-eating horses and camels migrated over the ice bridge from North America to Eurasia.

It’s actually well known that grasses and sedges were available to those herbivores on the ice bridges. And guess what grows under grasses and sedges? starchy and Nutrient-dense roots and tubers. But, up until last year, researchers had no idea how even early hominids in Africa were able to survive off of all the grasses that left the C4 isotopes found in their fossilized bones. It was a mystery and they literally assumed that these hominids were munching on reeds of grass that were void of nutrition, up until last month. But, a new theory hypothesizes that early hominids were likely eating the extremely nutrient-dense tubers that grew these grasses and sedges. So, with one paper, the energy positive starchy tubers were back on the map as a nutrient-dense C4 staple.

And literally, just the other day, a new DNA-based study was published in Nature that shows that nearly 50,000 years ago during the ice age, the landscape was not a barren landscape as once thought. Researchers already knew that the grasses and sedges existed — which means starchy tubers and roots existed too.

From: Fifty thousand years of Arctic vegetation and megafaunal diet Although it is generally agreed that the Arctic flora is among the youngest and least diverse on Earth, the processes that shaped it are poorly understood. Here we present 50 thousand years (kyr) of Arctic vegetation history, derived from the first large-scale ancient DNA metabarcoding study of circumpolar plant diversity. For this interval we also explore nematode diversity as a proxy for modelling vegetation cover and soil quality, and diets of herbivorous megafaunal mammals, many of which became extinct around 10 kyr BP (before present). For much of the period investigated, Arctic vegetation consisted of dry steppe-tundra dominated by forbs (non-graminoid herbaceous vascular plants). During the Last Glacial Maximum (25–15 kyr BP), diversity declined markedly, although forbs remained dominant. Much changed after 10 kyr BP, with the appearance of moist tundra dominated by woody plants and graminoids. Our analyses indicate that both graminoids and forbs would have featured in megafaunal diets. As such, our findings question the predominance of a Late Quaternary graminoid-dominated Arctic mammoth steppe.

So, what this study tells us that the once-thought barren landscape of the ice age was actually dominated by forbs (colorful wildflowers) and graminoids (grasses).

“Forbs” include Typhaceae, which includes Cattails that have a starchy root and and starchy pollen that happen to be rich in Resistant Starch.

And “Graminoids” happen to include Cyperaceae, which includes extremely starchy and nutrient-dense tiger nuts.

In other words, families of plants known to be rich in starches and Resistant Starch dominated the landscape even during the “ice age.”

So, the wooly mammoths, woolly rhinos, reindeers, bison megafauna were living off of these plants and there is no reason why paleo ancestors wouldn’t have eaten them as well. Why wouldn’t they? The plants had “energy positive” properties.

In fact, last year it was confirmed that shortly after the glaciers retreated there were Paleo-Indians who were harvesting starchy and nutrient-dense cattails and tiger nuts in North America 9,000 years ago. Based on the recent evidence published in Nature, my guess is that those Paleo-Indians had been eating those plants all along.


A Paleomyth falls. Now spread the word.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. GTR on February 11, 2014 at 16:22

    Let’s clarify the epochs first – most of the hominids evolution took place during the current Ice Age (that we also live in), called Quaternary Ice Age. It’s one of the 5 major ice ages, the only one revelant to human evolution. During this ice age glacial periods dominated, with short, bursty hot interglacials.
    Outside of these ice ages the climate of the earth was much warmer, with less temperature differences between the equator and poles, without ice on the poles, with more CO2 in the atmosphere (good for plants!) etc., but also with a danger of mass extinction due to the possibility of ocean changing into so called Canefield ocean. In such hot climates first mammals, then primates themselves evolved.

    When it comes to our ancestors, then most of them lived in hot and temperate climates where plant foods should be easily available – places like Africa and the Middle East. In fact Out Of Arabia is one of the hypothesis of human evolution, that is that it was a 2 stage process – Africa first, then some evolution in the Middle East took place, and only then the world was conquereded, with India probably first. A chain of places definitely hot during the interglacials, and reasonable, not snow-covered during the glacial periods.

    Only Neanderthals – that contributed on average 2% of modern Eurasian (but not Black – they have other archaic ancestors, and at higher percentage) DNA, up to 4% max. in some people, lived in cold, glaciated areas. Other possibly cold-adapted hominids, like Denisovans left even more limited trace.

    The border between the cold-adapted Neanderthals and hot-adapted Sapiens was in today’s Israel. The caves there show the occupying species changed. Typically Neanderthals moved in when the period was colder (finally chilly enough for them, while too cold for Sapiens?), while Sapiens moved in when the climate got hotter.

    So Israel is possibly the maximum coldest place that humans naturally lived? Surely plants grow there.

    This all changed with technology. We know about about various revolutions – Information Revolution still taking place, Industrial Revolution – probably most important of all (check works of Greg Clark), Agricultural Revolution – overrated (?). What not many know that there was a creative revolution in Paleolithic, spread over long time (starting perhas as far as 80k years), with the most visible change around 50k years ago. Before this creative revolution the technology had been based more on learning and repeating precisely things learned from previous generation. It means the progress was very slow, each generation basically used the same tools, copied from previosu one. (such feat is not possible to achieve with modern humans, soon there would be changes introduced: improvements, but also mistakes, and changes for the change’s sake).
    The creative revolution changed that – innovations became the new paradigm, hot things, and art blossomed too (figures, cave paintings etc.). Outside of inventions that just replaced previous tools – like better hunting tools, or fishing nets – even more revolutionary were the enablers. Around 70k-40k years ago tailoring (based on bone needles and animal antler) was invented. This was the breakthrough that – after some time -allowed humans to move to colder places. Boats and raft also are from this period.

    Basically sapien humans were only able to live in the cold, ice covered parts of the world, only like dual digit thousands years ago, and even then only a small part of the population lived there initially. So you may use a standard Paleo argument of not enough time for new adaptations 🙂 Before it was Africa and Middle East – hot regions, and even during the glacials quite reasonable.

    But to be fair – the cold climates, winters and glaciations might have a disproportionate effect on humans intellectual abilities. There’s a theory that cold, pulsating weather pattern supports increase in cognitive abilities. One of the mechanism begin dying off people with not enough future orientation, who cannot prepare for upcoming winter, the other being that rapid climate changes that happen during the transition like from interglacial to glacial require high intelligence to survive, thus promoting people who have it. Thus for example hunter-gatherers with Norther ancestrary (Inuit, but also native americans – who originally come from Siberia, with IQs around 90) tend to be more intelligent than those closest to the equator (bushmen have like IQ 55, Aboriginals below 70). An example free book presenting theoretical part, the mechanism governing such changes:

    So perhaps there’s some case of “unfinished evolution” with late Northern Paleo humans being intellectually, muscule-movement-wise (range weapons!), as well as socially (high regad for hunters among females, group hunting strategies, dogs as assistants) adopted to being a top predator, and even climate in Ice age quite supportive for predatory behaviors, but the actual digestive abilities and nutrition requirmenets not following quickly enough? Although compared to chims etc. we can eat more meat, there are still clear limits on proteing processing (eg. rabbit starvation), no ability to synthesise vitamin C (dependance on fruits, veggies), and as Richard and Tim show us – a necessity for a bacterial fermentation in the colon – like in chimps, despite it not being a main source of energy anymore. A direction of evolution that was not finished, and kind of suspended because of the advent of agriculture?

    • Richard Nikoley on February 11, 2014 at 17:06


      I learned a few things!

      The last part make me laf about the creationist “argument” though: “If we evolved from apes, how come there are still apes?”

      BTW, will be getting together your Survival of the Richest stuff pretty soon.

  2. Kate Berger on February 11, 2014 at 13:47

    Makes sense to me. Why wouldn’t Paleo Man observe what the herbivores ate? Why wouldn’t they attempt to eat the same? It has always been my opinion that if it can be eaten raw without killing you, it is Paleo.

  3. Carnivorous Potato on February 11, 2014 at 13:59

    If what you are saying is true; that starch was available in the ice ages then why is it nearly impossible to obtain starch from wild plants in the northern parts of Europe in modern times? The Scandinavian climate may currently be the closest to that of former ice ages, at least the European ones, and starchy roots are not something that is in plentiful. There is simply no way that starch could have been a substantial part of the diet. And I find it even more doubtful that resistant starch-containing pollen would have been consumed in large enough quantities to confer any sort of evolutionary adaptations. Please correct me if I am wrong on any of this. I am Scandinavian and have spent a great deal of time in the forests, and there is no way that anyone could thrive in this climate if they spent their days looking for starchy roots rather than hunting. I just don’t find that believable without any better evidence than what you present.

