How Food Enrichment Made Us Fat, Diabetic, and Chronically Diseased

OK, thats’s indeed a bold title, but this is a TL;DR post. See, this one was drafted a good while ago. The Duck Dodgers decided to prefigure with a few things that have been posted—like this and this—but then there were more revelations, so what we have is this one, about 900 words and way incomplete, and a 4,000 pound whopper coming up next week. So here’s the “Too Long; Didn’t Read” version for the lazy asses.

Update: Well, it didn’t take long for a commenter to misunderstand what we’re doing here, so let me preface some clarification. This is not an assertion of causality searching for a hypothesis. It’s clearly a set of reasonable, testable associations that give rise to a hypothesis that fortification or enrichment of foods with iron (and perhaps other vitamins and minerals) may have a host of unintended consequences and this should be studied specifically. The follow-on post will contain a lot more justification. For additional clarification I’ve added an additional image below as well.

It’s becoming more commonly known that iron overload can be a prominent feature of obesity and metabolic issues. Obesity and insulin resistance has been linked to an iron-enriched diet. Obese people have iron in the hypothalamus of their brains, their urine, their adipose tissue, and they do not absorb iron well and iron blood levels can be low in some cases. The body may very likely be using adipose intentionally to keep excess iron out of the blood so that pathogens and cancer cannot thrive (i.e. anemia of chronic disease). As those studies point out, adipocytes use hepcidin to regulate the iron status of the blood.

Surprisingly, what virtually all researchers miss is that the countries that fortify their food with iron (or rely heavily on imports of fortified food with iron) are the countries that tend to have the most obesity and metabolic issues—particularly as those countries consume more iron-rich meat.

The island nation of Nauru is a good example of this (high meat intake and reliance on iron-fortified flour from US and UK). This is easy to see in statistical analyses if you’re looking for it. South Africa too—while neighboring countries that do not fortify seem to be immune.

Widespread iron-fortification of flour began in WWII and the level of fortification was significantly raised in 1983. Both events are associated with generally increased obesity. The following chart is from a USDA report:

iron intake2

iron 1909 2000

The report also showed that as of the year 2000, half of this highly elevated iron intake per capita comes from (fortified) grains alone. Meat intakes have risen gradually, but the significant increase in iron intake is mainly due to increases and expansion of iron fortification (to rice, pasta, and grits). In 1943, the FDA mandated 8-12mg of iron per pound of white flour (whole wheat flour isn’t fortified). In 1983, the level was raised to 20mg per pound of white flour. Obesity increased after both policy changes.

Iron fortification has also been shown to adversely disrupt gut flora (and here too).

Iron fortification appears to explain many dietary paradoxes. For instance, the French consume twice as much wheat as Americans do, but they have 1/3 the obesity. The French do not fortify with iron and their diet is rich in iron-inhibitors (dairy, eggs, coffee, tea, phytates). Hence, they do not get iron overload.

Why do US schoolchildren become obese with excessive fruit juice consumption… but German preschool children do not become obese with excessive fruit juice consumption? Well, consider that in the US, schoolchildren eat their lunches with iron-fortified flour—the Vitamin C, fructose, and HFCS all enhancing the absorption of iron, possibly promoting metabolic issues. In Germany they don’t fortify their food with iron, so the fructose, HFCS, and Vitamin C may not have the same effect.

Moreover, iron-fortified food is not balanced with manganese and copper (whereas whole wheat is). We’ve been in contact with Jane Karlsson, PhD, Oxford, who’s studied the interaction of iron and manganese for over 30 years. She informs that there’s good evidence that iron is only toxic when it is not opposed by manganese and copper, which are necessary for proper metabolic signaling in both plants and animals. (That’s why plants have their Fe/Mn in balance).

Carnivores obtain their Mn in large quantities from stomach contents, bile, and fresh intestines…where excess Mn is excreted (i.e. nose-to-tail eating). This might explain why high muscle-meat dining may promote iron overload, but nose-to-tail may not. Dairy can inhibit iron, and this may explain why the Masai also drank a liter of dairy per day.

Tannins seem to bind preferentially to iron, but not copper or zinc. And fiber binds to iron. And curcumin, honey, chocolate, yacon root, and green tea have anti-diabetic and iron chelating properties. Tannins inhibit free-radicals from iron. The Masai always pair their red meat with Acacia Nilotica, rich in manganese, tannins and saponins. The French pair their red meat with red wine, rich in tannins, saponins and phytates (from grape seeds), and they’re fond of manganese-rich chocolate. Both cultures consumed honey.

In other words, the French and Masai practice iron-inhibition. Can this all be just coincidence? While so far overlooked by researchers, could iron fortification be the very key to unlocking all these dietary paradoxes? We think it’s a worthy hypothesis that “requires more study.”

…For instance, the Pima Indians were healthy eating lots of beans, squash and maize; but they became obese and diabetic within 10 years after WWII when forced to subside on iron-fortified flour.

…Northern Ireland is a dietary paradox—Belfast has a coronary artery disease death rate that is more than 4 times higher that of Toulouse, France, despite almost identical coronary ‘risk factors’. Northern Ireland fortifies flour with iron and France does not, never has.

We have many more examples (such as McCarrison’s wheat-eating Indians), but this is intended to wet appetites and pique interest. The main point is that it is impossible to reproduce the French diet in the US, because the US fortifies its flour, rice, grits, and pasta with iron; and it does so in such massive quantity that if you search YouTube, you can see videos of people dragging their cereal through milk with a magnet.

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. Resurgent on May 23, 2015 at 20:05

    Fantastic..! Richard.
    This is a lot of food.. for thought and research.
    I suspect that fortification with synthetic vitamins in many common foods, is also a culprit, not only towards obesity but many other increasingly reported health issues.

  2. Ironman Liverson on May 24, 2015 at 01:05

    Come on guys, you’re not that stupid. There are so little evidence here, only vague associations. This article should win the Nobel prize in cherrypicking and begging the question. Not saying iron isn’t connected to obesity, it might, but this post is just embarrassing. Sure, obese individuals may be “iron-overloaded”, but is that due to dietary intake or compromised endogenous regulation? My father have multiple sclerosis. There’s no fortified iron products here, and he eats no more than average quantities of red meat, yet his iron levels are sky high. He does not have hemochromatosis. When I lived with my parents, I ate the same diet as he did, yet I had mild anemia, and he had dangerously high levels. As a student living on pizzas and microwave foods (unfortified), I was starting to get borderline high levels of iron. Later, when I switched to a paleo diet with plenty of red meat and leafy greens, my iron levels dropped significantly. I started donating blood two years ago and they measure my ferritin all the time, as I refuse to take iron pills, and they are completely stable. What’s the point of this rambling? That iron is regulated very well by the body and that high iron levels are more likely to be symptoms rather than causes of most diseases where iron is elevated. Inadequate iron consumption is a great way of making somebody sick, so please do not start advising people to not eat foods due to their iron contents. Another question that must be asked is whether iron found in plants and animals have a different effect compared to pills and fortified products? My guess is yes.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 24, 2015 at 01:18

      Well, since you missed the part about it being a TL;DR post to pique interest for a follow-up that’s over 4 times as much, I guess it’s unsurprising that you also conflate iron FORTIFICATION with eating foods with natural levels of iron in them, paring or balancing them with other foods that regulate iron absorption.

      Oh well.

    • Ironman Liverson on May 24, 2015 at 01:36

      I got that part. Duck Dodgers is the one conflating fortified iron and red meat consumption as he makes no distinction between the two. Hopefully, the full post will present better evidence than what was presented in this post and that the distinction between naturally present iron and added iron is made more clear.

    • SteveRN on May 24, 2015 at 03:15

      It seemed way clear to me, but maybe that is just me.

    • Gemma on May 24, 2015 at 03:48

      @Ironman Liverson

      “That iron is regulated very well by the body ”

      Until it is not.

      “high iron levels are more likely to be symptoms rather than causes of most diseases where iron is elevated”

      Life is not that simple. What if it is both symptom and cause?

