It’s more from regular commenter Duck Dodgers, the guy who brought us Tiger Nuts, a delightful ancient tuber with an amazing micro and macro nutrient profile. He did such a big job on this one that I’m going to have to put it in 2 parts for the TL;DR crowd. [Part 2]
A few weeks ago, we uncovered the secret to an ancient starchy tuber that is more nutrient dense than red meat and is absent from the modern “Paleo” diet.
We also learned that starchy forbs and grassy tubers dominated the landscape of the ice age. Our ancestors were even grinding starches on millstones at the peak of the ice age.
Today, in Part 1 of this two-part post, we begin to dismantle the myth of the Inuit and the Masai who supposedly ate no starch, no fibers and no prebiotics.
In fact, those cultures did eat animal starches and animal fibers. Unfortunately, unless one does their own hunting and eats part of their kills raw, those animal starches and fibers are all but missing from a modern low carb diet.
Eskimos actually consume more carbohydrates than most nutritionists have assumed. Because Eskimos frequently eat their meat raw and frozen, they take in more glycogen than a person purchasing meat with a lower glycogen content in a grocery store. The Eskimo practice of preserving a whole seal or bird carcass under an intact whole skin with a thick layer of blubber also permits some proteins to ferment into carbohydrates.
Dr. Hui is being kind when he uses the term “fermented” to describe the ancestral preservation techniques for Igunaq and Kiviaq, which are typically enjoyed during the Winter months when food is scarce. A more accurate description would probably be “rotting” by anaerobic digestion in an environment too cold to facilitate full decomposition. We’ll come back to that. But first, let’s examine the role of glycogen.
WHAT IS ANIMAL STARCH?
Few people seem to know that the glycogen found in the liver of animals is surprisingly similar to plant starch. In fact, Claude Bernard—the French scientist who first isolated glycogen in 1857—wrote years later, in 1877, “I have found that if the muscles of a rabbit are paralyzed and thus forced to rest, the glycogen content rises. I have observed in this case that the glycogen gives a blue color with iodine, just like that with starch.” Glycogen is also known as “animal starch” because, in plants, sugar or glucose is stored as starch—just like animals store their glucose in glycogen. We now know that glycogen is insoluble in water and is a large ribosome-like molecule that can contain up to 120,000 glucose molecules connected in a dense ball of branching chains. These branching chains make it a polysaccharide that is very similar to amylopectin—what we think of as glycemic starch.
Polysaccharides are an important class of biological polymers. Their function in living organisms is usually either structure or storage-related. Starch (a polymer of glucose) is used as a storage polysaccharide in plants, being found in the form of both amylose and the branched amylopectin. In animals, the structurally similar glucose polymer is the more densely branched glycogen, sometimes called ‘animal starch’. Glycogen’s properties allow it to be metabolized more quickly, which suits the active lives of moving animals.
In other words, dietary glycogen, if you could obtain it and eat it, is a starchy and glycemic source of carbohydrates.
Throughout the late 19th century, Bernard — and other scientists such as Frederick Pavy —performed experiments on animals—often killing them and testing their livers for sugars both minutes and hours after death. The results varied wildly depending on the time after death.
In a nutshell, what they discovered was that within seconds after death, the liver begins to unravel its glycogen stores. Over the next few hours, the glycogen turns into sugars, which then gets converted into lactic acid. In muscle meat, virtually all the glycogen converts to lactic acid within 24 hours and the color of the meat turns from purple to bright red or pink.
CARBOHYDRATES RAPIDLY VANISH FROM MEAT
Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet point out in the Perfect Health Diet that almost all the carbohydrates in our meat vanishes by the time it leaves the slaughterhouse.
From: The Perfect Health Diet, Jaminet, Paul; Jaminet, Shou-Ching (2012)
…We cannot get quite as much carbohydrate from eating animal foods…because carbohydrates and proteins degrade soon after the animal dies, releasing glucose, which cells consume through anaerobic metabolism. This process removes carbohydrates from meat.
When an animal is slaughtered for human consumption in Western societies, the slaughterhouse will typically hang the animal for ten days, sometimes more — the carcasses themselves taking a few days just to get down to the proper chilling temperature to prevent the undesirable “cold shortening” of the meat. The quick conversion of glycogen to lactic acid during the first few hours proceeds to tenderize the meat during that extended chilling time.