    • Paleophil on February 11, 2014 at 18:33

      @Carnivorous Potato, Evidence was found of the possible (though not certain) consumption of 136 different starch sources by Neanderthals of Spy Cave, Belgium, dating back to at least ~36,000 years before the present ) with the rhizomes of water lilies being one of the likely sources:

      “Our results indicate that in both warm eastern Mediterranean and cold northwestern European climates, and across their latitudinal range, Neanderthals made use of the diverse plant foods available in their local environment and transformed them into more easily digestible foodstuffs in part through cooking them, suggesting an overall sophistication in Neanderthal dietary regimes.”

      “The rhizomes of waterlilies may be used as food. They may be stewed or roasted [and] can be dried and pounded into flour.”

      Evidence of starchy plant processing by Neanderthals dates back at least 125,000 years:

      Are there no edible cattails/bullrushes (which have starchy tuberous roots and stalk bottms as well as starchy pollen in Northern Europe?

      Just because most of us don’t eat water lily rhizomes or cattail roots or pollen today doesn’t mean they couldn’t have been consumed in the past. If Neanderthals could eat starchy foods, why would we assume that we can’t?

      @DuckDodgers and Richard, Regarding Dr. BG’s comment about “low net carb”, I don’t think the point she was trying to get across was that ancestral diets were “low starch.” Rather, I think she meant that ancestral carby foods came with higher ratios of prebiotics than modern processed carby foods tend to. By prebiotics, I mean food for our gut bacteria, such as those listed before by Tatertot: “inulin, pectin, oligosaccharides, gums, mucins, and resistant starch” ( Atkins dieters talk about carbs minus “fiber” = net carbs ).aspx).

    • DuckDodgers on February 11, 2014 at 14:24

      @Carniverous Potato, the Nature study claims the vegetation was very different from what can be observed now. It’s theorized to be one of the reasons the megafauna no longer exist. Another theory is that the megafauna died and their poop wasn’t fertilizing the forbs and sedges anymore. Anyway, the DNA in the megafauna poop doesn’t lie. The plants were there and they survived off of them.

    • GTR on February 11, 2014 at 16:41

      The differences of glaciacion climate of then, and Scandinavia now seem huge. Scandinavia is cold because of low amount of sun rays reacing it per area – because of the angle it is to the sun. Add “global dimming” because of pollutants, and you have not much energy there.

      The amount of energy from the sun during of glaciation periods in more southern Europe (France was the most popular place for Cro Magnions) was not lower than now. It might even be higher because of less clouds, as interglacials were dry (Scandinavia now is wwet); as well as less polutants in the air than now.

      The other difference – the one that C3, but not C4 plants suffered from – was a very low level of CO2 during the glaciation periods. The record was actually at the last interglacial, where CO2 reached 180 ppm low record, very close to C3 extinction beginning at 150 ppm. Even at hot interglacial periods it was like 300 ppm, suboptimal for C3 plants, but at which C4 thrives. Right now we have close to 400 ppm, C3 plants are competitive to C4 ones.

      What was more similar between Scandinavia now, and non-glaciated parts of Europe (now Spain, France, Ukraine, Italy) during latest glaciations was low air temperatures, so plants just had to be adapted to low air temperatures to survive in glaciated Europe.

    • Paleophil on February 11, 2014 at 19:28

      Correction: the “136 starch sources” were actually 136 plant microfossils (starch grains and phytoliths). It looks like there were more than 8 starchy plant sources of these granules, with the total number not specified, if I’m understanding the table correctly at

    • DuckDodgers on February 11, 2014 at 20:46

      @Paleophil, I think both you and Grace are right. I just misunderstood Grace the first time. Sounds right!

    • CT on February 12, 2014 at 00:33

      Another thing to remember is that the modern forrests in Scandinavia (or at least Finland and Sweden) the last 100 years have lost a lot of diversity due to the papermass production. Modern forrests are mono-cultured pine or spruce plantages designed to produce paper mass, not support a diverse ecosystem.

  4. CB on February 12, 2014 at 05:12

    There is not a gold standard test currently. See more information here.

  5. Kate Berger on February 11, 2014 at 14:59

    There was, probably still is: Wild Carrot, Burdock, edible lilies, a type of ginseng, oh, and Lupine. Probably a whole lot more back then.

    • Luke Terry on February 11, 2014 at 18:55

      Lupine is fairly toxic. Wouldn’t touch it Alpine Lily, on the other hand, might not be so bad. Camus bullbs, too. Yeah, the starchy tuff is out there, and always has been, and it does provide for some variety & storable calories, but most days, I think most of us would opt for the venison tartare, the duck confit, the squirrel soup. Throw some camus in there too, it will give it some crunchy texture.

  6. Robert Cooney, MD on February 11, 2014 at 16:18


    I think you are startled by this evidence because the part of California where you live is largely free of Paleo-Indian influence. Just a few hundred miles north of you in the Portland area where I live, this is most definitely not the case. Here, it is well known that the “native” Chinook ate salmon, venison, and elk – yes – but also a whole mess o’ wapato and camas, as well as seasonal greens and berries. These were stable, permanent settlements, not exactly hunter-gatherers, but people who were not starch averse on their regular, (seemingly?) healthy diet.

    That said, the VLC diet still has it’s place in the treatment of metabolic problems, particularly diabetes. To cut to the chase, why doesn’t somebody drop Dr. Richard Bernstein a line and find out what he has seen with regard to autoimmune/ immunodeficiency problems in patients following his dietary recommendations?

    • Spanish Caravan on February 11, 2014 at 20:44

      Au revoir, moi-meme, Doc. I dig Rabelaisian humor just as much as you do. Anyway, I was gonna do one last post but I think we just about covered it all. And the questions being raised are repetitive and stale. Someone else can carry the torch, so to speak. I think it just might be you, Richard. Make sure to get your IgGs and IGMs tested!

      Get the CDs and the transcripts. I don’t have the time to go through them myself. I also have a busy life and duty calls. Every single figure I cited are on those CDs and are 100% accurate. That’s if they cover every such teleconference, which they might not. Then I may surface to lend a helping hand. Check my prior posts for everything. Cheers.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 11, 2014 at 16:22

      I believe Spanish Caravan has in comments in the past discussed severe auto-immune issues reported by Bernstein’s people. He always checks in so perhaps he’ll see this. …I guess I’ll alert him on the other thread he’s on.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 11, 2014 at 16:32

      OK Doc:

      While Spanish Caravan has indeed said a lot (I’ve asked him to come expound), here’s the comment I was thinking of:

      Steppe // Sep 21, 2013 at 10:22 (Edit)

      Richard, ok, I see now where you’re coming from. You were right all along. How did I confused you for a low-carb drone? I agree 100%. However, Richard, I think you’re actually underestimating the residual and collateral damages from VLCing/ketogenic dieting. The damages tend to be long-lasting, even permanent. They tend to be autoimmune and immunodeficiency diseases that I’m seeing affecting those who’ve been ketogenic for too long. Case in point: Dr. Bernstein’s patients, who follow a 30 total carb (not net carb) per day diet which is ipso facto ketogenic. Bernstein actually says (and it’s straight from the horse’s mouth) that 100% of his patients have autoimmuen diseases, 100% have psoriases, 90% are hypothyroid, 85% have Raynaud’s. About 25% have severe immune deficiency syndromes like CVID, which Bernstein himself has. How could all this be related to ketosis? The T memory cells that are affected when your thymus is put under environmental stress, as in ketosis. If those cells lose their function, your immuen system can go haywire, as they learn to distinguish between self and antigens. Not much has been written about it and low-carb researchers like Volek, Attia, Westman have all missed this. These nitwits only looked at lipids and blodd sugar and declared ketosis is safe. Many of these guys have their WBCs declining from the 7s to the 3s and 4s, a sign of immune deficiency and leukocytopenia. This is what’s gonna destroy the LC world. In about 5 years, there will be no one in the LC world whose reputation is not in tatters. It’s not a matter of discomfort, subclinical/euthyroid symptoms or just cold hands. These are really sick and becoming sick, and became snared by a dangerous trap called ketosis. You heard from me first.

    • Robert Cooney, MD on February 11, 2014 at 16:49

      Where did Dr. Bernstein report this and to what did he attribute this? (100% have psoriasis?) Preexisting or after the diet intervention? If after, are there other autoimmune issues at play?

      Is anybody else (Paul Jaminet? Others?) normalizing blood sugars and lipids in metabolically damaged patients, with higher carb intake?

    • Richard Nikoley on February 11, 2014 at 16:59


      I’ve sent notices out to all, so hopefully they’ll get back with some references.

    • Random Damage on February 11, 2014 at 18:27

      In Dr. Bernstein’s defense, you know what his patients don’t report having? Amputations, blindness, kidney disease or heart failure…After reading his book, it was clear that he was all about Diabetes and warding off its complications. There is no legitimate argument that his plan doesn’t do that. He certainly has tunnel vision but again, his plan works for what it is.