      “My father have multiple sclerosis. (…) yet his iron levels are sky high.”

      No wonder.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 24, 2015 at 07:30

      Seems to me that you are seeking to have an established cause & effect as a basis to form a hypothesis.

      A hypothesis is typically formed out of reasonable, testable associations to study, which is what we’ve presented.

    • John on May 24, 2015 at 10:26

      Ironman Liverson,

      I have been interested in the iron issue for about two years now. First of all, I was wondering where you donate blood. I donate in California often, and they only iron marker they check here is hemoglobin. They never check ferritin, although I think it would be great if they did. Are you confusing ferritin and hemoglobin, or do they do a more complete panel? Hemoglobin doesn’t give a full picture of body iron stores, and it’s very possible to have low hemoglobin even in the face of very high iron. A deficiency of certain B vitamins can cause this, although there are more serious conditions that do the same thing (like sickle cell).

      Second, you are a bit confused. If your dad has sky high iron levels, he does have hemocromatosis (although it might not be hereditary hemocromatosis, if he doesn’t have the genetic marker). Still, high iron is a problem, whether it’s from diet, supplements, a loading disorder, using iron cookware, or whatever.

      There are also plenty of reasons why a modern lifestyle could lead to high body iron levels even with historically normal intakes. Hookworm was really common up until a century ago, and it fed on blood, lowering iron intake. Some iron can be lost thru sweat, so a more sedentary lifestyle can be a problem. Also, bloodletting used to be a very common practice.

      I would suggest you watch Chris Kresser’s presentation on Iron, which is excellent, and also read “Exposing The Hidden Dangers of Iron” by E.D. Weinberg, which is also fantastic.

  3. Steven Richards on May 24, 2015 at 01:18

    Thanks for bringing this up. Definitely food for thought.

  4. Jane Karlsson on May 24, 2015 at 07:20

    Ironman Liverson
    What you have forgotten is that iron doesn’t really get excreted. If for any reason you take in more than you need, you’re stuck with it.

    Your anemia was probably due to copper deficiency. Your father’s iron overload may be due to copper deficiency as well. See how complicated things are.

    Your father has MS, does he. Did you know that if scientists want their rats to have MS, they feed them them cuprizone, which is a copper chelator?

    • gabkad on May 24, 2015 at 09:59

      Jane, I thought people lose 5 mg of iron per day in faeces. Plus menstruating women can lose 10 mg more per day.

      I guess part of the problem is people don’t eat liver, which is an excellent source of dietary copper, iron, vitamin A, B vitamins, and etc. Nor do they eat kidneys, nor brains, nor other tasty bits. They won’t even eat chicken skin. The French eat nose to tail from traditional eating habits. As do most Europeans. I’m not counting the Brits here because they’ve gone entirely off the rails.

      Americans decided that affluence means eating only muscle tissue and bought into that pervert Dr. Kellogg’s cereal consumption, plus drinking orange juice because it’s faster and easier than peeling a damn orange.

    • gabkad on May 24, 2015 at 10:31

      Oh and there is manganese in liver, kidney and pancreas.

    • Jane Karlsson on May 25, 2015 at 02:41

      Hi Gabkad
      Iron in feces means you haven’t absorbed it, not that it’s been deliberately excreted.

      Iron deficiency in the sense of needing iron pills is a myth, originating from the false belief that humans can’t absorb iron well. Poor absorption means they have downregulated their iron transporters because they already have enough. Iron added to food isn’t absorbed well because of this, and it remains in the gut encouraging pathogenic gut bugs.

      The idea that women have iron deficiency due to menstruation has been disproved. Here’s a Sci Am article about it.

    • sl on May 25, 2015 at 06:13

      @Jane Karlsson you write:

      ‘Iron deficiency in the sense of needing iron pills is a myth’

      Are you saying that iron deficiency should only be resolved thru dietary means and supplements are not needed or worse? Also, what explains a person having normal iron but low ferritin (iron stores)? Does fortication have anything to do with this issue?

    • gabkad on May 25, 2015 at 08:56

      All very well if the diet is adequate. There are women who eschew the consumption of foods which may provide them with iron. Maybe in the US because all sorts of foods are supplemented, but in Canada, you can’t do that. Breakfast cereal is different here than there, for example. There’s no ‘vitamin in a bowl’ over here. We can’t even have Marmite imported from the UK because it has B vitamins added.

      And what is a really good hemoglobin for women? Is this a subject of debate in the medical community?

    • Jane Karlsson on May 26, 2015 at 02:39

      Ferritin is a problem because nobody knows what it’s doing in the blood. Some scientists think it’s only there because it leaks out of damaged cells. If that’s so, it’s a marker of cell damage, and correlates with iron stores measured by other means because it’s excess iron that causes the damage.

    • FrenchFry on May 26, 2015 at 05:36

      Looks like it: from a year ago ->

      “Serum ferritin is an important inflammatory disease marker, as it is mainly a leakage product from damaged cells”

      PS: Salut Richard! Bonne chance au Mexique 🙂

    • Jane Karlsson on May 26, 2015 at 08:11

      Sounds to me like you think if iron pills raise your hemoglobin, it means you were iron deficient and needed the pills. Not so. Here’s what Ray Peat says.

      “Many doctors think of anemia as necessarily indicating an iron deficiency, but that isn’t correct. 100 years ago, it was customary to prescribe arsenic for anemia, and it worked to stimulate the formation of more red blood cells. The fact that arsenic, or iron, or other toxic material stimulates the formation of red blood cells doesn’t indicate a “deficiency” of the toxin, but simply indicates that the body responds to a variety of harmful factors by speeding its production of blood cells. Even radiation can have this kind of stimulating effect, because growth is a natural reaction to injury.”

    • gabkad on May 28, 2015 at 10:34

      Okay. So how do you diagnose the cause of microcytic hypochromic RBCs over range in number and low ferritin, low serum iron? Hemoglobin 113.

    • Jane Karlsson on May 29, 2015 at 06:21

      Gabkad, microcytic hypochromic anemia suggests copper deficiency to me.

      “Copper deficiency was found in an adult patient who had received excessive daily oral zinc for 10 mo. The deficiency was characterized by hypochromic-microcytic anemia, leukopenia, and neutropenia. Although initially thought to be caused by iron deficiency, the anemia did not respond to oral or intravenous iron. Cessation of zinc tablets and ingestion of an oral copper preparation daily for 2 mo failed to correct the anemia or leukopenia. It was not until shortly after intravenous administration of a cupric chloride solution during a 5-day period, at a total dose of 10 mg, that serum copper and ceruloplasmin levels increased and the anemia, leukopenia, and neutropenia resolved. These data suggest that the elimination of excess zinc is slow and that, until such elimination occurs, the intestinal absorption of copper is blocked.”

      Mild copper deficiency is thought by copper researchers to be very common, but diagnosing it is difficult if not impossible. During inflammation, blood copper rises, making it look as if copper overload and not deficiency is the problem.

      Copper is needed for iron absorption, meaning the low ferritin and low serum iron you describe could be due to copper deficiency. But this person could actually have iron overload, since copper is needed for iron export not just from the gut, but from other tissues such as the liver and the brain.

  5. Nick on May 24, 2015 at 09:00

    “She says that there is good evidence that iron is only toxic when it is not opposed by Manganese and Copper”

    Ray Peat approves (or rather pre-approved decades ago ;))
    Excellent article, can’t wait for part two.

    P.S. Are you still planning on posting the articles on K2 or Honey/Probiotics you were writing?

    • Richard Nikoley on May 24, 2015 at 09:13

      Right now I’m planing on departing tomorrow for the 1,500 mile drive to the tip of the Baja to live. Not looking beyond that, but I’d say there’s a good bet that going forward this is going to be a profoundly different blog. 😉

    • Nick on May 24, 2015 at 09:27

      I want to add that my first comment seems to come off as rude, at least when i looked it over, and that wasn’t my intention. I think The Duck Dodgers have done a wonderful job. I guess I’m more frustrated with the fact that the whole Paleo/Ancestral Health community could’ve come to these more rational opinions on sugar, iron/copper, thyroid/metabolic rate much sooner had they been even the slightest bit inclined to at least glance over what Ray Peat has been writing about for over 30+ years. But instead they chose to founder about in their own confirmation bias ignoring any evidence that challenged their preconceived notions. Most authors haven’t even touched topics like carbon dioxide or serotonin yet.

