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Leaving The Inuit Behind: Hormesis For The Rest Of Us

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As most readers know, some months back, a collaborator came to me with some interesting findings in terms of research he’d discovered concerning what’s commonly called “animal fiber” (bits of animals that can feed the microbiome). This led to more digging and the understanding that when animals are eaten fresh, raw or frozen, many contain non-degraded glycogen, particularly in organs like the liver.

This then led to even more digging, particularly in terms of the Inuit, and the realization that for decades now, they’ve been touted as confirmation that a chronically very low carbohydrate or ketogenic “lifestyle” is just hunky dory.

We soundly dispute that notion and have posted about research going back over 100 years to demonstrate that apart from the question of whether the new brand of ketogenic “lifestyle” (ironically dubbed ‘nutritional’ ketosis) is particularly healthy, the Inuit were never a ketogenic society in spite of a low carbohydrate intake. Clue: far too much protein intake. Their diet is principally a high-protein, not a high-fat diet.

Here’s the list of posts with comment counts (as of today, 3-Dec-2014).

  1. Disrupting Paleo: Inuit and Masai Ate Carbs and Prebiotics, Part 1 (110 Comments)
  2. Disrupting Paleo: Inuit and Masai Ate Carbs and Prebiotics, Part 2 (193 Comments)
  3. To Reiterate, Just In Case You Missed It: No Elevated Ketone Levels in the Inuit (150 Comments)
  4. One Thousand Nails in the Coffin of Arctic Explorer Vilhjálmur Stefansson, and His Spawn (150 Comments)
  5. When Confirmation Bias is the Landscape, Dialectics is Your Path to Better Truth (109 Comments)
  6. What Did Indigenous People Inhabiting the Coldest Places on Earth Really Eat? (69 Comments)
  7. Sweden Update: Resistant Starch On The Rise, LCHF Stefansson Myths On The Ropes (14 Comments)
  8. More Uncovering of the Inuit Myth: Stefansson and Anderson Belleview Experiment; Compromised Glucose Tolerance (72 Comments)
  9. Logic 101: Why The Resistant Starch And Gut Biome Revolution Means Doom For VLC/Keto (179 Comments)
  10. Hunters Of Wild Game Can’t Remain In Ketosis (14 Comments)
  11. The New Nutritional Starvation Diet (32 Comments)
  12. The War On Tastebuds (78 Comments)
  13. 7 Bigger-Than-Ever Challenges Everyone Should Know About Low-Carb Ketogenic Diets (65 Comments)
  14. Physiological Insulin Resistance = Low Carbohydrate Diet-Induced Insulin Resistance (25 Comments)
  15. The Swedes Look Beyond Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s NYT Obituary, to The Science He Ignored (9 Comments)
  16. Lies, Damned Lies, and The Inuit Diet (15 Comments)
  17. The Comment Dr. Michael Eades Doesn’t Want You To See (163 Comments)
  18. CPT-1A – P479L Mutation in Inuit: Acknowledge It’s No Basis For A Ketogenic Diet; Recommend a “Ketogenic” Diet Anyway (27 Comments)

In the past the logical standard for determining the safety of chronic ketosis was to point to the Inuit as a long-term experiment in ketosis. While that kind of logic was often accepted, it can no longer be considered acceptable given what the literature actually says of the Inuit. In reality, the Inuit are an obscure culture that is poorly understood by Westerners, and their dietary habits should never have substituted for proper due diligence. The Inuit were nothing more than a giant distraction with no real relevance to the discussions at hand. What a colossal waste of time! With that, I hope we can leave the Inuit be, and focus on more new and exciting data!

And with that, we move on. Here’s what’s coming.

Collaborator(s) and I will be writing a series of posts on the subject of hormesis—how our diets and our microbiomes respond to stress. In Part I, we’ll explore the therapeutic benefits of ketosis, intermittent ketosis, and consider some lingering questions concerning methylglyoxal accumulation—its potential therapeutic effects and potential side effects—with regard to new data that’s come out. In Part II, we’ll investigate how our microbiomes, with the help of prebiotics, can help us manage the stresses in our environment and food supply.

And yes, we’ll explore whether the orthorexic fear of glycolysis and “toxins” in our foods that The paleo Diet™ has encouraged may be causing us more harm than good.

Coming soon.

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

9 Comments

  1. Bret on November 12, 2014 at 18:18

    (ironically dubbed ‘nutritional’ ketosis)

    I have been meaning to discuss your beef with the word ‘nutritional’ for a while, but kept forgetting until now.

