How Food Enrichment Promotes Obesity (“The Theory of Everything” Wider and Deeper)


Another “Duck Dodgers” installment. For background, please also see: Iron, Food Enrichment and the Theory of Everything. That post primarily looked at iron fortification as problematic. This post takes a much deeper look at other fortified nutrients and their impact on satiation and body weight set point.

In 1980, wholesale grain lobbyists, led by the American Bakers Association, began an experiment on our food supply—one that would have far reaching effects on our lives and our health. They would engage in a “super-enrichment” of our food supply, and hardly anyone noticed.

Below, we will show that this health experiment artificially normalized our appetites for foods that we should have lost our appetites for—and it ultimately contributed to the American obesity epidemic in a way that few obesity researchers have ever considered.

Bon Appétit for Good Health

It may be hard for us to relate to, but during the 19th century people were said to be in good health when they had a good appetite. To say Bon appétit, was more than to wish someone a good meal—it was to wish them good health.

This is an important historical clue because, as we will see below, without artificial stimulations the human body has internal safeguards to prevent overindulgence, even when one lives a sedentary lifestyle and even when one attempts to rely on junk foods as food staples.

Sedentary Lifestyle = Loss of Appetite

Today, it’s commonly believed that a sedentary lifestyle promotes obesity. However, when 19th century Americans led a sedentary lifestyle, they tended to lose their appetites.

A cyclopædia of practical receipts and … information on the arts, manufactures, and trades (1880)

“Deficiency or loss of appetite…is a common consequence of sedentary life.”

How did they remedy such a loss of appetite? The cure was regular exercise.

The Physiology of Digestion (1836)

The fact of Nature having meant the inactive and indolent to eat and drink less than the busy and laborious, is established not only by the diminished appetite and impaired digestion of human beings who lead a sedentary life, as contrasted with the keen relish and rapid digestion usually attendant on active exertion in the open air, but on a yet broader scale by the analogy of other animals.

And we see this phenomenon repeatedly in 19th century texts.

The Influence of Civic Life, Sedentary Habits, and Intellectual Refinement, on Human Health, and Human Happiness (1820)

“A man, after full living, sedentary avocations, and irregular hours, begins to feel loss of appetite, head-ache, drowsiness, depression of spirits, fickleness of temper, with sense of fullness, and uneasiness on pressure in the right side…”

In order for our 19th century ancestors to eat poorly, or beyond their means, they usually needed to stimulate their appetites, in some way. Back then, loss of appetite was a telltale sign of poor health.

The New American Encyclopædia (1865)

…Extreme indulgence in confectionery, pastry, iced creams and sweetmeats, ruins both the teeth and the digestive organs; and yet the natural appetite craves none of these, or seldom and in small proportions…

…Sedentary life, in civilized society, requires, in many instances, a sort of artificial stimulus in food and drink, unnecessary to a person living and working in the open air.

Today, it is difficult for us to comprehend that the 1865 edition of The New American Encyclopædia says our natural appetite does not crave lots of refined sugar. You’d never guess, given the modern appetite. And the loss of appetite, from a sedentary lifestyle, appears again and again in the historical literature.

This all flies in the face of the “thrifty gene” hypothesis. We aren’t supposed to get fat when we become sedentary, we’re supposed to lose our appetites.

Refined Foods = Loss of Appetite

Many people today also think that eating a diet high in refined white flour causes obesity. But, would it surprise you that during the 19th century the opposite happened?

During the 1800s, Americans who ate too many refined foods came down with a condition known as “Dyspepsia.” Dyspepsia was a kind of indigestion—probably a combination of SIBO, deficiencies, and lack of dietary fiber. The hallmark symptoms of Dyspepsia was a loss of appetite and the cure was whole, fiber-rich foods such as Graham bread, and fiber-rich cereals, advocated by John Harvey Kellogg and his sanitarium.

The Cincinnati Lancet and Clinic, Volume 8; Volume 47 (1882)

“The appetite may remain intact in dyspepsia; but, as a rule, it decreases or disappears entirely.”


The Dyspepsia of phthisis (1894)

“In the early stages of the complaint, the appetite may present little or no deviation from the normal, but as the disease progresses it tends to diminish and may even disappear.”

Yet, today, the exact opposite happens. Americans no longer lose their appetites when they remain sedentary and eat lots of refined foods. Instead, they have extremely large appetites and become obese.

How can this be?

Using History Books to Solve a Dietary Mystery

The answer to this mystery lies in the nutritional discoveries made during the first half of the 20th century. Scientists during the 1920s knew that when animals are fed pure, nutritionless flours and refined grains as staples, those animals quickly lost their appetites. While adding brewer’s yeast, rich in B vitamins, quickly increased appetite and promoted beneficial weight gain. This strong appetite factor is actually responsible for the discovery of B vitamins.