      Long story short, thank you for being a voice if reason within the Paleo blogosphere, even if you’re hated for it.

  6. John on May 24, 2015 at 10:35

    One was to avoid iron in iron fortified foods is to buy organic versions. Organic rice and bread do not have iron or B vitamins added. Also, most of the less common grains don’t have iron added, either. I haven’t seen iron added to any of the Bob’s Red Mill products, though I would always check the label before purchasing.

    Also, if you buy regular, non-organic rice, simply rinsing before cooking will reduce or eliminate most of the added vitamins.

  7. John on May 24, 2015 at 16:21

    This is a very interesting and thought-provoking piece. If there is any substation by later studies, it could a long in explaining the French Paradox and the µasai and the obesity, etc., in the U.S.

    Thank you for this.

  8. Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on May 24, 2015 at 16:53

    interesting. thanks

    but i thought European wheat is also different from most US wheat tho (less hybridized? less dwarf)

    according to my Bulgarian colleague, around his hometown, they still grow einkorn wheat.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 24, 2015 at 20:42

      “i thought European wheat is also different from most US wheat tho (less hybridized? less dwarf)”

      I don’t think this is true. My research indicates that they mainly use Winter Wheat, which is the same wheat commonly found in everyday all-purpose flour. There’s nothing special about their wheat as far as I can tell.

      From: Wheat – World Supply and Demand Summary

      “Winter wheat is the predominant variety produced in France”

      You can find Einkorn wheat in some pockets, but it’s kind of rare from what I understand, and you can’t really bake quality breads with it… It’s a porridge wheat:

      From: Wikipedia: Einkorn wheat

      “Cultivation of einkorn was never extensive in Italy, southern France, and Spain. Einkorn continued to be cultivated in some areas of northern Europe throughout the Middle Ages and until the early part of the 20th century. Einkorn wheat is low-yielding but can survive on poor, dry, marginal soils where other varieties of wheat will not. It is primarily eaten boiled in whole grains or in porridge. Its flour lacks the rising characteristics desirable for bread.”

      No. The French do not care much for Einkorn. They want what tastes best, and they need a reliable and productive yield.

      Now, there is definitely a difference between French flour and American flour. However, these are mainly differences in the blending and sifting. It seems doubtful that those differences in sifting and blendings would be enough to turn Americans into overweight blobs. There was a time when American flour was often bromated (and some still is), but reducing that practice hasn’t reversed the obesity epidemic.

      See, the problem is that American tolerance for wheat changed right around 1950, and it continued to worsen over time. Every time the FDA raised the iron levels in flour, our health and tolerance for gluten deteriorated more and more. Meanwhile, the French eat twice as much of the same wheat Winter Wheat variety we often do, but they have no problem with it. Even Dr. Davis has no idea how to explain it. Oh, it’s the fat content, he says. Yes, that must be it.

      A lot of wheat from France is exported on international commodities markets, and they are predominantly planting Winter Wheat, the same wheats found even in the United States and throughout parts of the Northern Hemisphere. A few heirloom varieties certainly exist, but it is a small minority of the market.

      When we look at the timelines and the differences between countries, iron fortification really stands out.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 24, 2015 at 17:09

      That’s a valid confounder point, so obviously, the place to start would be to see if associations hold with the same wheat, but enriched vs not, and perhaps what’s gone on in Netherlands and Scandinavia holds clues.

      Personally I doubt it, because I’ve already tested basic American hybrids, not enriched, but plain white flour, but made in French style baguettes and I get nothing. No burp, nothing. Goes down fine for me. Of course, that’s n=1.

    • Janet on May 25, 2015 at 04:42

      was that n=1 with the wheat before or after your probiotic and prebiotic experimentation? Just wondering again if the gut health would make a difference. Very interesting stuff. Thanks.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 25, 2015 at 06:54

      It was after, so admittedly confounding.

    • Charles on May 25, 2015 at 07:16

      Is it the addition of iron or B vitamins or both? I look forward to your larger post.

    • Jer on May 27, 2015 at 09:14

      Here’s something that stands out – Modern wheat is less nutritious than old wheat. The amount of minerals like Zinc, Copper, Iron and Magnesium has decreased by 19-28%. From 1843 until about 1960, the nutrients in wheat didn’t change much.
      However, from the year 1960, which coincides with the introduction of modern wheat, the nutrient content starts trending downwards.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 27, 2015 at 09:56

      It’s true that modern varieties and soils are offering us less nutritious wheat. However, the French consume a significant amount of modern white flour, which has very little nutrition. So, it hardly makes much of a difference for them. They get their nutrition elsewhere. For instance, they tend to eat a lot of chocolate with their pastries.

      Most people don’t realize that chocolate is actually highly nutritious. The Ancestral Einkorn wheat (which sucks for making bread) has 63 mg of Magnesium and 1.5mg of Manganese (and probably ~.5mg of Copper) per 2oz serving. Whereas just one ounce of dark chocolate has 63 mg of Magnesium and .5mg of Manganese and .5mg of Copper plus lots of polyphenols/antioxidants.

      Chocolate is very nutrient dense, so the French just add a little chocolate to their pastries and it’s basically just like eating an ancestral variety of whole wheat, but it’s technically a dessert/treat.

    • BarleySinger on May 27, 2015 at 14:28

      I read a paper that placed the blame on the whole “gluten thing” not on the actual gluten but on how bread is being made now days. Essentially in the USA, bread is now made in huge factories (nearly always) and it only gets to rise about 15 minutes (using a lot of dough conditioners). However in the “old days” it took 6 to 8 hours to raise a loaf of bread (several rises, the first one as a “sponge”) and this makes a lot of large scale changes to the dough.

    • GTR on June 1, 2015 at 08:12

      @Duck – Mediterranean diet includes Italy. Italians eat an evolutionarily older species of wheat called Durum wheat, a direct descendand of ancient emmer wheat (the one after einkorn).

      “total production of all wheat is put at 7.3 million tonnes […] Italy’s durum wheat crop is projected at 4 million tonnes”

      “Durum wheat or macaroni wheat (Triticum durum or Triticum turgidum subsp. durum)[2] is the only tetraploid species of wheat of commercial importance that is widely cultivated today.[3] It was developed by artificial selection of the domesticated emmer wheat (like emmer, durum wheat is awned) strains formerly grown in Central Europe and the Near East around 7000 BC”

    • Duck Dodgers on June 1, 2015 at 08:30

      That’s interesting GTR. Thanks. Durum is pretty easy find in pastas these days—I see it listed in the ingredients all the time. Yet, many Americans have to cut it out of their diet to stay healthy. That too suggests that the main culprit is the enrichment and that we are eating the same wheat that Europe is eating.

  9. Eric on May 25, 2015 at 07:43

    So does this explain the therapeutic use of leeches in darker ages? And if iron fortification is being done on purpose then why? just misguided?

    • Duck Dodgers on May 25, 2015 at 19:46

      “So does this explain the therapeutic use of leeches in darker ages? ”

      Yes. Many pathogens are extremely fond of iron.


      This is one reason why the body wants to tightly regulate how much iron is available to potential pathogens. Early doctors must have known that bloodletting reduces iron which would make it difficult for pathogens to replicate.

      Of course, do too much and your patient is dead.

      I read somewhere that there was probably an evolutionary advantage to being borderline anemic—it meant that pathogens couldn’t easily compromise the immune system if there wasn’t an excess of iron available. There is no advantage to having excess iron though. It just causes damage.

      “And if iron fortification is being done on purpose then why? just misguided?”