      As to whether there are others who are just as successful, I find that to be a definite no. Having researched the best plan of attack since diagnosis, I have seen often “go look at all the people cured of diabetes by Barnard, McDougall, Peat etc.” and I have found very few, especially in comparison to the droves of people (including myself) that are controlling it well (let alone a actual “cure”). I’ve seen some that have lost 200 lbs etc. and had improved numbers for sure–as they would with nearly any approach–but the numbers pale in comparison to low carb. A lot of Barnard folk for example talk about A1C’s in the mid 6 range. Many of us on low carb would consider that a complete failure and be in fear for our organs.

      That said, I am interested in all-around health and undoing the damage already done by diabetes to my body. For those of us DESPERATE to find good health we’re hanging on to every word said about control and the best approach. The resistant starch angle represents a lot of hope that we can perhaps go for that whole health approach but do be mindful that many of us see VLC as survival until we find that magic bullet.

    • Robert Cooney on February 11, 2014 at 18:38


      I agree with you. In my case, I gotta dance with those who brung me, so to speak: Bernstein, Eades, Attia, Westman, Wortman, Atkins, Phinney . . . my fellow docs. It isn’t that I am not willing to examine new approaches and accept new evidence, but there’s something about having the license and the liability that adds more than a little gravitas.

    • Paleophil on February 11, 2014 at 18:57

      @Richard, I think this might be the comment from Spanish Caravan you were thinking of (he didn’t mention Dr. Bernstein in this one):

      “I also know a very prominent guru whose patient population have an autoimmunity rate of 1000%; that’s 100%. He’s said that 90% of his patients have Raynaud’s, and 90% are hypothyroid (low T3). He prescribes cytomel and T3 medication freely. But do you know the other side of the coin? About 1/3 of his patients have a serious immune condition called CVID (Common variable immunodeficiency). Another 1/2 have a singular immunoglobulin deficiency which makes flu and pneumonia shots pretty much ineffective. Sudden food allergies, unexplained allergies to airborne particles, dust mites, and indoor materials are features of some of these conditions. These allergies show up all of a sudden and you start sniffling around constantly.” (Spanish Caravan // Jan 29, 2014 at 22:16,

    • Spanish Caravan on February 11, 2014 at 19:48

      Hey Doc, just how big is the rock that you’ve been living under? This is talked about regularly among those in the know. You’re either truly clueless or completely out of the loop. Someone throw in that quote from the autoimmune protocol by Dr. Ballantyne. Anyway, Bernstein has been trying to cover this up for the last 15-20 years. He’ll attribute it to diabetes, knowing fully that these are symptoms of glucose deficiency and subsequent problems of immune dysfunction. He was probably the first guy to realize all this, since the flat-earth low-carbers like Atkins only looked at cholesterol and weight loss. Remember what I said before: there is one group of people who will not desist, who will VLC thinking that they have no choice. They’re diabetics. These guys have been long-term VLCing for 10-20 years. What they have ended up with Bernstein at the helm are excellent BG control and stellar lipids. Is there any doubt when Bernstein’s patients are eating 30 grams carbs and Bernstein will personally check that they did?

      But they’re human wrecks as far as immune dysfunction is concerned. Just about all these guys all have cold hands, all have thyroid problems, and, unlike the other low-carbers, who’ve had respites, they pushed through even when hobbled by vicious symptoms of glucose deficiency. You hear about them monthly during his monthly telecasts: Bernstein will dismiss all of them, telling them that pellet stool is ok, that they need to get on T3 meds, that the anemia-like symptoms are purely psychosomatic. That Raynaud’s comes with the territory of being diabetic.

      It’s a really tragic story. This is a bright guy, probably the brightest guy in the low carb camp. But he made a deliberate choice to cover this up Paterno-style than be forthcoming and admit that he was wrong. He created a smokescreen by painting all such VLC side effects as inevitable comorbidities of diabetes. His latest attempt was to even claim such comorbidity between CVID and diabetes; there indeed is a degree of association between CVID/SID and diabetes. He even tried to get a journal article published on this score; no one would buy it. Then to play up the genetic angle, saying his family members have such diseases. The direct link, however, is with ketosis and long-term VLCing, which will inevitably trigger immune dysfunction.

      I’m sure Bernstein himself is surprised that he was able to keep this under wraps for this long. This is a testament to the collective cluelessness and ignorance of the VLC community. The patron saint that he is — who would dare attack an 82-year old, 125 lb. T1 diabetic who survived for this long? But his patient population is the cleanest sample we’ll ever have of those who VLCed long-term and encountered immune dysfunction. He’ll do his song and dance routine. Diabetes is autoimmune, even T2. Diabetes will cause autoimmunity. Diabetes will cause immune deficiency. He’s learned that as long as he surrounded himself with diabetics desperate enough to want normal BG but dumb enough to throw every other aspect of health out the window, he can milk his gig forever.

      Do your own research guys. You need to cut through the haze of this idiocy and claptrap. Remember, as I told you before, this is the diet war. It will outlive all of us and will always be full of smoke and mirrors. And the theater mist is being pumped by some of these very gurus who’ll plead ignorance even when caught red-handed. If you do your homework and keep the wits about you, like someone said, the gritty underbelly of the VLC community just might be exposed. It will all be good for our own health that it does.

    • Robert Cooney, MD on February 11, 2014 at 20:02

      Sorry, Richard. I don’t do vitriol and ad hominem in the absence of evidence. This is like listening to that ridiculous Carbsane person again. Au revoir.

    • Random Damage on February 11, 2014 at 20:10

      “this is the diet war”–pretty over the top dramatics there….

      You act like Bernstein is some fraud snake oil salesman. He has saved a great-many lives, not to mention organs. You may disagree with his methods and potentially have some valid points about potential issues with long-term VLC but your disrespect of what he has accomplished and complete disregard for how many people he has helped is pretty nuts.

      Not to mention, I sure don’t see you offering up any alternatives for diabetics. In fact, some of your comments make it pretty clear that you don’t know what you are talking about in regard to proper and safe A1C levels.

    • Spanish Caravan on February 11, 2014 at 20:16

      Random, you’re the reason someone like Bernstein has been able to perpetuate this for so long. I didn’t say he’s a snake oil salesman. He’s more like a used car salesman. He’s a used car salesman who’ll sell a lemon to you saying that that 78 Chevy Impala he’s trying to sell you has brand new tires. Only it doesn’t have an engine. If some of these diet doctors were covered by the lemon law, they’ll soon be out of business. But then, negligence only applies if you knew beforehand, doesn’t it? Answer: plead ignorance.

    • Paleophil on February 12, 2014 at 04:37

      Spanish Caravan is the kitana of the dietary blogosphere. The VLC underbelly is proving soft and he is eviscerating it. While his aggressive style may seem harsh, if you look beyond that and read all his comments and think about the Old Friends Hypothesis and the positive experiences with resistant starch that even committed VLCers have been reporting, it should become apparent that he knows what he’s talking about. For those who don’t like his “harsh as truth” approach, using that as an excuse to not try to refute his points is a copout, especially when there are other “kinder, gentler” people here and elsewhere that could be engaged who have similar views.

      @Spanish Caravan (or Richard or anyone else), Based on some comments, it sounds like some folks want to keep doing a ketogenic approach, perhaps because they are pleased with the weight loss results. Is it possible that ketogenic diets could be reasonably healthy if they are not too prolonged and year-round and if the gut bacteria still get fed? Perhaps the problematic ketogenic diets are only the ones that starve the gut bacteria for too long?

      Consider these natural ketogenic diets that appear to be healthy for limited durations (seasonally or for a few years or so):

      > Scientists found that Orangutans spend part of the year largely in ketosis. Yet even in the “fruit-poor” ketogenic season, their diets included plenty of prebiotic-rich foods: 37% bark, 21% fruit, plus epiphytes, pithy plants, flowers, leaves, insects and seeds. ( Granted, orangutans have much longer colons than humans, but perhaps it’s also possible for humans to eat enough prebiotic foods to keep the gut microbiome healthy while remaining ketogenic.

      > Newborn infants feeding exclusively on breast milk rich in both carbs (49% per Paul Jaminet) and butyrate-generating prebiotics reportedly spend “a lot of time” in ketosis, per Dr. Emily Deans, and both she and Paul Jaminet say that ketosis can also be achieved by including sufficient MCT-rich foods in the diet or fasting (

      This study also found that breatmilk can be ketogenic: “Initiating and Maintaining the Ketogenic Diet in Breastfed Infants,”

    • Random Damage on February 12, 2014 at 07:52

      Spanish–“someone like Bernstein has been able to perpetuate this for so long”…Perpetuate what? Helping people with their diabetes? That’s what his advice is all about. There is no denying that what he says works for that. As I said earlier, after reading his book it was clear to me that was and is his total focus. It’s his life work. Again, you are making him into some villain when he has helped countless people. Are you seriously going to deny that his advice helps diabetics?

      There are plenty of places for you to go on the web to see that not 100% or 90% or 50% of people doing VLC have any of those things you keep trotting out there. As I have said, I think people are generally better off with more balance in their diets where possible–again, it’s why I am here and trying the RS stuff. I knew the day I went VLC that there were potential trade-offs involved and have researched pretty much all the alternatives. I’ve asked people like Peter Attia long ago about potential issues related to long term VLC because I have always had concerns and don’t rely on what any guru says when it comes to my health.