Studies In Deficiency Disease, Chapter VI, by Sir Robert McCarrison (1921)

“Distaste and loathing of food, loss of appetite, and it may be also depraved appetite, are thus cardinal symptoms of deficiency disease, and their significance is great. They are due in part to the monotony of the food, but in the main to insufficient supply of vitamins, and of vitamin B in particular. Thus Osbourne and Mendel have found that if animals, fed on purified dietaries, free from this vitamin are given yeast separately, it increases their appetite for the deficient food, no doubt inconsequence of its high content of vitamin B. The well-known effect of yeast in improving the appetite in human beings is probably due to the same cause. Drummond finds the addition of this vitamin to a synthetic diet, causes a greatly increased intake of food and consequently increased rate of growth…The animals are impelled to eat more in order to satisfy the cells stimulated to growth by the vitamin. Vitamins are thus indirect stimulants of appetite, they induce the desire for food, and are, therefore, indirect stimulants of digestive juices. It seems to me that “loss of appetite” is one of the most fundamental signs of vitamin deprivation. It is a protective sign, the first danger signal of impending disaster. It should at once excite suspicion as to the quality of the food in any patient who may exhibit it.”

If you didn’t catch that, read it again. If animals try to rely on refined foods as staples, they will naturally lose their appetites. If researchers add vitamins to a synthetic, purified diet, it will “greatly” increase their appetite and intake for that refined diet.

After Thomas Osborne and Mendel discovered the effect between a “small daily dose” of B vitamins and appetite, Osborne later said…

The Water-Soluble Vitamine (1920)

“For a long time it has seemed that the problems presented by feeding our young rats were in many ways similar to those of infant feeding. Until Mendel and I learned how to supply the vitamines to young rats we had endless troubles which are now overcome.”


Osbourne and Mendel’s rats.

In other words, humans and animals have a natural tendency to become less hungry when fed deficient and nutritionless food. It’s an innate, protective mechanism to prevent the cravings of nutritionless staples. Recent studies continue to confirm this.

And this wasn’t an isolated finding with rats. In the early 1920s, George Cowgill found that B vitamins could increase the appetites of mice, rats, pigeons and dogs. He coined term “appetite vitamin” for vitamin B1 (thiamine). Small amounts of dried brewer’s yeast, were soon commonly added to the feeds of cattle. In order to get humans craving nutritionless foods, you have to fortify those foods with vitamins.

In 1933, Harris et al. published an exhaustive study observing the appetites of rats and vitamin-enriched foods. The experiments showed that rats deficient in B vitamins craved enriched foods—presumably due to the experience of the beneficial effects, and not the taste. When the diets contained more than the minimum amount of the vitamin, the deficient rats restricted themselves to the enriched diet exclusively. Furthermore, a rat not so depleted will eat enriched and non-enriched diets indiscriminately, until it begins to suffer from the vitamin deficiency, when it will also begin to exhibit the preference for the enriched food. The study also showed that the rats could be “educated” to eat the enriched foods if they couldn’t figure it out on their own.

In other words, enriching refined foods—and “educating” people to eat those foods—tricks the body into craving a food that it would otherwise lose its appetite for. And as we will see, below, this is exactly what the American Bakers Association did to Americans. Enriching white flour enables people to eat refined junk food.

Obesity Without Enrichment

Obviously one does not need food fortification in order to become obese, but in order for humans and animals to have a good appetite, the research shows that they must obtain appetite-normalizing vitamins from somewhere.

William Banting is perhaps one of the first well-documented examples of the relatively rare instance where someone could become obese on a diet of pure, non-enriched carbohydrates. Banting’s appetite notoriously increased when he exercised. And he satisfied it by eating lots of sugar and refined foods. But he did something else…

Banting had a habit of drinking beverages rich in Vitamin B with those nutritionless foods.

On corpulence in relation to disease, by William Harvey, 1872

“Mr. Banting became fatter as long as he lived what is called “low,” i.e., when he ate principally bread and potatoes, with the addition of large quantities of beer, milk, and sugar; whilst, when he lived “well,” i.e., principally on meat, he became thinner…”

Raw Milk and unclarified or unfiltered beer—as was the standard at the time—are good sources of B vitamins when consumed in large quantities, as he did. Banting fortified his diet, and he exercised, which allowed him to have an appetite for junk food.

So long as someone was obtaining sufficient B vitamins in their diet, they could have the appetite to eat whatever junk they wanted to. However, there are limited ways to do this in a non-enriched country: supplements, lots of meat, unclarified beer, or real whole foods. If you choose real whole plants / grains / legumes as your source of B vitamins, you have to eat a lot of them to obtain the sufficient dose, and they are full of satiating fiber. Perhaps nutrient-density isn’t all that helpful in some situations. Meat is relatively expensive and since obesity today tends to target people of low socioeconomic backgrounds, it seems unlikely that the lower class would able to afford to eat like King Henry VIII did.