      Yes. If you look at the countries that fortify, 99% of them are developing nations. The only developed nations that mandate fortification with iron are the US, Canada and the UK. When fortification was instituted in the US, we still had third-world diseases such as yellow fever, pellagra, and hookworm infections (parasites that reduce iron in the body). The FDA then increased the levels of fortification every few decades to combat anemia. But, they never did eliminate anemia, from all that excess iron. Not even close.

      If you want to read up on how the policy got bungled, take a look at “Iron: The Most Toxic Metal,” by Jym Moon. The issue was hotly contested during the 1970s, 80s and even the 90s, in response to the FDA’s massive iron increase in 1983. Everyone’s forgotten about the brouhaha, but it was a big deal back then. Unfortunately, the warnings that everyone forgot about came true. And nobody noticed until now.

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on May 26, 2015 at 23:11

      sickel cell disease?

  10. Chris Dietrich on May 25, 2015 at 14:02

    Extremely interesting post! However, I have seen similar graphs comparing sugar/HFCS or vegetable oil consumption with obesity and they are equally convincing. We also have the topic of diseases of civilization, which were a documented problem before fortified foods existed. Perhaps the fortified foods provides the added nutrients to expand the adipose sites as opposed to the body being forced to metabolize more of the unfortified food?

    • Duck Dodgers on May 25, 2015 at 19:31

      “However, I have seen similar graphs comparing sugar/HFCS or vegetable oil consumption with obesity and they are equally convincing”

      It’s all connected. HFCS and fructose significantly enhance iron absorption. So, I’m not surprised that they correlate as well.

      “We also have the topic of diseases of civilization, which were a documented problem before fortified foods existed”

      Correct. And these appear to have been caused by diets that promote iron overload (refined sugar and higher muscle meat consumption). The mechanisms of the diseases have already been linked to iron. The only thing that’s changed is that nobody has taken the time to look at how cultures avoided, suppressed or heavily promoted iron overload, until now.

      Admittedly the link between iron and obesity is not as strong as it is for diabetes, CHD, cancer and other diseases. Nevertheless, new links between iron and obesity are constantly being published each year. And, in reality, even if one of the diseases of civilization were linked to iron, it should be cause enough to end iron fortification. But, it turns out iron is linked to virtually every disease of civilization. And it explains virtually every dietary paradox on the planet. So, there’s that.

      Interestingly, sugar used to be boiled in cast iron kettles. So, even refined sugar used to be laced with iron. One clue is that Queen Elizabeth I’s teeth turned black from eating too much sugar. Sugar may contribute to tooth decay, but it typically doesn’t turn one’s teeth black. But black staining does happen when one is consuming too much iron.

      “Perhaps the fortified foods provides the added nutrients to expand the adipose sites as opposed to the body being forced to metabolize more of the unfortified food?”

      It’s possible they play a role. However, many vitamins are easily excreted when consumed in excess. But with iron there is no mechanism to easily excrete the excess. Therein lies the problem. So, the adipose tissue appears to secrete hepcidin to pull excess out of the bloodstream and store the excess in fat.

      Everything keeps coming back to iron no matter which path you take.

      Honestly, I wish it weren’t this easy to link everything to iron. But there is way too much evidence and too many coincidences piling up linking diseases of civilization to iron overload. And frankly, it’s incredibly obvious once you seen the pattern.

      Hope to cover it all, but the upcoming post is already too long as it is. So, hopefully we do a decent job of presenting the case.


    • John on May 26, 2015 at 06:53

      Don’t forget that some of these effects are synergistic. For example, vegetable oils are unstable, and oxidize very easily. Iron is a very potent oxidant. Either one is excess could be problematic, but if both are present in excess together, the problem could become exponentially worse.

      Also, high body iron itself is a problem, and can occur without any fortified foods (though fortified foods are especially problematic). Alcohol can enhance iron absorption. So if you lived in 1850, had one of the iron loading genes, and drank a lot and ate a lot of meat and grains (which are high in iron, even without fortification), you could easily run into problems.

    • John on May 26, 2015 at 07:13

      Also, if you cook food in iron cookware, you could be “fortifying” your food without even realizing it. Iron can also be inhaled (tobacco is rich in iron, for example), or taken in transdermally, if you walked barefoot over iron rich soil.

    • BarleySinger on May 27, 2015 at 13:27

      —– quote —–
      It’s all connected. HFCS and fructose significantly enhance iron absorption. So, I’m not surprised that they correlate as well.
      —– end quote ——-
      HFCS also causes “Leptin resistance” (so we don’t get a signal to stop eating, and become fat) , and HFCS causes “Insulin Resistance” (and onward into diabetes with Metabolic Disorder as the precursor).

      Also most of our “factory foods” are high in “dietary emulsifiers” (adding these to our ‘fake foods’ makes them feel ‘creamy’ to the mouth) and these emulsifiers happen to cause :obesity, metabolic disorder (onward into diabetes), and general damage to the gut mucosa – which means SIBO (and all the trouble it causes). HCFS (also added to make fake food taste better) also causes Leptin resistance and Insulin resistance.

      It is also important to take into account that the body uses FATTY TISSUES to store toxins. If we have too much poison in our bodies, they that stuff has to be stored some place until the liver can cope with it (which takes several passes through the system).

      We live in a very poisonous world. Industrial and agricultural toxins are a serious problem, as are the nasties in our ‘fake food’…and there is no magical land of “away” where things go when we no longer want them. Everything sticks around, and a lot of bad stuff eventually winds up in the water table.

      Even our medications …. things like birth control, anti-depressants, blood pressure medications (most of which we excrete out of the body in our urine) winds up in the water table given time. The water table includes the “rain cycle” and the deep parts of the water table and the oceans. It is a fact of life now that out birth control tablets are now present in our rain, and our lakes. Triclosan (from our unnecessary antibacterial products) is there too… as is RoundUp/Glyphosphate, and “2-4,d”. Triclosan, Roundup/Glyphosphate and “2,4-d” all kill soil microbes (the same soil microbes that live in the human gut as “healthy flora” which we NEED in order to regulate our immune & inflammatory systems).

      We live in a very polluted world now days. When a person no longer has enough fatty tissues to store more poisons in, we react by putting on weight so we have a place to store it.

  11. Cathy on May 26, 2015 at 06:01

    I am eagerly looking forward to the second, much longer part of this. There goes my beloved Uncle Ben’s rice! I think this explains why when people go to countries like France or Italy and are part of their bread diet that they invariably say that the bread tastes differently from bread here, even bread from a bakery! Even Richard had a good experience spaghetti in Europe as far as not gaining weight.
    As a post menopausal woman, I have seen my hematocrit come back so that I can donate blood again. No multivitamin supplement for women over 50 contains iron in its pills simply because women over 50 don’t need it. I think all the threads leading to good (gut) health — no veggie oils, no HFCS, and now watching the iron overload in our flours, rice, and pasta are being woven into a more complete picture for good health. I live in a university town and there is a big international store that most to the international folks shop at. I am going to pay a visit there today to see the rice and flour. I’m not too interested in pasta anymore so I may not check that.
    I love N=1 experiences so this will be fun!!
    Drive safely, Richard!

    • John on May 26, 2015 at 06:31

      I mentioned this above, but will do it again here- rinsing rice beforehand will get rid of some or all of the fortified vitamins and iron. Or you could start buying organic rice. Iron isn’t added to that.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 26, 2015 at 07:51

      The rice industry is getting wise to rice rinsing and has already discovered in 2008 that they can enrich iron into the rice grain by parboiling it.

      Iron-fortified parboiled rice – A novel solution to high iron density in rice-based diets

      For those who want an occasional un-fortified cookie with their iron-inhibiting tea, I’ve discovered that Trader Joe’s sells a fair amount of products from countries that do not fortify. You can get tea cookies from the Netherlands or Belgium.

      What we are finding as we finish up the article is that there is a “double-whammy” effect from fortified foods. They have to add a lot of fortified iron because it’s so poorly absorbed. If you happen to eat the fortified foods with iron-enhancers (HFCS, or Vitamin C, which is often intentionally added to fortified products to enhance iron absorption), then the foods promote iron overload. But if you manage to not absorb much of the poorly bioavailable fortified iron, then it all goes to your colon where iron-loving pathogens and cancers can have a feeding frenzy on it.