      Instead of talking about used cars, lemons and insulting people that actually do help folk, lets hear your better solution for dealing with diabetes. RS is TBD so I’m expecting more than that. Are you a carb up and shoot up kind of guy? Again, lets look at the scoreboard and note that Bernstein, others with the same advice and low carb in general has helped countless people in dealing with diabetes and avoiding very real and very serious complications. Since you want to tear them down, what do you propose that is better?

    • John on February 12, 2014 at 07:54

      Paleophil, I think there’s two different issues here. The first would be “Is it good to derive some of your energy from ketones?” I think the answer for most people (and especially epileptics) would be yes. The second would be “Are there problems associated with extreme carb restriction?” That also appears to be yes. In the case of the classic ketogenic diet for epilepsy, the thinking was that the only way to acheive the first goal was with extreme carb restriction (along with caloric and fluid restriction, and living basically on mayo and cream). Looks like the Modified Atkins Diet eliminated many of the problems with the classical diet and delivered about the same results. The MAD still has problems, but if your other alternatives are the CKD, Anti-Seizure meds, or leaving your seizures untreated, the MAD approach might look pretty good.

      I think the issues Spanish Caravan is talking about stem from a lack of carbs over an extended period of time (years or even decades), not the fact that ketones are being burned, per se. Strategies such as eating a PHD level of carbs, using coconut oil, getting SCFA from resistant starch and skipping a meal or two a week would probably be beneficial in most people.

    • DuckDodgers on February 12, 2014 at 08:15

      The first would be “Is it good to derive some of your energy from ketones?” I think the answer for most people (and especially epileptics) would be yes.

      Have you considered the idea that ketones may simply be the body’s way of creating an efficient backup fuel source reserved especially for the brain and heart can (the most important organs) during starvation? From a survival standpoint, it would be ideal for the body to secrete such an efficient fuel that is soaked up by those primary organs during those situations (at the expense of peripheral health) — so that the organism can stay focussed on what matters — getting ‘energy positive’ food from whatever source possible, including starchy plants.

      Ketones are certainly a high octane fuel for those primary organs — you certainly wouldn’t want a low grade and wasteful fuel in a survival situation. But, high levels of ketones can also promote fungal infections (yeasts and eukaryotes have mitochondria that absorb those ketones). So, the idea of eating sufficient starches and lots of ketones can not only backfire (promoting fungal infections, for instance) but it seems awfully hacky. I’m just having trouble seeing how such a combination would have existed in the real world.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 08:19

      “Are you a carb up and shoot up kind of guy? ”

      What does your pancreas do? This is where we get into problems. Essentially, diabetes can be looked at as replacing one organ for another: a pancreas for a mind. I’ve had many diabetics that have told me there was too many problems with the VLC approach and since they understood how, it was much better for them to eat a reasonable amount of carbs and then cover with insulin.

      And now, with insulin pumps, that may eventually not even be necessary. With continual BG monitoring and an insulin pump, I can’t see how software can’t be written, even customizable, even AI stuff that learns a person’s own individual behavior over time. Eventually, these sorts of devices might even be able to tune into other hormonal signaling just like the pancreas does. For instance, releasing a bit of insulin as soon as starch hits the mouth, not even waiting for the rise in BG.

      In the end, your statement is just ignorant, keying into the visceral reaction of using a loaded phrase like “shoot up.” Tells me your position is largely emotional.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 08:50

      Hey Duck:

      And our piddly little GNG and ketone stuff pales in comparison to what Bears are capable of doing as survival adaptation. They essentially go diabetic with kidney damage at will, reverse it at will. Wildly, grizzly read.

      I can see it now: “TheHealthyKidneyDamageLifestyle!”

    • Random Damage on February 12, 2014 at 09:59

      Richard, yeah it is emotional. Your whole site is full of emotional opinions and folk acting like they just discovered how mankind can heal themselves with whatever the flavor of the day is so I’m not sure why you are calling me out on that.

      I’m merely saying that Spanish is laying Dr. Bernstein out as some kind of hack fraud (and in a very emotional kind of way I might add that you of course take no issue with) and I am asking him to counter with a better strategy. You’ve made it clear that you think insulin to balance greater carb consumption is the better way. I know diabetics who make that choice as well and with all I have seen they do that so they can eat bread or ice cream. I disagree, as would a great-many diabetics and I am asking Spanish to clarify his statements.

      As you had suggested in another post, I am following Steve Cooksey’s RS experiments and doing some of my own but should that not enable me to increase my carbs, which is a goal I have had since long before the crew here decided that was “the way”, I don’t plan on moving to insulin. Personal choice. Having followed Steve’s progress over the years I’m going to go out on a limb and say he won’t be either. You may say that’s emotional but again, personal choice.

      Good luck with your book sales.

    • GTR on February 13, 2014 at 01:57

      Masai also use herbs as an obligatory part of their diet.

    • Erik on February 12, 2014 at 11:11

      “I’m just having trouble seeing how such a combination would have existed in the real world.”

      Groups like the Kitavans or Tokelau might have managed it on their high coconut, high starch diets.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 13:39

      “Richard, yeah it is emotional.”

      Thanks. Granted, everyone is emotional about their own state in life and I attract such honest people.

      So, cool. Same page.

      FWIW, I did raise eyebrow with SP, as I had hoped and intended it to be a dialog. But, I don’t control, only provide ways and means for dialog and take out the whip only when necessary, or had one or two too many. It was uncharacteristic for him, given his previous but in the large scheme of things, that’s life. Bad day at the office? Wife or GF pissed at him out of nowhere for reasons he can’t comprehend? Tired of the whole thing and it came to a head? Satisfied he’s den what he came here to do and give a parting shot that makes people take notice? Something else, or all or some?

      Nobody will ever know. He did write in English, however, so there’s our fallback.

      Steve is banging it, isn’t he? I love how he so does his own deal and has taken on reins to be a leader of those who trust to follow him. I believe he knows full well how to deal with that.

      If you don’t know, Steve’s original story was published here first. And he’s resisted the whoring commercialism just as much as I, even though he literally had an ongoing Federal Lawsuit.

    • Paleophil on February 12, 2014 at 15:09

      Thanks for the response, John. I agree that there are problems associated with extreme carb restriction, and I’m grateful to Spanish Caravan for revealing just how bad things can get. I’m just wondering, like other folks have, whether there’s a “good” form of ketogenic dieting that still manages to feed the “good” gut bacteria and thus avoid the problems generally associated with chronic VLC. Multiple folks have asked about this and I basically passed the buck and deferred to Spanish Caravan on it, but haven’t yet seen answer from anyone (hope I didn’t miss it).

      Given that SC mentioned that there are specific cases where it’s appropriate to use ketogenic dieting, IIRC, I’m guessing that he does think there is a certain way to do it right, with proper precautions.

    • scottts on February 12, 2014 at 15:43

      Paleophil, your question is very important to me. I’ve evolved through dieting from Atkins induction, to Kwasneiski’s OD, to Perfect Health Diet, and currently eat about 100gms starch a day plus 4TBSP potato starch before bed.

      But, along the way I got in the habit of putting a fair amount of C8 MCT oil in my morning coffee to promote ketone generation so that I could run my brain on both ketone bodies and glucose. I did this because of some early signs of lessening brain function like more stumbles while speaking fast. The MCT oil in the coffee is my only calorie intake until late afternoon or dinner.

      I’ve measured my blood ketone levels some mornings after the MCT oil and it does work. I generally register over 1.0 mmol/L within 1/2 hour.

      So, am I killing myself long term? Can anyone tell me that? And if so, why?

    • Sam on February 12, 2014 at 16:01

      I’ve been doing VLC for like eight months and lost a lot of weight and feel better, but after reading your comments about the autoimmune issues that long-term VLCers are experiencing, I’m getting a little worried… I’ve had for the past two months these weird psoriasis-like rashes developing on my wrists and I’m thinking it may be explained by the long-term ketosis, and maybe the fact that the candida that I suspect I have has actually worsened potentially; I’m also having a reaction to eggs that wasn’t there before. Do you know if it’s possible to regain normal immune function in my case (having only been doing this eight months and only recently seeing symptoms)? I wasn’t diabetic before so I think my system can handle more carbs. I would be happy to add in some starch/RS/tubers, it makes sense that they would’ve been a normal aspect of paleolithic diets and that ketosis is a survival adaptation used in extreme scenarios. I think the resistant starch hypothesis is really interesting and I’ve been planning on incorporating it more regularly.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 18:29


      Read Perfect Heath Diet right away. Just get some carbs in you. You can still drop pounds. Avoid the scam of both LC and LF. They’re equal, if you get high enough to look.