HAVE YOU EATEN YOUR GLYCANS TODAY?
Glycogen is found in skin and sweat glands, though it too rapidly vanishes postmortem. Glycogen is also found in the testes, brain, blood, and in placentas. While most humans store their glycogen in muscles, in reality, proteins and fat can far outweigh glycogen. However, many carbohydrates in animals are glycans attached to glycoconjugates such as glycoproteins, glycolipids or proteoglycans. Glycoconjugates are considered to be among the most important bioactive components in raw milk. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that…
From: Neonatal protection by an innate immune system of human milk consisting of oligosaccharides and glycans by D. S. Newburg
Most of the known prebiotics are glycans. A glycan is an oligosaccharide or other glycoconjugate, such as glycoprotein, starch, cellulose, glycolipid, glycosaminoglycan, mucin, or other structural carbohydrate.
As Tim Steele explained a few months ago, Humans Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOS) exhibit ligand mimicry. But, it turns out that Protein-Linked Glycans (PLGs) exhibit this same mimicry, acting as decoys for pathogenic bacteria. In other words, these undigestible glycoconjugates—which break down into glycans—are both prebiotics for our beneficial bacteria and decoys for pathogens. And, to be honest, this makes sense since the mucins that make up the digestive tract are glycans too!
Glycoconjugates and glycogen are concentrated in specific organs that are rarely eaten in Western societies, and they are easily denatured by cooking. For instance, if we look at the “nutrition information” for a traditional “food” like raw blood, we will see that it contains almost no carbohydrates. But, as Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet explain, this can be misleading.
From: The Perfect Health Diet, By Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet (2012)
A relatively lean 154-pound “reference man” is composed of…the following macronutrient distribution:Body Component Mass (kg) Energy (kcal) Energy Fraction ---------------------------------------------------------- Fat 13.5 121,500 73.2% Protein 10.6 42,400 25.6% Glycogen 0.5 2,000 1.2%
However, this would be misleading. Fat and protein are complex molecules that are not burned for energy directly. Both fat and protein actually contain some carbohydrate.
The elemental forms of fat, protein, and carbohydrate that feed into energy metabolism—fatty acids , amino acids, and glucose—are not allowed to roam freely in the body because they are chemically reactive and would be toxic. Instead, they are found in more complex molecules
Fat is present in the body as triglycerides and phospholipids. When these molecules are broken down for energy, 85 to 90 percent of the calories is in the form of fatty acids, 10 to 15 percent is the form of glucose assembled from their glycerol backbones. Protein also consists of complex molecules. Many of the proteins in the human body are “glycosylated,” meaning they are composed of sugars bonded to amino acids. In some there is more sugar than amino acids. For example, mucin-2, the main protein of digestive tract mucus, is 80 percent sugar and 20 percent amino acids by weight.
If we break down fats and proteins into their constituent fatty acids, amino acids, and sugars, the energy profile of a lean human body would look something like this.Body Component Energy (kcal) Energy Fraction ---------------------------------------------------- Fatty acids 106,900 64.4% Amino acids 37,300 22.5% Carbohydrate 21,700 13.1%
Anyone eating freshly removed raw skin, raw rectum or raw testicles these days? I suppose now we know why the Hadza have an affinity for underdone Impala colon—it’s full of glycans.
In addition to relatively small amounts of blood glycogen and blood sugar, the blood protein in particular has at least 150 glycoproteins such as glycophorin, glycocalyx, glycoprotein IIb/IIIa, immunoglobins.
There are carbohydrates, as glycans, attached to glycolipids, glycopeptides, glycine, membrane glycoproteins, myelin oligodendrocyte glycoproteins and mucoprotein, and so on. Proteoglycans found in connective tissue are heavily glycosylated and contain more carbohydrates than glycoproteins. Chondroitin sulfate, a proteoglycan that is a major component of cartilage can have over 100 individual sugars. Type II collagen is a structural glycoprotein found in connective tissue and cartilage as well. Even natural bovine milk whey contains a variety of glycans.
But, as we can see, these carbohydrates are locked up in glycans. And as I mentioned above, glycans tend to be resistant to digestion and can act as prebiotics with all sorts of health benefits that are just beginning to be discovered.