      So, it’s a two-pronged effect. Either you absorb it and it causes problems, or you don’t and it causes problems.

    • Cathy on May 26, 2015 at 08:33

      Double whammy indeed!! Is ascorbic acid the vitamin C that you refer to as an additive to fortified products? My mother suffered from Crohn’s . She ate bread products bur drank tons of coffee and also smoked. The Crohn’s did seem to act up more as she aged. Could have been the fortification in foods.
      Really looking forward to that next installment.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 26, 2015 at 09:01

      “Is ascorbic acid the vitamin C that you refer to as an additive to fortified products?”

      Yes. Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) is often added to products to increase iron absorption. Apparently it’s also used as a dough conditioner in some fortified products, but I suspect it’s mainly to enhance iron absorption.

  12. Saraswati on May 26, 2015 at 17:28

    Primal Defense which has been recommended here has iron in it.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 27, 2015 at 04:34

      do you know how much and in what form? Keep in mind, we’re not cautioning against iron, we’re raising questions about whether it’s a good idea to supplement STAPLE foods with them, i.e., stuff people eat every day in substantial quantity.

    • Greg on May 27, 2015 at 05:58

      My bottle says 1.8 mg from “Ionic Plant Based Minerals.” Total Ionic Plant Based Minerals is listed as 290 mg. I gather from websites that it is or contains fulvic acid. Prescript-Assist specifically lists fulvic acid as an ingredient. Various sites claim multiple health benefits for fulvic acid as a trace mineral source and gut flora modulator.

  13. Wenchypoo on May 27, 2015 at 05:30

    Look at lifestyles when comparing US to the French–they walk a hell of a lot more, and also eat substantially smaller portions than we do. There really is no paradox here!

    As for food “enrichment”, is any of this stuff even REQUIRED to be tested to assure GRAS certification? The FDA doesn’t require that food additives be tested as long as the individual components that make up the additive are deemed safe for human consumption. But what do we know REALLY? Nothing. GMOs are not even required to be tested, because the individual components of the genetic modification are GRAS, and that’s good enough for the FDA. Sure, they may produce a better tomato, but what are the modifications doing TO US? Nobody knows, and nobody WILL know as long as politics continues to play a day-to-day role in our lives.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 27, 2015 at 09:32

      Wenchypoo said: “Look at lifestyles when comparing US to the French–they walk a hell of a lot more”

      Most European nations seem to walk just under 10,000 steps, about 4,500 more steps per day than we do. Also, the French have no interest in exercise whatsoever. At best they walk to work, walk to the bistro and walk home. Gyms are not popular there. They do not seem to care much about their health. They mainly care about eating good food, drinking and having a cigarette, and an occasional soccer match. In America, we try to sweat away our pounds à la Richard Simmons. Sweating is one of the few ways to remove iron from the body. In France, intentional sweating is undesirable.

      More importantly, they consume twice as much wheat as we do, but have 1/3 the obesity. This little tidbit is never mentioned by fad diet gurus. It’s always… “oh, they eat more fat than we do!” Yes, and significantly more wheat too.

      Wenchypoo said: “and also eat substantially smaller portions than we do.”

      In the first paragraph, above, we point out that obese individuals have iron deposits in their hypothalamus. The researchers in the hypothalamus study say that the iron contributes to “damage to a brain area critical for body weight control.” So, iron in the brain may be able to explain why the French do not crave large portions like iron-overloaded American might.

      “There really is no paradox here!”

      I suppose there is no paradox if you believe that one can eat twice as much wheat/flour as the average American and be as slender as the French by simply walking an extra 4,000 steps. I don’t buy it. If that’s all it took, obesity and chronic disease would not be so complex. Meanwhile, Americans can only lose weight and improve their health by removing refined flours from their diet. It doesn’t take a genius to see that there the food supply is not the same.

      Perhaps what’s most disappointing is that I have yet to see any diet gurus even touch the French’s high wheat consumption with a ten-foot pole. They just ignore the high flour consumption. They ignore the baguettes, the eclairs, the mille-feuilles and the macarons. They just tell us the French are thin because they eat more fat. Bullshit.

      “GMOs are not even required to be tested”

      I’m not a fan of GMOs, but GMOs did not really hit the shelves until 1994. The latest obesity epidemic and our high incidences of chronic health problems started in the 1980s, immediately after iron levels were significantly increased by the FDA. America’s health problems started long before then.

      A few recent studies in 2015 hypothesize that obesity is directly related to iron overload. But, even if obesity is not directly due to iron overload, then there is still the fact that nearly every major chronic disease can be traced back to too much iron wreaking havoc in the body. Alzheimer’s, CHD, diabetes, Parkinson’s, cancer… they all come back to too much iron with no easy way to excrete it.

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on May 27, 2015 at 13:20

      i’ve also observe old culture take their time to eat (Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, etc). they’d sit down & have a full meal, even working people. they’d still have a lunch break (some have siesta)

      at my work place, a lot people eat & work in front of computer, or, lunch meeting is even worse.


    • gabkad on May 28, 2015 at 10:42

      GMO tomatoes?

  14. Jer on May 27, 2015 at 08:57

    Picking “The island nation of Nauru” is not really a good choice. The people receive government subsidies from mining and don’t usually work. The main past time is moving little and eating a lot. They eat a lot – of everything. Chicken, rice, mutton. They love mutton flap, primarily for the fat. Most of the land is unarable due to phosphate content, therefore why most food is imported, primarily from Australia and New Zealand. Favorite dish is fried chicken and cola. For most, a traditional diet of fresh fish and vegetables has been replaced by Spam, canned corned beef, potato chips and beer.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 27, 2015 at 20:14


      The article, if I am able to finish it soon, will not just be about obesity. As you know, the links are much stronger to other diseases of civilization (CHD, alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s, cancer, etc.) so we will try to mention all of these well known connections on how iron overload is contributing to much of our modern health problems and that obesity is now implicated as well.

      In reality, we aren’t reporting anything new other than the fact that iron enrichment has increased tremendously since WWII (something even obesity researcher we contacted were unaware of) and that meat-replete cultures appear to have success when they take steps to inhibit their iron absorption. Oh, and that iron can explain many dietary paradoxes. Oddly those things have been largely overlooked for some reason.

      Btw, here are three brand new studies hypothesizing the link between iron and obesity:

      Mutual interaction between iron homeostasis and obesity pathogenesis (2015)

      Iron metabolism in obesity: How interaction between homoeostatic mechanisms can interfere with their original purpose. Part I: Underlying homoeostatic mechanisms of energy storage and iron metabolisms and their interaction (2015)

      Dietary-Induced Obesity Disturbs Iron Homeostasis and Alpha-Synuclein Expression in C57BL/6J Mouse Brains (2015)

    • Duck Dodgers on May 27, 2015 at 10:18

      Well, we are going to try to explain virtually every dietary paradox on the planet through one unified theory. Something that no one has ever attempted before. Not an easy task, but we think we’ve found a pattern that needs to be explored.

      The Nauru diet you describe is a recipe for iron overload, so it seems like the perfect example from our perspective. Particularly if their imported foods from their trading partners are fortified. Researchers have suggested that Nauru should mandate fortification despite the fact that they already import fortified food. If iron overload is implicated in many of the chronic diseases they have (and excess iron has been linked to those diseases of civilization), then fortification will only make the problem worse.

      Incidentally, I’ve been thinking that deep-fried batter would have to be considerably worse if you sprinkled iron that easily oxidizes into the batter before dipping it in boiling oil. That’s basically what happens when you deep fry with fortified flour. Beer and cola (HFCS) just act to significantly increase iron absorption.

      So, it’s a rather perfect example of iron overload, actually.

    • Jer on May 27, 2015 at 10:22

      If anything, it’s an example of calorie overload, combined with a sedentary lifestyle.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 27, 2015 at 10:45

      Yes, but why would a sedentary person be inspired to eat more than their caloric needs?