    • DuckDodgers on February 12, 2014 at 19:03


      You’re not going to believe it when you see it, but I figured out how the Inuit and Masai were getting all the same benefits that we are getting with starches and RS, and able to stay so healthy. I’m going to put the final nail in the coffin of VLC.

      All the work that you and Tim have done ties up perfectly with all of it. It all makes sense now. All of it.

      I’ve written up another post and will share it with you tomorrow, after I do a few more edits.

      As of tomorrow, VLC will be done. Finished. Over. It won’t even be a contest.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 21:11

      Don’t get your hopes up, but I’m intrigued.

      As for the Masai, people conveniently forget about the milk. It’s meat AND milk, which has a decent amount of carbs, as well as gut feeding stuff.

    • DuckDodgers on February 13, 2014 at 13:49

      It’s done. VLC as we know it is over.

      Behold Resistant Animal Starch. And unless you do your own hunting, and eat the whole animal, you aren’t getting much of it.

    • Bernhard on February 13, 2014 at 15:27

      Intestines raw and so forth, hard to imagine to get this habit going here.
      Raw liver, yes. Would the glycogen stay such if frozen immediately?

    • Richard Nikoley on February 13, 2014 at 15:46


      Thanks man. I popped the code into a draft and will read later. I’ll probably get it up Mon or Tues of next week. I life to save the big stuff for the first part of the week because traffic falls off Fri-Sun.

    • DuckDodgers on February 13, 2014 at 16:03

      I had the exact same thought. Perfect.

    • gabriella kadar on February 13, 2014 at 16:25

      Except Art and others claim that milk is BAAAAAD.

      I’m entirely bored with the anti-dairy lobbyists.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 13, 2014 at 16:33


      Yea, sure. Take some RS, other plant fibers from non-starchy, and carb it up some times. Could be once per week, a week per month or two, etc. I’d be loath about going too long in it, though, before at least some days of reset.

      It’s probably the case that a lot of so-called keto dieters don’t harm themselves because they cheat regularly. It’s the hardcore afraid of any BG reading over 100 that are in trouble.

    • DuckDodgers on February 13, 2014 at 17:00

      @Bernard, I don’t think anyone here is going to try to get that habit going. I think it’s virtually impossible given the way butchering is completed in Western societies. I read somewhere that the Inuit are eating less raw organs these days since parasites are more prevalent in their prey now. It seems pretty clear to me that most humans, overwhelmingly, chose plant fiber over animal fiber when it was available.

      Having said that, I remember reading somewhere that cannibals would feel a “high” of sorts after eating raw liver and other organs straight from the belly of a freshly-killed victim (supposedly that’s why they did it). I think I know why now. They were probably getting a SCFA high.

      But, it’s just not feasible anymore unless you live in the bush, do your own hunting and have those skills that are passed down within the tribes. The point of the post is simply to point out the idiocy of modern VLC diets that are devoid of starches and fiber. Anyway, we can discuss next week!

    • DuckDodgers on February 14, 2014 at 22:04


      Found chemistry errors in the post and will need to revise it. The carbs those cultures were eating are far more glycemic than resistant. So, no significant “RS” that can be outright confirmed, but, a good amount of resistant fibers. Anyway, needs some tweaks and will send you a revision.

    • Paleophil on February 16, 2014 at 20:05

      Ah, good. Also, the Inuit were found to have unusually large livers and that can store more glycogen, which makes them better equipped to handle VLC, yet they still apparently craved the carbs from glycogen-rich liver, perhaps because their bodies needed it.

    • Paleophil on February 16, 2014 at 05:10

      @DuckDodgers, It has indeed been reported that the Inuit (and Nenets and probably other Arctic and Subarctic peoples) traditionally ate plenty of raw liver (reports for the Inuit cite liver from seals, loche fish and caribou). However, I haven’t seen it reported anywhere that animal liver is converted into SCFAs, nor that glycogen (aka animal starch) is a resistant starch. Did you find something suggesting this?

      My amateur understanding is that glycogen “is a more branched version of amylopectin”, whereas resistant starches tend to be high in amylose, rather than amylopectin. Glycogen is converted in the liver into glucose, and the glycogen content is reportedly highest in fresh raw liver, which is why I figured it was so important in areas where carby plant foods are scarce.

      These sources indicate that glycogen is digested and that “the final digestive processes occur primarily at the mucosal lining of the upper jejunum,” rather than the colon:

      So while glycogen is not as easily digested as glucose, it is digested.

    • Paleophil on February 17, 2014 at 04:16

      I knew the Maasai were never VLC, due to milk, honey, mead, roots, tubers and fruit in their diets, which Chris Masterjohn discussed . I know that animal liver, brains and stomach contents contain some carbs. I’ll be interested to see what you write about the hidden carb sources in animals.

    • DuckDodgers on February 16, 2014 at 18:26

      Paleophil, correct. That was what I needed to correct.

    • DuckDodgers on February 16, 2014 at 18:27

      Richard, made a lot of changes. Here is my final revision:

    • DuckDodgers on February 16, 2014 at 21:30

      PaleoPhil, for what it’s worth, I did find that there were some parts of the glycogen molecule that were resistant to digestion, since the molecule was quite dense, perhaps with properties similar to RS4 (from what I could gather), but it seemed like it was pretty glycemic.

      As for the Inuit. My research shows they were never VLC. They were eating a good amount of carbs, and most nutritionists totally missed them since they can’t be replicated in our food supply. The Masai too. It seems that low carb advocates never took the time to consider or investigate hidden carb sources and fiber sources found in raw animals.

    • DuckDodgers on February 17, 2014 at 18:53


      Not sure if you were offline most of the day, did you get the last revision?

    • Richard Nikoley on February 18, 2014 at 13:23

      Got it, Duck, all saved in a draft. Will check it out later. Yes, i have been spending significant time offline.

    • alan2102 on February 25, 2014 at 15:19

      DuckDodgers wrote:
      “Richard, made a lot of changes. Here is my final revision: ”

      BAD LINK. And only a couple weeks after the fact. Would you please post a good link? TIA.

    • Paleophil on May 24, 2015 at 15:46

      John wrote: “In the case of the classic ketogenic diet for epilepsy, the thinking was that the only way to acheive the first goal was with extreme carb restriction (along with caloric and fluid restriction, and living basically on mayo and cream).

      Looks like the Modified Atkins Diet eliminated many of the problems with the classical diet and delivered about the same results. The MAD still has problems, but if your other alternatives are the CKD, Anti-Seizure meds, or leaving your seizures untreated, the MAD approach might look pretty good.”

      I missed this comment before, sorry John, and just looked up “the Modified Atkins Diet” (MAD). It still sounds way more extreme than what I had in mind, with no mention of cycling/intemittency/seasonality, MCT’s or SCFA’s:


      10-20 g/day of carbs is almost the same as the standard strict ketogenic diet regimine (10-15 g/day used for epilepsy. A cyclical, seasonal or intermittent ketogenic diet (CKD) seems less extreme than chronic MAD.

      John wrote: “I think the issues Spanish Caravan is talking about stem from a lack of carbs over an extended period of time (years or even decades), not the fact that ketones are being burned, per se.”

      That’s what I was talking about too. AFAIK, everyone except those who lack the CPT1A enzyme that oxidizes LCFAs into ketones (such as most Inuits and Arctic Siberians) burns ketones at least now and then. I don’t think anyone has ever said that no one should ever burn ketones.

    • Paleophil on May 24, 2015 at 15:47

      This is the quote that got deleted from between the –

      ‘The diet is a “modified” Atkins diet as it allows for less carbohydrates than the traditional Atkins diet (10 to 20 g/day) and more strongly encourages fat intake.’

    • Paleophil on May 24, 2015 at 15:48

      lol The symbols got deleted this time. The quote goes with this link I had cited:

  7. TR on February 12, 2014 at 10:10

    From commenter Chupo on a MDA thread. I would only add “keep the starch”

    “Keto acids in potatoes are essential amino acid equivelents–
    So, I’ve wondered how I was able to get away with eating only potatoes without losing strength or muscle mass. I can get my RDA on potatoes if I eat my full calorie requirement but I was eating about half that. Well, I was just listening to an interview with Ray Peat. He is talking about keto acids in potatoes at about the 73:10 mark here:

    …these are the equivalent carbon framework of the essential amino acids, but they lack the ammonia to make the complete essential amino acid. Potato happens to be very rich in these, probably a lot of fruits are, but they haven’t been analyzed. But we did, we juiced potato and ran it on paper formatograph and saw that it was very rich in all of the equivalents of the essential amino acids. But when you test it chemically, it has a very low amount of protein in the potato. But when you eat it, these keto-acids are changed once they get into your blood stream. Just by absorbing ammonia, they change into the essential amino acids and support protein synthesis.

    So if a person has very low kidney function and can’t get rid of a lot of urea, instead of needing dialysis, if they eat these keto-acids instead of protein, they can recycle their ammonia over and over instead of making it into urea, which needs to be excreted. Potatoes are a very rich source of this protein equivalent such that if you mash two pounds of potatoes, you can think of it as being equivalent to a quart of milk for protein value and it also has a good balance of all the other nutrients. So if you juice it and get rid of the starch, then you have an extremely concentrated, high value nutrient.
    Interesting, no?”