So, if one were to try and obtain glycans from the complex molecules in animals, one would need to somehow preserve the starchy glycogen and sugary glycoconjugates by either eating, freezing or preserving the animals quickly and consuming the parts of the animals that were rich in precious glycogen and glycoconjugates frozen and/or raw.
And, what do you know. That’s exactly what the Inuit do.
THE INUIT PRIZED THEIR “ANIMAL STARCH”
So, here’s something interesting I came across when looking into Eskimo/Inuit diets:
Cut off from farinaceous food, the Eskimo rejoices in the liver of the walrus, with its glycogen, or animal starch.
Sounds like Eskimos craved “animal starch” (glycogen). How else did they obtain glycogen?
…The natives have empirically found a remedy for the scurvy, namely, chewing the skin of the narwhal, the unicorn-whale. He describes research, with illustrations, showing that the skin of this fish contains a remarkable amount of glycogen, thus supplying sufficient quantities of a carbohydrate to cure the scorbutus. The walrus liver also contains much glycogen.
The Inuit call whale skin mattaq or muktuk and it’s a good source of glycogen and Vitamin C. In addition to the high glycogen content of the fresh postmortem skin, few people seem to be aware that blubber isn’t just fat. It tends to have significant levels of carbohydrates. For instance, the posterior, dorsal blubber of a sperm whale is 25% carbohydrates.
The largest component of the blubber, regardless of body site, is usually either water or lipid. The water component is higher in the anterior sites, whilst the lipid is often greater in the middle and posterior sites, the maximum content of either component being about 60%. Protein is an important component, and attains up to 35% in the anterior blubber of the head, and rather less elsewhere. Carbohydrate level apears to be very significant throughout most of the body blubber.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, most nutritionists and doctors who use the Inuit as an example of “zero” carb diets never bothered to accurately measure the macronutrients of Inuit staples. Blubber also contains all sorts of glycosated collagen fibers.
Peter Freuchen, a Danish doctor and member of the 5th Thule expedition based at Melville Peninsula from 1919-1925, wrote in his notebooks that when a whale was brought to the beach at Repulse Bay everyone feasted on the skin until their jaws became too sore to continue. He speculated that the ‘large quantities’ eaten were due to its “excellent cure for scurvy and answers a simple craving of the system” (Freuchen 1935;422).
Does this sound like a culture that shuns carbohydrates? No, it sounds like a culture that is starving for carbohydrates and doing everything they could to obtain them.
From Western Diseases, Their Emergence and Prevention: By Hubert Carey Trowell, Denis P. Burkitt, 1981:
Internal organs are rich in glycogen and skin and gut epithelium are composed largely of glycoproteins.
Makes me wonder what whale skin tastes like.
From The Last Kayak-Men:
“Mattaq” is the inuit name for whale-skin, and is undoubtfully the Eskimos snack no. 1. Due to the successful hunt, there will for sure be celebration tonight…This raw whale-skin, which is full of Vitamin-C, had a sweet nut-like taste, and taste in fact much better than it looks like.
Of course it’s sweet — it’s rich in carbohydrates and they love the taste. It’s clear that the Inuit prized their “animal starches” — they craved them.
ADDITIONAL CARB SOURCES FOR THE INUIT
The Inuit ate plants as well, when they were available. As Tim Steele will tell you firsthand, Alaska is not a barren wasteland devoid of plants. Berries, seaweed, nuts, corms, and tubers are found everywhere in Alaska.
They also ate lots of “mouse food” (see photo), which are caches of seeds and roots and foods that mice gathered for the Winter. This would including “Yupik potatoes” which were gathered in the Fall and consumed by the Inuit over the Winter.
Many well known Arctic researchers who observed the arctic, such as Vilhjalmur Stefansson, either weren’t around long enough to observe their importance in the Inuit diet, or decided to embellish or skew their findings to promote their hypotheses:
From: Contributions To The Ethnobotany of The St. Lawrence Island Eskimo
It seems to us that the relationship between the Eskimo and his environment was more encompassing than investigators in the Arctic usually acknowledge.
Seaweed is a tremendous source of prebiotics and are laced with microbes that love to eat those prebiotics. However, seaweed was often dried and boiled to aide the breakdown of the seaweed’s polysaccharides into simpler, more digestible sugars.
The Inuit had access to mussels year round, risking their lives to go beneath dangerous ice heaves to collect them when tides permitted in Winter. And guess what mussels store up for Winter? Yep, it’s glycogen.