      Some researchers have hypothesized that iron overload in the brain damages the appetite center and encourages people to eat more than their body needs to consume. Normally a sedentary individual should not crave so much food—the body should self-regulate. This modern urge to overeat beyond the normal course of a meal has been explained by hypotheses of food tasting too good, and food reward, etc. It’s all very interesting, but it doesn’t explain many of the paradoxes.

      And the mechanism of food reward derangements and inflammation in the brain causing those derangements has not been a satisfactory explained. The explanations are a mess actually. With iron deposits observed in the brain of obese individuals, we now have a clear idea of how that mechanism might work that explains many paradoxes throughout the world.

      Few things taste better than French food and yet the French are not inspired to overeat. Go figure.

    • BarleySinger on May 27, 2015 at 12:29

      As for appetite being unregulated (not kept in check by the body)…

      The most common sweetener in foods today is HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup). This is *NOT* a natural sweetener. First off it comes from Genetically Modified corn (which has its own problems), and secondly HFCS is changed into a much stronger sweetener by cooking it in the presence of a catalyst (normally platinum). So foods sweetened with HFCS are not the same as eating an apple.

      Eating a diet with normal levels of fructose from fruit in is good (and also highly seasonal), but when you get huge amounts of concentrated fructose all year long in your diet you wind up with both “Leptin resistance” and “Insulin Resistance”. Leptin controls appetite. If you are leptin resistant then you do not get the signal that say “I am full now”. If you are “Insulin Resistant” than you need a lot more insulin to get the sugar to leave your system (and you wind up with “Metabolic Disorder” which is a short step from Diabetes.

    • BarleySinger on May 27, 2015 at 12:40

      I forgot to mention that “dietary emulsifiers” (loke carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80) and which happen to be in just about everything (emulsifiers let them blend fats with water in factory foods) – these have been shown to cause obesity, metabolic disorder, diabetes, and general damage to the gut mucosa.

      In mice, relatively low concentrations of two commonly used emulsifiers, namely carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80, induced low-grade inflammation and obesity/metabolic syndrome in wild-type hosts and promoted robust colitis in mice predisposed to this disorder. Emulsifier-induced metabolic syndrome was associated with microbiota encroachment, altered species composition and increased pro-inflammatory potential. Use of germ-free mice and faecal transplants indicated that such changes in microbiota were necessary and sufficient for both low-grade inflammation and metabolic syndrome. These results support the emerging concept that perturbed host-microbiota interactions resulting in low-grade inflammation can promote adiposity and its associated metabolic effects. Moreover, they suggest that the broad use of emulsifying agents might be contributing to an increased societal incidence of obesity/metabolic syndrome and other chronic inflammatory diseases.

    • BarleySinger on May 27, 2015 at 14:15

      Don’t forget that HFCS (in almost everything processed) causes Leptin resistance (you get no message that you are full).

    • John on May 27, 2015 at 19:22

      Really glad you’re going to be looking into the iron/obesity connection. When I got interested in the iron issue two years ago, it seemed that every disease of civilization was mentioned except obesity. Seeing as obesity shows up when all the other diseases do, I began to wonder about it myself.

      I’ve also been wondering if a higher iron burden is the true cause of antibiotic resistant superbugs. After all, it was an experiment in 1952 where E.D. Weinberg found iron could neutralize tetracycline that got him interested in the iron issue in the first place.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 27, 2015 at 20:02


      I think what you are referring to is pretty weak. Metabolic disorders are strongly linked to iron overload and now we know that fructose and HFCS significantly enhance iron absorption, as does Vitamin C, which may very well be what actually promotes the metabolic damage you are referring to.

      There isn’t much convincing evidence that honey or fruit on their own causes the kind of damage you are referring to. If it did, I’d expect frugivores to all be diabetics.

      This hypothesis we are working through is meant to be diet-agnostic, for the most part. While it may sound like we are demonizing meat, in reality we plan to show how high-meat cultures were able to ward off iron overload by following their tastebuds and pairing certain foods together. We can also show how fructose and HFCS in the context of certain foods and poor diets can contribute to metabolic disorders. That is very different from saying that fructose is evil.

      Some honeys may be able to chelate iron, and that may explain why honey is anti-diabetic despite its high fructose content and why some cultures like the Mbuti can get 80% of their calories from honey during the rainy seasons and remain in excellent health.

      I believe you need to eat fructose with a poor/fortified diet, such as iron-fortified foods or iron-rich foods in order to cause the metabolic damage you are referring to. But that’s just based on what I’ve read and what seems to happen in the real world.


    • Jer on May 29, 2015 at 03:31

      What I’m saying is that eating a lot of energy dense foods, like fast foods or the typical SAD (Standard American Diet), causes obesity. The French used to have about half their current level of obesity until the invasion of American culture fast food.
      Obesity causes inflammation, which causes numerous diseases. Eating muscle meat without eating the whole animal causes inflammation. Ray Peat was onto this a long time ago. Glycine, the principal component of collagen, is a conditionally essential amino acid. It’s used to detox the body of methionine, built up from consuming a lot of muscle meat. Chris Kresser did an article showing that the same mechanism of calorie restriction that extends life has been linked to methionine restriction. Here’s where it gets interesting: a study done in 2011 found that supplementing with glycine had the same life-extending, igf-reducing, health-promoting effects as restricting methionine intake (and restricting protein intake or overall calories)!

      Glycine deficiency is linked to a host of diseases, just Google it. The recent use of metabolomics illustrates this quite well. Metabolomics allows the simultaneous measurement of hundreds of metabolites from each blood sample collected, rather than just a few. so for example, in 2010, a study identified glycine as the single most reduced metabolite—among 485 different metabolites identified—in 143 insulin-resistant 30-60-year-old men and women from 13 european countries, compared to 256 subjects with normal insulin sensitivity.
      Sorry for the ramble, guess I had a lot on my mind!

    • Jer on May 28, 2015 at 15:14

      It’s cultural. French people eat rich foods, but the portion sizes are always small, much smaller compared to the “super size me” mentality of Americans. They also never snack.This is a well known fact, and one that Richard Nikoley corroborated when relating his time in the French Navy.
      A few tidbits from a survey, courtesy of
      Sizing Things Up
      Researchers weighed portions at 11 similar eateries in Paris and Philadelphia — fast-food outlets, pizzerias, ice cream parlors, and ethnic restaurants.

      The average portion size in Paris was 25% smaller than in Philly.
      Chinese restaurants in Philly served meals that were 72% bigger than Parisian Chinese restaurants.
      They looked at foods sold in supermarkets:

      A candy bar in Philadelphia was 41% larger than the same candy bar sold in Paris.
      A soft drink was 52% larger, and a hot dog was 63% larger.
      A carton of yogurt was 82% larger.

    • Steven Richards on May 28, 2015 at 17:09

      Jer are you claiming larger portion sizes cause obesity and other diseases, and if so, could it be greater percentages of the population being obese cause larger portion sizes?

    • Jer on May 29, 2015 at 03:55

      This blog has a laundry list of links on Glycine studies:

    • John on May 29, 2015 at 07:27


      I’ve been interested in Glycine for a bit as well, but the thing is, muscle meat actually has a pretty good ratio of glycine to methionine, depending on the cut. Ground beef is about 3:1, ribeye a bit closer to 5:2. There’s also a decent amount of proline and serine (a glycine precursor). Potato and wheat protein are about 2:1, while eggs and milk are closer to 1:1. Looking at the numbers, it wouldn’t appear that muscle meat is driving glycine deficiency if only glycine and methionine are important. In fact, muscle meat would be the best glycine source of commonly eaten proteins these days.

    • Jer on May 29, 2015 at 09:42

      I’m not sure of the ratios of glycine involved that are required to “neutralize” the methionine. Maybe it’s 5:1 glycine:methionine? In that case, muscle meat alone is putting you at a deficit. Ray Peat claimed that collagen comprised 50% of an animal, including the hide, hooves, etc. By eating muscle meat alone, that’s throwing away a lot of glycine and proline. When our ancestors made a kill, I’m betting they ate every part of the animal that they could, and boiled down and drank what they couldn’t. Approx 30-40% of the human body is comprised of collagen, so there is a need right there beyond countering methionine.