    One of Webster’s definitions of nutrition (of which ‘nutritional’ is an adjectival form and not separately defined) is the sum of the processes by which an animal or plant takes in and utilizes food substances. In other words, I think what the KG people are going for with that term is something like ketosis induced by nutrition, i.e. by food choices (as opposed to ketosis induced by starvation).

    Richard, by the way you describe the use of the word as ironic, your interpretation of the meaning of ‘nutritional’ seems to resemble Webster’s definition of nutritious: having substances that a person or animal needs to be healthy and grow properly : promoting good health and growth.

    I am not defending chronic ketosis as a way of life. I think it is every bit as bad an idea as you do, mostly thanks to your and Duck’s work. But I think you are misinterpreting the meaning of the word ‘nutritional,’ at least in this context.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 12, 2014 at 18:48

      Bret:

      I’m sure you aware of this, as you are a man for whom words really mean specific things, resulting to perceptions of sense organs, should it need go that far.

      I am very well aware of the rather u conventional way in which they use nutritional, which is why I tag it ironic.

      Contextual meaning can be ironic meaning.



  2. Michael44 on November 12, 2014 at 20:26
  3. Frenchfry on November 13, 2014 at 03:30

    Look forward to the next posts on the topic 🙂

  4. Kati on November 16, 2014 at 17:59

    I was eating a lower fat low glycemic south beach style diet and dropped to my very happy adult weight, then eventually found ketosis. Gained 40+ lbs in a couple years and could not figure out for the life of me why my eyes were always dry to the point of contacts not staying in, bad insomnia and why the weight was creeping on. It couldn’t be my perfect diet! Fast forward to about a year ago last winter, I thought I was going to die. I kept getting respiratory infections and real influenza hit me hard, And any cold I got turned into a secondary infection requiring antibiotics. I think I was on antibiotics 3 times in 4 months. Anyway, all that to say, I’m glad to be back with what seems most sane, with a couple fasts thrown in per week for fat loss ( eat stop eat- the fat is finally coming off again). I just love you guys here. You have helped so much with me not being afraid of carbs (Paul Jaminet has helped too), and for me starting to regain my once robust immune system back. I love all the articles on resistant starch, chronic nutritional Ketosis busting and even the occasional controversy. It gives me a lot to think about.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 16, 2014 at 18:22

      Kati

      I’m humbled. I forwarded your comment to Paul, too.



    • Bret on November 17, 2014 at 09:21

      Kati,

      Thanks for sharing your story. As you have certainly seen, a lot of chronic ketosis advocates seem to believe unconditionally that chronic ketosis is the “right” or “perfect” diet for everyone. Anecdotes like yours are important, because they provide hard proof that such a belief is wrong.

      I remember getting swept up in the chronic ketosis hysteria myself. All these smart (and seemingly smart) doctors, authors, bloggers, etc were speaking with such confidence and so many technical details, it was difficult not to believe they were correct. But really, all they did was proffer another hypothesis that, while largely antithetical to the mainstream in its specific advice, was equally fallible and, as we now know, equally flawed.

      I have been fooled once by the mainstream dogma. I was fooled again by the VLC dogma. I do not intend to be fooled a third time. Every piece of advice that comes my way now will be taken with a grain of salt and regarded with much skepticism and scrutiny. There is simply too much room for bullshit, no matter who is doing the advising.



  5. Jonathan Christie on January 10, 2015 at 07:14

    I’m a 30-year insulin-dependent diabetic on Dr Bernstein’s lowcarb diet. This keeps my HbA1c around 5% and my BMI at 24. My immune system is robust and my coronary artery calcium score is zero – not bad for a 69-year-old. What do I do different which renders chronic ketosis benign? I’m not sure, but high C intake may contribute (Pauling’s therapy), and high N-acetyl cysteine intake (a glutathione precursor) are candidates. What is clear to me is that I am an obligate low-carber, since carbs replenish liver glycogen so that glycogenolysis will elevate my blood sugar (Allick 2004) to diabetic levels which will likely reduce my life span by 13 or so years. The diet has done nothing but good things for me – the constant threat of hypoglycemia made life hell on the American Diabetes Association’s diet.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 10, 2015 at 09:57

      Hey Jonathan:

      Thanks for sharing. I appreciate anecdotes where LC/VLC diet works well for someone. Most particularly at a therapeutic level, in contrast to the notion that because it’s therapeutic for a condition you’d rather not have, it’s automatically the ideal prophylactic for everyone to avoid the same condition.



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