From Behavioral and Physiological Responses of Freshwater Mussels (Bivalvia: Unionoida) to Variations in Stream Discharge by Samrat Saha:
Glycogen is considered the primary energy reserve in mussels (De Zwann and Zandee, 1972). Glycogen concentration in the mantle is about twice the protein concentration and fifteen times the lipid concentration (Greseth et al., 2003)
So, how many carbs did the inclusion of glycogen-rich animal parts and plant starches provide for the Inuit?
The Point Hope inhabitants represent one of the few remnants of the Eskimo whale, sea, and walrus hunting cultures in the world…Average total daily caloric intake was approximately 3,000 kcal [calories] per person, ranging from 2,300 to 4,500 kcal. Approximately 50% of the calories were derived from fat and 30 to 35% from protein. Carbohydrate accounted for only 15 to 20% of their calories, largely in the form of glycogen [animal starch] from the meat they consumed.
Hmm, 15 to 20% carbs. That’s the equivalent of almost a pound of potatoes a day for someone eating 2,000 calories/day. But the Inuit were eating an average of 3,000 calories a day (just warming up the air they breathe takes 1,000 calories and warming up the frozen food they eat takes another 300 calories.). So, the average Eskimo was eating the carbohydrate equivalent of 1.2 pounds of potatoes a day! That would certainly explain the mysterious “absence of ketosis” in Eskimo populations (confirmed here and here as well).
Aged meats, raw animal starches and raw glycoconjugates. Speaking of raw food. Did you know that the word “Eskimo” means “eaters of raw meat” in Algonkian languages? It was actually a derogatory term, which is why “Inuit” is the preferred name of the indigenous peoples of the North American Arctic.
They Eat That? Jonathan Deutsch Ph.D., Natalya Murakhver, 2012
When eating walrus, the blubber and meat is aged, boiled, or eaten raw, while the liver is generally eaten raw. The outer covering of the walrus, including the skin and blubber (called maktaaq amount the Inuit), is also eaten raw or aged.
Raw seal blood, full of glycans, was also consumed. Within minutes of consumption, one could see their veins expand and darken and feel a dramatic warmth flow through them.
Enzyme Nutrition: The Food Enzyme Concept By Edward Howell, 1985
Dr. W.A. Thomas, physician with a polar expedition to Greenland wrote: “The diet of the Greenland Eskimo includes the meat of whale, walrus, seal, caribou, musk ox, arctic hare, polar bear, fox, ptarmigan, birds and fish, all eaten usually and preferably raw.”
Dr. I.M. Rabinowitch was a member of early Canadian expeditions to study the life, customs, and health of the Canadian Arctic Eskimo. He reported that meat was eaten raw and that the livers of practically all animals except the white bear were eaten. Meat was cached and eaten in an autolyzed state, and the contents of the stomachs of walrus and caribou were used.
What was so special about those aged, “cached” meats and how did they provide some carbohydrates for the Inuit? Stay tuned for Part 2, where we explore the health benefits of eating rotting animals and the Masai’s penchant for carbohydrates.
I can feel heads spinning. What annoys me the most is that if, indeed, zero carb or VLC diets are optimal in someone’s view, then just make a case. This research, that Duck dug up, has been available to the LC gurus for many years—many who have chosen to ignore or misrepresent it for a short-term dietary thing that when not applied cautiously like a drug, harms a whole lot of people long term and some, perhaps irrevocably.
It was only when I felt for myself—at 175 pounds, down from 245, at 48yo— that “this cannot be right,” that I knew absolutely something was wrong and I was not going to let it go. I should have felt top of world but I felt like shit and all health issues were pretty peripheral. Lethargic, cold hands and feet, and yet I was cooking up the biggest storm of my life (check my food porn from 2008/9). …Fortunately, still woke up to a hard cock. So there’s that.
Alright, we’ve got Part 2 tomorrow. I figured you’d want to digest 6,000 words in 2 bites.
…OK, one poke: It’s interesting to consider that obligate carnivores like African cats, Hyenas, Dogs, and Northern Wolves are eating far more carboydrtate than Charles Washington and his happless band of Zeronig-In Costco Meat and Bulk Bottled Water Dopes are. 🙂
Update: Part 2