    • John on May 29, 2015 at 10:55


      If muscle meat alone is problematic, that would mean a diet of muscle meat, milk, and eggs would be more problematic, and a diet of simply milk and eggs would be very problematic (again, just in terms of glycine/methionine ratio). Wouldn’t it be even more important to balance out milk and eggs? Why the emphasis on muscle meat only?

      By the way, I do use gelatin and glycine supplements personally.

    • Jer on May 29, 2015 at 11:27

      You are correct, milk & eggs are also high in methionine content. My bad!

  15. Cool on May 27, 2015 at 09:16

    Great work Richard/DuckDodgers Team!

    Really hope you guys will keep exploring all this “post-paleo” stuff which guys like Ray Peat have been going on and on about for decades.

    Ray Peat.

    Gonna keep repeating it as I’ve noticed that others have begun noticing the same thing.

    Carbon dioxide / carbs. PUFA. Estrogen. Progesterone:Estrogen. Iron:Copper. Broths/Collagen. Ray’s been talking ’bout this stuff.

    Some other topics I’d LOVE for your minds to tackle:
    cannabis, hydrogen peroxide, oxygen therapies

    -cannabis / endogenous endocannabanoid system. Do you know of Dr. William Courtney, MD? He’s only trying to de-schedule cannabis at the UN level to be able to donate it across the world for nutrition, antimicrobial properties, as an ESSENTIAL DAILY NUTRIENT.

    -check out the video of his wife curing her autoimmune diseases with daily raw plant ingestion. (just plain ol’ endometeriosis, among other things, told she couldn’t have kids, had 2, that’s all).

    -how could ANY “paleo/evolutionary”-themed blog NOT cover the hypothesis that we’ve co-evolved with the cannabis plant and that EVERY CELL IN THE BODY has receptors for cannabanoids? Which are substances that are actually found in mother’s milk.

    This is a call to investigate these topics, not an accusation. 🙂

    Thanks for all you all do!

  16. Gordon on May 27, 2015 at 18:28

    Jumping ahead under the assumption that the iron overload hypothesis is true, will reducing iron in our diets and donating blood regularly eventually make a dent in our already iron-rich hypothalamuses and fat cells? Can cellular iron return to circulation or is it sequestered for life?

    • Duck Dodgers on May 27, 2015 at 18:47

      Bloodletting improves symptoms of metabolic syndrome. However, if the hypothesis is true, it may even be possible to chelate the iron without such measures.

      For instance, green tea is believed to promote weight loss by supposedly “speeding up” the metabolism. However, green tea is well known to chelate iron from the body, which is probably the real reason why it promotes weight loss. Japanese researchers have even been able to reduce the heme content of beef by feeding cows green tea (the Japanese like light-colored, low-heme, beef).

      Here is an individual who lost considerable amount of weight after 23 weeks on a diet of whole grains, traditional Chinese medicinal foods and prebiotics. Fibers that promote weight loss also seem to chelate iron.

      So, successful dieters seem to have figured out ways to chelate excess iron without even realizing it. Some iron chelators like deferoxamine have even shown to ameliorate adiposity.

      However, in talking to obesity researchers, some of them doubt the hypothesis. Apparently there are some confounding factors, though they never did tell us what those confounding factors were. Nevertheless, there are two recent studies in 2015 hypothesizing the connection between iron and obesity.

    • John on May 27, 2015 at 19:13

      You can make quite a dent. Hemochromatosis patients (who often have ferritin levels above 1000ng/ml when they start treatment), will do phlebotomies (often weekly) until their ferritin hits 25 on one occasion, at which point they are considered completely de-ironed, and hemosiderin (ferritin that is completely saturated with iron) is undetectable in the liver. Some iron may be sequestered for life, and if there is damage to the hypothalamus, it may be permanent, but even modest iron lowering trials have shown things like improved fasting glucose, insulin response and cholesterol, so yes, I highly recommend donating blood.

    • Gordon on May 28, 2015 at 04:18

      Very encouraging, thanks for the replies.

    • John on May 28, 2015 at 10:05

      By the way, Anthony Colpo wrote about how he went about iron reduction in this article, and it was a very helpful guide to me when first getting started. His protocol is at about the halfway point in this article-

    • gabkad on May 28, 2015 at 17:41

      Duckie, only green tea? What’s wrong with black tea? What’s the diff?
      Tea is high fluoride. I don’t know how given that fluoride competes for iodine in the thyroid gland that somehow it speeds up metabolism? You’d think it would slow it down.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 28, 2015 at 18:55

      I’m sure all teas have an effect. But, green tea seems to be the strongest chelators of the tea as best as I can tell.

      Yeah, the excess fluoride would seem to be a downside. Though, many Japanese have 3 cups of green a day. I actually tried a few cups of green tea last week and it gave me insomnia when I consumed it in the evening. Apparently it’s got a fair amount of caffeine in it.

    • David on May 29, 2015 at 11:09

      I can drink black tea or coffee on an empty stomach. I can only drink green tea with food, if I have it on an empty stomach I either get nauseous or start heaving. Does this happen to anybody else?

    • Charles on June 9, 2015 at 09:29

      Good matcha isn’t cheap either, and the lower grades taste pretty bad. Aiya out of Japan) is a good brand, the ceremonial grade is the sweet spot. I’ve tried various ones, and imported some from China and Taiwan. Tastes like crap. It’s worth getting the good stuff. There really is a difference.

      You don’t need that much. This seems expensive, I know, but it lasts a long time:

      You can also use a “food grade” matcha for mixing. I make a resistant starch smoothie with matcha, various RS sources (RPS, aribinogalactan from Minnesota larch, acacia, etc.), water, pea protein, and stevia, with the occasional frozen berry and/or avocado added. (I also throw in some cricket flour now and then, but that’s another story.)

    • Charles on June 9, 2015 at 07:42


      I’m sensitive to caffeine, and if I drink regular, brewed green or black tea, I also have trouble sleeping. But I find I can drink matcha (powdered green tea) even later in the day and sleep like a (prebiotic-enhanced) baby. They say it’s because it has a lot of theanine…I don’t know about that, only that it doesn’t keep me awake.

    • Charles on June 9, 2015 at 07:45

      A glass of wine and a cup of matcha is my version of Red Bull and Vodka, I guess…

    • Duck Dodgers on June 9, 2015 at 09:07

      Good tip Charles. I will check that out.

      I also just came across this on tea…

      High-antioxidant teas: Green tea, white tea, red tea and more

      Mark “Dr. Tea” Ukra, author of The Ultimate Tea Diet, offers a taste of his extensive knowledge of teas…

      The Truth About Tea
      White, green, oolong and black tea all originate from the same camellia senensis plant. Their differences come from how they are processed to the desired level of oxidation.

      Green tea has been all the rage for its content of epigallocatechin (EGCG), a form of antioxidants associated a number of health benefits. However, Ukra points out that many studies that led to green tea’s popularity used only green tea, leaving out its other counterparts. Now, researchers are focusing on the health benefits of white tea, which has a higher level of EGCG.

      Give a variety of teas a taste and, though there are varying levels of antioxidants and other healthy compounds, decide which is right for you. “[You] do not have to seek out a green tea for, say, cancer prevention, and a white tea for skin rejuvenation as [you] would read about in a study,” Ukra says. “Merely find the teas [you] love to drink, and drink four to six cups a day because they all provide the same health benefits.”

      White Tea: No Longer Just For Royalty
      Originally a drink for only the distinguished royalty of China, white tea has gained popularity in the U.S. recently for its health benefits as well as its delicate flavor.

      “When you understand that white is made by merely harvesting the leaves, cleaning and drying, without any oxidizing (which adds flavor), then you understand that most white teas are light and delicious,” Ukra says.