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 13:57

      Careful, TR. 🙂

    • gabriella kadar on February 13, 2014 at 16:47

      There you go TR. This is why the Irish, until the potato famine, had such large families even though they were living largely on potatoes and buttermilk.

      Yes yes, the Victorian Brits also had large families but the Irish were successful at it earlier.

    • GTR on February 15, 2014 at 15:08

      @gabriella – in Europe, inside the area enclosed by so-called Hajnal line demographic traditions and customs were different than outside. Britain is within this area, Ireland is outside. Spain, Portugal, Poland, Italy, Czech rep. are divided.

  8. CB on February 11, 2014 at 19:22

    Did you experience easy bruising or any other irregular bleeding during this time? I immediately thought of Von Willebrand disease based on what you listed above.

  9. DuckDodgers on February 11, 2014 at 21:15

    If we look at Extended Data Table 2: Statistics regarding length of the P6 loop amplified with the gh primers for the most important plant families of the two growth forms (graminoids and forbs) from that recent study of Arctic flora published in Nature they list the most prevalent families of plants found among the Arctic flora during the last ice age.

    I’ve put together brief Wikipedia summaries of each plant family. The various species listed below each family are just examples of the types of plants found within each plant family — and not necessarily indicative of the exact species of plants found during the ice age. Nevertheless, take a moment to click on some of the species to get an idea of the kinds of plants that might have been found at the ice age sites. Given all of the beautiful wildflowers found in these families, it must have looked like paradise. The diversity of edible plants would have put any modern farmer’s market to shame.


    Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the “true grasses”, of the family Poaceae (also called Gramineae), as well as the sedges (Cyperaceae) and the rushes (Juncaceae). The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns (turf) and grassland. Sedges include many wild marsh and grassland plants, and some cultivated ones such as water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) and papyrus sedge (Cyperus papyrus).


    Some well-known [Cyperaceae] sedges include tiger nuts (Cyperus esculentus),the water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) and the papyrus sedge (Cyperus papyrus), from which the Ancient Egyptian writing material was made. This family also includes cotton-grass (Eriophorum), spike-rush (Eleocharis), sawgrass (Cladium), nutsedge or nutgrass (Cyperus rotundus, a common lawn weed), and white star sedge (Rhynchospora colorata).


    Agricultural grasses grown for their edible seeds are called cereals or grains. Three cereals – rice, wheat, and maize (corn) – provide more than half of all calories eaten by humans. Of all crops, 70% are grasses. Cereals constitute the major source of carbohydrates for humans and perhaps the major source of protein, and include rice in southern and eastern Asia, maize in Central and South America, and wheat and barley in Europe, northern Asia and the Americas…Grain crops: Barley, Maize (corn), Oats, Rice, Rye, Sorghum, Wheat, Millet.


    A forb (sometimes spelled phorb)…Some examples of forbs are clover, cattails, sunflower, cannabis and milkweed.


    The Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae), commonly known as carrot or parsley family, are a family of mostly aromatic plants with hollow stems. The family is large, with more than 3,700 species spread across 434 genera; it is the 16th-largest family of flowering plants. Included in this family are the well-known plants: Angelica, anise, arracacha, asafoetida, caraway, carrot, celery, Centella asiatica, chervil, cicely, coriander (including cilantro and culantro), cumin, dill, fennel, hemlock, lovage, Queen Anne’s lace, parsley, parsnip, sea holly, and the now extinct silphium.


    Asteraceae or Compositae (commonly referred to as the aster, daisy, or sunflower family) is an exceedingly large and widespread family of Angiospermae. The group has more than 23,000 currently accepted species, spread across 1,620 genera (list) and 12 subfamilies…Asteraceae generally produce taproots, but sometimes they possess fibrous root systems. Stems are generally erect, but can be prostrate to ascending. Some species have underground stems in the form of caudices or rhizomes. These can be fleshy or woody depending on the species.


    The Boraginaceae, the borage or forget-me-not family, includes a variety of shrubs, trees, and herbs, totaling about 2,000 species in 146 genera found worldwide.

    Brassicaceae (formerly known as Cruciferae)

    The importance of this family for food crops has led to its selective breeding throughout history. Some examples of cruciferous food plants are the cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, rapeseed, mustard, radish, horseradish, cress, wasabi, and watercress.


    The plants belonging to this family are mainly hardy ornamental shrubs or vines, many popular garden shrubs, especially Abelia, Lonicera, and Weigela. A few have become invasive weeds outside of their native ranges (such as Lonicera japonica).


    This cosmopolitan family of mostly herbaceous plants is best represented in temperate climates, with a few species growing on tropical mountains. Some of the more commonly known members include pinks and carnations (Dianthus), and firepink and campions (Lychnis and Silene). Many species are grown as ornamental plants, and some species are widespread weeds. Most species grow in the Mediterranean and bordering regions of Europe and Asia. The number of genera and species in the Southern Hemisphere is rather small, although the family does contain Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis), the world’s southernmost dicot, which is one of only two flowering plants found in Antarctica.


    The Fabaceae or Leguminosae commonly known as the legume, pea, or bean family, are a large and economically important family of flowering plants…a number of leguminosae have been a staple human food for millennia and their use is closely related to human evolution…A number are important agricultural and food plants, including Glycine max (soybean), Phaseolus (beans), Pisum sativum (pea), Cicer arietinum (chickpeas), Medicago sativa (alfalfa), Arachis hypogaea (peanut), Ceratonia siliqua (carob), and Glycyrrhiza glabra (liquorice). A number of species are also weedy pests in different parts of the world, including: Cytisus scoparius (broom), Ulex europaeus (gorse), Pueraria lobata (kudzu), and a number of Lupinus species.


    The Papaveraceae, informally known as the poppy family, are an economically important family of about 44 genera and approximately 770 species of flowering plants in the order Ranunculales…


    Plantaginaceae, the plantain family, is a family of flowering plants in the order Lamiales. The type genus is Plantago L…The enlarged Plantaginaceae s.l. / Veronicaceae consists of 90 genera and about 1,700 species. The largest genus is Veronica with about 450 species. Veronica also includes the genera Hebe, Parahebe and Synthyris, formerly often treated as distinct. All genera of Plantaginaceae were formerly included in Scrophulariaceae except where otherwise stated.


    Plumbaginaceae is a family of flowering plants, with a cosmopolitan distribution. The family is sometimes referred to as the leadwort family or the plumbago family.
    Most species in this family are perennial herbaceous plants, but a few grow as lianas or shrubs. The plants have perfect flowers and are pollinated by insects. They are found in many different climatic regions, from arctic to tropical conditions, but are particularly associated with salt-rich steppes, marshes, and sea coasts.


    Several species are cultivated as ornamentals. A few species of Triplaris provide lumber. The fruit of the sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera) is eaten, and in Florida, jelly is made from it and sold commercially. The seeds of two species of Fagopyrum, known as buckwheat (sarrasin in French), provide grain (its dark flour is known as blé noir (black wheat) in France). The petioles of rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum and hybrids) are a food item. The leaves of the common sorrel (Rumex acetosa) are eaten in salads or as a potherb…Polygonaceae contain some of the worst weeds, including species of Persicaria, Emex, Rumex, and Polygonum, such as Japanese knotweed.


    Some Ranunculaceae are used as herbal medicines because of their alkaloids and glycosides, such as Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal), whose root is used as a tonic.

    More than 30 species are used in Homeopathy, including Aconitum nepellus, Cimicifuga rasmosa, Clematis recta, Clematis verginiana, Hydrastis canadensis, Ranunculus bulbosus, Helleborus niger, Delphinium staphisagria, Pulsatilla nigricans etc.

    Many genera are well known as cultivated flowers, such as Aconitum (monkshood), Consolida (larkspur), Delphinium, Helleborus (Christmas rose), Trollius (globeflower)…The seeds of Nigella sativa, are used as a spice in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine.


    Saxifragaceae is a plant family with about 460 known species in 36 genera. In Europe there are 12 genera. The flowers are hermaphroditic and actinomorphic. They have 4 or 5 petals and 5 or 10 stamens.

  10. bornagain on February 12, 2014 at 01:09

    After much deliberation about your comments on Sean I have come to realize that I too am resistant to change (or too dumb and inflexible to change) and as such this blog has outgrown me. The average intelligence of the commentors and the complexity of the discussion here has grown exponentially in the past 12 months. I can no longer keep up let alone compete. I feel this may have been what happened to poor Sean.

    Anyway, good luck with the book – I look forward to (a) buying it and (b) reading it.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 06:43

      BA, for what it’s worth, this was what bugged me about Sean’s comments toward me. The “not clever” or “boring” doesn’t phase me.