      White tea has the most antioxidants (EGCG) than any other tea, and its caffeine content is minimal (about 90 percent less than a cup of coffee).

      According to Ukra, researchers have found that white tea is effective in preventing cancer, heart attacks and stroke. It also lowers type II diabetes and is beneficial for other conditions including halitosis (bad breath) and skin rejuvenation.

      The bad news is that white tea is crazy expensive. 🙂

      Anyhow, it looks like the studies on individual teas all apply to any white, green, oolong or black tea—just in varying degrees. Some stores (including Whole Foods) have bulk bins of tea, so you can try a scoop of individual kinds without getting a whole box at a time.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 9, 2015 at 09:46

      I’ve had a few cups of Matcha Super Green from Rishi teas. They harvest from Kirishima, Kagoshima, Japan. Kept me wide awake. Couldn’t sleep and didn’t even feel like yawning. Though, it was on days that I had a few squares of chocolate, so may have been some kind of synergy going on.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 9, 2015 at 09:53

      And speaking of expensive, I suppose these mass-market green and white teas are actually incredibly cheap compared to the most highly coveted teas of the world…

      Da Hong Pao

      Dà Hóng Páo (literally: “Big Red Robe”) is a prestigious Wuyi oolong tea. It is a premium variety of the Wu Yi Yan Cha (Wuyi Rock Tea) group of oolong. According to legend, the mother of a Ming Dynasty emperor was cured of an illness by a certain tea, and that emperor sent great red robes to clothe the four bushes from which that tea originated. Three of these original bushes, growing on a rock on Mount Wuyi and reportedly dating back to the Song Dynasty, still survive today and are highly venerated. Famously expensive, Da Hong Pao can sell for up to US$1,025,000 per kilogram or US $35,436 per ounce (20g of Da Hong Pao tea from one of the mother plants was sold for ¥156,800 in 1998).

      That’s an expensive cup!

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on June 9, 2015 at 13:53

      macha power ==> sleep? i should try that

      taste better than those “sleep well” herbal tea. (not a fan of herbal infusion)

      i was once told good tea have less caffeine lesser tea.
      also summer tea (plant) has most caffeine.
      so worth extra $ for the good ones

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on June 9, 2015 at 13:56

      ps. oh, pu erh? is supposed to have least caffeine
      + it is fermented (good “bugs”?) supposed to be good for sleep & many others

      but i never like the taste. seems an acquired taste.

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on June 9, 2015 at 14:04

      Da Hong Pao used to be reserved for the royalty only then later, the equivalent “royalty” for communist (PRC). i suppose it’s very $$$ cause there’re so few of the mother plants left after centuries.

      i think you can the same tea but NOT from the original plants, that would a lot cheaper!


  17. Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on May 27, 2015 at 20:35

    i remember there were 2 studies on Japanese

    #1. Japanese Americans, those maintain a traditional lifestyle vs. more “Americanized” Japanese the more traditional group is healthier.

    2. rice eating family vs. bread eating family (in Japan)

    the rice group is healthier; kids are less obese.

    (granted, these have many confounding factors)

    please don’t ask a layman (me) for citations)

    i wonder if anyone can design & perform similar studies on French.

  18. Adrian on May 29, 2015 at 15:16

    Thank you. This is a fascinating topic. A couple of interesting articles. In today’s The Age newspaper in Victoria, Australia.
    Also, how much of a cofounder could this be

  19. Adrian on May 29, 2015 at 16:39

    Summary of those articles. The Age article is basically saying that Restricted Calorie and Low Carb High Protein Diets a good for losing weight but not for long term health outcomes, and that a higher carb, low protein diet is better for longer term health – maybe a connection to less iron in the lower protein. The other article highlights the fact that the French are a lot more relaxed in their approach to eating food causing less stress and associated health issues.

    • Adrian on May 29, 2015 at 16:42

      The professor in the newspaper article also highlights that complex whole food carbs are what he is talking about.

  20. Rudegirl on June 2, 2015 at 06:48

    When I was pregnant, the health care system (in Sweden) monitored iron levels closely. I had low levels of iron and had to take iron supplements recommended by ”mother care”, and so did all of my friends who were pregnant around the same time, so it seems to be quite common. (However, I don’t know if pregnant women usually get iron supplements in other countries.)

    But what if it is ”on purpose” that iron levels decrease during pregnancy (since iron feeds pathogens)?

    And could iron supplements also cause overeating (and overweight) during pregnancy? I gained 30 kg! The weight you’re ”supposed to” put on is around 10 kg, I think.

    • Duck Dodgers on June 2, 2015 at 07:41

      It really comes down to hepcidin levels. And we can expect other factors like inflammation to influence hepcidin….

      Hepcidin and Iron Homeostasis during Pregnancy (2014)

      Hepcidin is the master regulator of systemic iron bioavailability in humans. This review examines primary research articles that assessed hepcidin during pregnancy and postpartum and report its relationship to maternal and infant iron status and birth outcomes; areas for future research are also discussed. A systematic search of the databases Medline and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health returned 16 primary research articles including 10 human and six animal studies. Collectively, the results indicate that hepcidin is lower during pregnancy than in a non-pregnant state, presumably to ensure greater iron bioavailability to the mother and fetus. Pregnant women with undetectable serum hepcidin transferred a greater quantity of maternally ingested iron to their fetus compared to women with detectable hepcidin, indicating that maternal hepcidin in part determines the iron bioavailability to the fetus. However, inflammatory states, including preeclampsia, malaria infection, and obesity were associated with higher hepcidin during pregnancy compared to healthy controls, suggesting that maternal and fetal iron bioavailability could be compromised in such conditions. Future studies should examine the relative contribution of maternal versus fetal hepcidin to the control of placental iron transfer as well as optimizing maternal and fetal iron bioavailability in pregnancies complicated by inflammation…

      …In high-risk pregnancies, such as those associated with inflammatory conditions (e.g., obesity or preeclampsia), hepcidin was elevated compared to healthy pregnancies. In obese women during the second trimester, hepcidin was higher than in lean controls and correlated positively with maternal CRP. In pregnant women with preeclampsia, plasma hepcidin, IL-6 and ferritin were all increased whereas mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentrations were decreased compared to healthy pregnant women. This is not surprising given that inflammation is a known regulator of hepcidin production and preeclampsia is an inflammatory state during pregnancy. Elevated maternal hepcidin during pregnancy would be expected to cause iron restriction and diminish iron availability for placental transfer. How this affects placental and fetal development is not known.

      So, we have pregnancies with normal hepcidin and pregnancies with elevated hepcidin. The elevated hepcidin would appear to be problematic.

      If one has inflammation that contributes to anemia of chronic disease during pregnancy, the body may be trying to intentionally sequester iron into tissues in order to keep iron in the blood low, so as not to feed the pathogens or contribute to whatever is causing the inflammation. In that case, the iron status of the fetus may suffer, but this may be done to protect the mother and fetus by discouraging further inflammation.

      Reducing the inflammation—that appears to be at the root of the problem—would seem to be an ideal course of action. But, of course, figuring out what is causing the inflammation may be difficult, particularly if iron-fortification may be responsible for the inflammation in the first place. So, as you can see, not only is it complex, but iron may even be part of the vicious cycle.

      (Anyone should feel free to correct me. This is just how I’m interpreting the hepcidin/pregnancy review I’ve linked to).

  21. jhnycmltly on June 24, 2015 at 04:34

    “Anyone should feel free to correct me. This is just how I’m interpreting the hepcidin/pregnancy review I’ve linked to”

    Dr. Sullivan, whom you mentioned, hypothesised the decrease in iron absorption by women during pregnancy was a natural means of lowering iron levels for the safe gestation of an egg / less oxidation. Giving them iron is a bad idea, or so he held.

  22. Wendi Johnson on August 10, 2016 at 07:13

    One thing that this article fails to point out is that most of the week consumed in France and Germany and many other European countries is non GMO wheat. The wheat consumed in America is very much GMO wheat. My mother and I have both been diagnosed with celiac disease. But if we eat wheat products in France we don’t have a problem.

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