      But he was being….INTELLECTUALLY DISHONEST…a term he himself tosses around all the time and in fact, what he accused me of the first time he went off pouting for some time before coming back, and he still had to give me crap about it in email. I told him to get over it.

      He’s the classic grudge holder who stews. This is why I like to tell people to go fuck off when I get pissed. Gets it out of my system. I don’t hold grudges, ever. If Melissa, even Evelyn contacted me and said, let’s chat, I’d be happy to.

      He said “that’s why you’ve lost all your thoughtful, intelligent commenters.” That’s what’s behind my Own Private Solipsis post. He’s wrong, dead wrong, and when I shoved it in his face, rather than just admitting he was wrong, he got pissed and banned me.

      Sean has posted 1,113 comments here over the years. I do not specifically recall him ever admitting he was wrong about anything. I’m not saying he didn’t, but I certainly don’t recall it.

      Not sure I miss having him around, honestly.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 13:10

      Don’t anyone get me wrong. I’ve taken a lot of what Sean has to say to heart.

      Perhaps he never realized that. Or, he’s disappointed I don’t say it all the time, such as when I blogged about Ron Swanson and he was visibly pissed because he’s done it a lot on his blog. Well, I’m the sort of person where info goes completely unnoticed—even for years—until one time noticed and accounted for, and then I notice it everywhere.

      That’s what happened with Ron Swanson. Right time and place. It’s merely unlucky in Sean’s case that I didn’t take notice from him (I sincerely wish I would have, but I didn’t and water. bridge) because I’d have loved to get him some more attention back at the time.


    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 13:17

      …I will add also that a couple of weeks ago when this whole thing blew up, I emailed Sean my phone number, said call now or anytime.


      As well as crickets to 3-4 conciliatory emails since.

  11. la Frite on February 12, 2014 at 03:14

    I feel compelled to answer here since I am the one who introduced DD to the idea that low carb paleo could be a myth born from the popular idea of what life could have been during an ice-age. It was just a guess from my part that in most people’s mind, ice-age = no plant foods for humans (juicy sweet fruits, edible tubers aplenty, etc). Of course this is not true. But popular fantasies are known to pass for truths more often than not, example in point: how come people still vote for Santa Claus at every national elections ? 😀 😀

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 06:53

      “how come people still vote for Santa Claus at every national elections ?”

      Mixed metaphor. Santa is God Lite. A third less calories than your regular God.

  12. localad on February 12, 2014 at 03:16

    We used to dig these up and eat ’em, out the back of school;

  13. DuckDodgers on February 12, 2014 at 07:07

    Check it out… an “Ice Age” millstone from 22,000 years ago:

    • DuckDodgers on February 12, 2014 at 07:30

      Unreal. 22,000 years ago puts us directly in the peak of the last glacial maximum.

    • GTR on February 12, 2014 at 14:50

      The glacial periods (that occupied the majority of time) were not so much too cold for agriculture to arise – you could always move closer to the equator. A high climate instability, like rapid changes in temperatures, and humidity, prevented settlement – during a change you were just forced to adapt by travelling to suitable places after your current one got bad, so no settled economy was sustainable. Add low CO2 levels, and you have impossible conditions for agriculture. Nomadic, hunter-gatherer style was a necessity, not even a choice.

      What was strange is that no settled forms of culture were estabilished during the last hot interglacial period, about 120k years ago. Perhaps humans were still not cognitively capable of such change? I don’t even mean grains, but things like shepparding that are possible even for nomads.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 16:42

      “What was strange is that no settled forms of culture were estabilished during the last hot interglacial period, about 120k years ago. Perhaps humans were still not cognitively capable of such change? I don’t even mean grains, but things like shepparding that are possible even for nomads.”

      I’ll take a stab.

      I think we learn from each other. I really requires only ONE savant, provided what he comes up with is adopted, and it spreads just enough.

      For all we know—and we’ll never know because we can’t even read brain data and even if we could, we probably are thousands of years away from interpreting it and it’s not in the fossil record anyway—there were thousands of these going back…what is it now….800,000 years to the advent of cooking.

      None caught on, until one did.

      Culture began out of the path of migration from Africa.

      It could have been tantamount to a little Internet. All manner of showing and teaching going on, but it never caught, for 40,000 years. Or, everyone was still afraid of anyone not of their tribe, for 40,000 years.

  14. Adrienne on February 12, 2014 at 09:13

    @ V

    My experience is like yours in terms of no correlation regarding WBC and vlc per se. Mine bounce too but fasting WBC can run at the low end of normal but higher when non-fasting higher. I don’t know if this matters or not, but the long waits at my doc’s office for fasting glucose can often result in fasts of 13-15+ hours — so maybe that artificially lowers the WBC. One doc sent blood to two different labs and the results were very different, so apparently the handling/processing of the bloodwork where its drawn and at different labs can produce different results. This same doc said that when his own labs were significantly abnormal, he repeated them five times for himself to make sure the results were “real.”

  15. Woodwose on February 12, 2014 at 14:01

    I’ve been on more of a PHD type diet the last 12 weeks and during exercise days sometimes eating crazy amounts of carbs for up to 180g/day. And my blood sugar levels in the morning and two hours after eating are actually lower than when i was doing keto. I also suspect the RS is doing its work since i have less cravings for sweets since last time I did moderate carbs. Strong cravings is usually a big problem on higher carbs.

    Something I have never had explained to me is why keto diets would be protective of AGE’s even when they cause higher blood sugar.

    • PeeWee on February 12, 2014 at 18:39

      I believe this is due to gluconeogenesis , the BG stabilizes because the source is consistent but is slightly higher because there is less up and down caused by insulin spikes.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 19:50

      “caused by insulin spikes.”


      Please, not hormones. Please tell me we don’t have hormones!

  16. john on February 12, 2014 at 15:41

    On all the Australian TV news programs last night, we had the Kidney Foundation, essentially saying , give us grant money – that kidney disease with an end point of death is just as high as with myocardial infarction. About 55,000 cases a year of kidney disease in Australia if i can recall.

    But if selection of potato type and partial cooking to manage ammonia levels in blood is possible, then this opens up a next wave for citizen scientists to explore after resistant starch.

    I can just see a mass of grant application fury at the headlines ” Potatoes fix Kidneys”

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 16:50

      “I can just see a mass of grant application fury at the headlines ” Potatoes fix Kidneys””

      You’ll never see that. It’s the point. It’s not patentable, therefore, the government is not going to grant you a limited monopoly on development (that is what a patent is, a limited monopoly, look it up), and thus, companies will not only not pursue it, they will at best try to duplicate effects via something patentable, or squash it.

    • gabriella kadar on February 13, 2014 at 16:49

      I’m going to burst your bubble here. Potatoes have a huge amount of potassium: the kiss of death for patients with kidney failure. Sorry.

  17. Ellen on February 13, 2014 at 08:25

    Am I correct I understanding that you think the VLC version of paleo is why your CRP went down?

    I have a friend who had a CRP of 27 that went down to 6 after two months on PHD…he ate quite a bit of safe starch.

    So could be the elimination of only certain kinds of carbs is what did it for you.

  18. Michelle on February 12, 2014 at 19:58

    I have what might seem a silly question. Is a (non insulin or diabetes drug-using) person still technically a T2 diabetic if they eat a few of tbs of potato starch a day, prepare their starches to maximize RS, along side eating a mostly PHD-style diet (plus beans and occasionally bread) for a few months and their blood glucose reading goes from difficult to keep under 200 to under 100 almost all the time? That’s me.

    I was following VLC for a few months after being diagnosed this last summer as a T2 with great results at first, diminishing with each subsequent month. I had no signs of diabetes blood-work wise in previous years. I got sick and keeled over from diabetic ketoacidosis, in August. My BG was 680 at the time.

    This last fall, all I had to do is look at carbs for BG to spike. Even with VLC, I was having more and more trouble with the dawn phenomenon, waking up with BG of 180+ every day. It got to where I was only able to eat a few fat bombs a day to keep mu BG under 140, and I started looking for answers. Found FTA in November and ran with the starch. Huzzah for the starch!

    I started upping my carbs two months into my personal n=1 PS experiment that started in November and now eat between 100-200 grams of carbs (tho I’ve had days where I ate up to 600) and my blood glucose per my meter is great. I ate a mound Richard’s garlic fried rice with a steak and green beans tonight, and my BG before: 95, to one hour after: 110. Two hours, down to 90. It seems like the more carbs I eat the lower my reading goes.

    I am very gratified, and wonder: am I really still diabetic? I imagine “yes” if I go back to SAD. I just don’t know.

  19. gabriella kadar on February 12, 2014 at 20:21

    Michelle, is it possible that you had some sort of infection when your blood glucose went nuts? Earlier this year after I had no electricity for days because of the ice storm and living in the cold, after the heating came back on I had not kept the window open a crack. The dry air really did a number on my sinuses. Sinus headache, pain in the eyes, nose was unhappy. My blood glucose shot up (not as high as yours) before I even finished gobbling down a medium sized baked potato. It was alarming. I went to get urine testing, in case the altered life style may have resulted in a UTI. I was unable to hold my urine for a couple of days. UTIs can be silent. The test was negative.

    But by then I was feeling better. Now my blood sugar is normal again. I thought it might be the Cytomel, but it wasn’t. So probably there was some infection going on which resolved on its own.

    • Michelle on February 12, 2014 at 21:08

      I wish, but no. Here’s how it went down: I previously low carbed off and on for about 10 years. I was still obese but VLC kept my weight down to where I could get around, ride a bike, etc. I quit low carbing about two years before the August incident as I was having trouble maintaining a normal body temp, half of my hair fell out and i stopped menstruating.
      I tried to eat a “normal” diet of 2000-3000 calories, higher carbs lower fat, but gained 120 pounds in 12 months. All the problems disappeared, and I started menstruating again and was gloriously warm but did not feel great. Last June I started getting tired all the time. I could hardly raise my arms over my head or get dressed without resting after. I noticed my clothes were getting loose. I weighed myself on July 4 and discovered I had lost 40 pounds between June 1 and July 4.
      It was not long after the weighing that I noticed I was getting thirsty all the time. First just thirsty, then THIRSTY. I could not go without drinking water hour or so. I started peeing every two hours on the clock, thinking it was related to all the fluid drinking. My skin looked so awful, like a horrible wrinkled bag. I dropped another 30 pounds between July and August. I began to get really confused and anxious all the time, and started thinking that I was about to die at any moment. That is the ODDEST feeling, like I was hanging on by a thread. I thought maybe I had cancer.

      I started looking on the internet, researching symptoms. Diabetes was the first thing that popped up. I could not believe it at first. My blood work was always great in spite of being very fat. I tried modifying my diet to more of a diabetic diet, but wasn’t able to get into the local sliding scale clinic (no health insurance); there was a two month wait for new patients. Then I had the VERY Bad Day where I nearly died, and my BG was 680. My AC1 was 12. I could not deny what was going on any more. They gave me drugs and insulin but I never took it as I got Dr Bernstein’s book and used it for a template on what to do.

      It took 30 days of hard core VLC to get my BG down to under 140. But it started to creep back up, especially in the morning. It took hardly any carbs to rocket my BG over 200, prior to the November N=1. I was only able to keep my morning BG level under 140 for a short period of time.
      Naturally, the cold came back, the hair started falling out, and I stopped menstruating again.
      I probably should have been taking at least the Metformin, but I did not want to start on it if I could do something different.

      So it was definitely Da Beetus. But *knock on wood* seems to be under control with RS. I am still as fat as all get out, but I FEEL really damned good for the first time in years.

    • gabriella kadar on February 13, 2014 at 16:58

      Impressive, Michelle.

  20. BrazilBrad on February 13, 2014 at 05:14

    Going to extremes, and staying there, is bad. Experiencing extremes in a cyclical fashion is the way it has always been and why we have evolved to be metabolically flexible wrt energy pathways. Feast and famine, or at least large swings in availability, and hence BG/insulin swings were the norm. We were forced to eat that way, in addition to 3+ hours of movement each day. Now we have to make a concerted effort to live that way – they way we have evolved to live.

    Calorie and macro cycling (mostly 16/8 IF and pseudo-CKD including starchy carbs) has worked very well for me for a couple years. Same with high intensity exercise and walking. My mirror and satiety levels tell me that it works the best (for me) in so far as the various things I have tried. I can’t be bothered with wringing my hands over daily/average BG numbers. Is there PROOF that low steady state BG numbers is healthier than the larger swings associated with eating normal, natural, sometimes starchy (non man-made) foods?

    This seems so obvious to me, and why I’m so tired of reading about the macro camp wars (LC versus LF). But hell, the camp wars are always good for mouse clicks and limp dicks, just ask the politicians.

  21. […] You gotta see this. Diagnosed T2, with diabetic ketoacidosis and blood glucose of 680 and afterward, readings around 200+. Tried controlling with very low carbohydrate, got down to fasting readings of 140, but then worse and worse as time went on. […]

  22. Adrienne on February 13, 2014 at 10:26

    @V, re: A1C — my doc also periodically check the A1C because of my family history of diabetes. But in the past, I’ve also tested my own bg post meals to see how my body reacts to certain foods. We’re very close in age and one thing that I’ve definitely noticed is hormonal fluctuations due to my cycle definitely impact bg readings. Monthly bleeding can also vary wildly as we approach menopause — I’m experiencing this myself. Re the A1C, there is some evidence that hemoglobin can survive significantly longer in those with normal glucose when compared to those with diabetes or elevated glucose. Chris Kresser has a blog posting on why he feels that A1C alone may not be a reliable marker. He tells of patients who had normal fasting, never exceeded 120 post meals but yet had much higher than expected A1C. His piece cites a study with a link that you might find helpful. To get what he feels is an accurate picture, Kresser uses the fasting glucose, A1C, fructosamine and post-meal glucose readings.

  23. En rafale 11 : Application en vrac, le retour des noix | Paléo Québec on February 15, 2014 at 05:55

    […] croit que les chasseurs-cueilleurs de l’ère de glace se nourrissaient probablement beaucoup de racines pleines d’amidon. Certains assument que pendant une glaciation les humains se nourrissaient presque exclusivement de […]

  24. GTR on February 16, 2014 at 06:14

    Some interesting link in the topic, referencing the scientific knowledge from… late 1970s.

    “Many primate species once considered herbivorous are now known to expand the animal-matter portion of their diet to high levels when it is possible to do so. […] The amount of insect matter in most primate diets is small, but may expand to more than 90% of the diet when insects are abundant and easily captured. Since palatable and accessible prey species often occur only seasonally the amount of animal matter in primate diets can change dramatically throughout the year.”

    This by the way may mean deep ancestral diet = opporunistic omnivorism, controlled externally, via environment. Right now possible to simulate only through arificial randomization of one’s diet, eg. writing a computer program utilizing random functions to tell you what to eat.

    The external decisions about what one eats are interesting in itself; may be difficult for some to give up the decision making power “I decide what I eat”, free will (usulally meaning following fixed habits) and stuff to some external randomization process. By the way – if following an externally randomized diet one should still have the “free will”, and decision power to reject food, if by some chance such random process produces a faulty output.

    May also mean that fixed (non-randomized) diets, no matter if high/low carb, are not “ancestral” at all, by design.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 16, 2014 at 09:52


      Yep, indeed. The idea that primates forego animal protein even if easy to obtain is as dumb as thinking hominids would forego starch and sugar carbohydrate when easy to obtain. Two sides of the same coin.

    • DuckDodgers on February 18, 2014 at 16:00

      Reminds me of this video of a baboon eating a baby impala while it’s still alive. Warning, once you see this video, you can’t unsee it.

      Notice the baboon eating the organs raw, like candy, while the animal is still alive? Doing so allows the baboon to get some carbs in the meat (most of the carbs degrade into lactic acid if the carcass sits for a few hours).

      Of course, the baboon is a shitty hunter and doesn’t know how to gently put the animal out of its misery in a low stress manner before feasting on it, like this. Killing an animal in a high stress manner causes the liver of the prey to dump its glycogen too quickly — makes the liver less carby. In the beef industry they call that “beef stress syndrome” because the increased blood sugar from the liver fucks up the meat and makes it hard to sell.

      Interestingly, Jewish Kosher laws required that animals be killed with special knives and incisions in a rapid low stress manner.

      So, yeah, even Baboons are opportunistic omnivores, but I wouldn’t call them “skilled” hunters or anything like that.

  25. gabriella kadar on February 18, 2014 at 16:18

    Ducky, I ain’t gonna end up not being able to ‘unsee’.

    Sorry about all the bodies and stuff in India.

    • DuckDodgers on February 18, 2014 at 16:44

      Yeah, that was unreal.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 18, 2014 at 16:54

      I clicked it off, immediately less a fee seconds.

      “To taste the ocean requires but one drop.” – Solzhenitsyn

      Non-human animals are not agents of morality, but I also like to understand that and not wallow in its brutal reality.

  26. The Roundup on February 20, 2014 at 01:00

    […] Free the Animal explains the evidence that suggests humans have been eating starch for a very long time–even in the Ice Age. […]

  27. Christoph Dollis on February 21, 2014 at 13:24

    Great article.

    Also, I lived off the land on Vancouver Island, British Columbia as a teenager with a native food guide as my go-to. This exactly matches my experience. Lots of fat and a fair amount of protein, terrestrial and marine, but also starchy vegetables as they could be found in addition to greens and berries.

    I’ve always been very dubious of the no starch hypothesis, even though I over-believed in low-carb as an intervention. I ought to have known better.

    One thing I’ve been adamant about is the idea cultivated fruits are, by and large, more sugar-filled than the wild fruits people ate is stupid. Just taste the damn things. They’re sweet as.

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