Banting was wealthy enough to afford meat and lots of turbid beer, and these foods likely enabled him to eat as much refined foods and sugar as he wanted to. He lost weight when he removed refined carbohydrates, sugar and beer (and stopped exercising).

And during the 19th century, beer drinking was known to promote obesity in sedentary people.

The Effects of Beer Upon Those who Make and Drink it: A Statistical Sketch (1886)

Comparing height of body and breadth of chest with the weight…it will be found that, as a rule, brewery workmen, as has already been said, are not remarkable for obesity; on the contrary, the rare occurrence of weight that does not correspond with the size of the men is striking. It is reasonable to assume that the mode of life of brewery workmen accounts for this favorable showing,and that the same quantities of beer, if consumed by men of sedentary habits—shoemakers, for example—would produce different results.

So, you can see a pattern emerge. Whether you’re a farm animal, a rodent, or a human, you must acquire some source of B vitamins to maintain appetite—it doesn’t matter where the B vitamins come from so long as you obtain them to keep your appetite up. As Osbourne and Mendel, and countless other researchers showed, this is why the diets of farm animals and lab rat chow must be fortified. The subjects would not have the appetite and growth response from those purified foods otherwise.

A good example of this is in non-enriched countries that eat the most meat—which happens to be a good source of B vitamins—tend to have high obesity levels. Furthermore, studies show that meat consumption correlates with obesity. Eating lots of meat would enable people to obtain the vitamins to normalize an appetite for refined junk foods, without the need for enrichments. Nutrient-density may backfire by giving one too much freedom with their appetite.

You may recall in Gary Taubes’ book, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It he described Depression-era children who became obese on white bread. Just like Osbourne and Mendel’s rats, it would not have been possible for those children to have had the appetite to consume so much refined flour, without obtaining B vitamins from other sources (perhaps supplementary yeast cakes).

In farm animals, antibiotics and enrichments are used to stimulate growth, in part due to the ability of antibiotics to suppress microbes that compete with the host for fortified nutrients, and perhaps due to their potential to increase absorption of some minerals. It’s not a stretch to say that, during the American Obesity epidemic, we essentially became fattened farm animals.

Deficiencies Modulate Taste buds

Interestingly, nutritional deficiencies can physically change our taste buds. People who are deficient in minerals like zinc or copper cannot sense the offensive metallic taste in supplements, until they are no longer deficient. Even metabolic derangements can change our taste buds. Taste buds are supposed to crave what the body needs and and those cravings change with seasonal deficiencies. Enriching food interferes with this process as we end up craving the refined foods that are deleterious and lack the key anti-inflammatory micronutrients, such as Manganese and Copper, as well as the fiber and phytochemicals we need to be healthy.

The Enrichment-Obesity Connection

Dr. Shi-Sheng Zhou et al. have published six papers since 2010 linking food enrichment to the obesity epidemic and related metabolic diseases, including diabetes.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

In 2014 Zhou et al. wrote, “We therefore hypothesize that excess vitamins may play a causal role in the increased prevalence of obesity.” In their papers, they not only show strong correlations between enrichment levels and obesity trends in developed countries, but they also show that developed countries that do not fortify have much less obesity. (Non-fortified countries with high obesity either import a lot of fortified foods and/or eat a lot of meat, which is rich in B vitamins). Not only that, but Zhou et al. points out that obesity epidemics occur immediately after increases to enrichment levels.



Zhou et al. mentions a number of complex, controversial and unproven theories to explain the clear correlations between enrichment and obesity. Unfortunately, this may have led researchers to ignore these correlations.

But Zhou et al. also reported that early research on B vitamins showed that they were observed to be appetite stimulants. Occam’s Razor comes to mind, once again, and suggests the simplest explanation is probably the right one. Curiously this has all been overlooked by obesity researchers. So we decided to investigate and what we found cracked the case wide open.

The Enrichment of America

In the early days, bakers and consumers were generally against the idea of adding expensive vitamins to flour—it made flour more expensive. However, bakers certainly noticed that customers preferred the taste of bread made with brewer’s yeast.

At the turn of the 20th century Americans ate a high carbohydrate diet but were skinny and scrawny. If you wanted to be popular, you needed some curves. At the time, nearly every major magazine major magazine and newspaper in the country ran advertisements for a patent medicine known as “Ironized Yeast” to promote weight gain and appetite stimulation. To this day, some bodybuilders use brewer’s yeast to stimulate their appetites.


In the 1930s, vitamin yeast tablets were advertised for rapid weight gain.

A 1934 paper in JAMA doubted the need for these new yeast vitamin tablets, and dismissed the idea that iron deficiencies were common for those with varied diets.

Ironized Yeast A “Patent Medicine” of the Get-Plump-Quick Type (1934)

The facts are, of course, that as a medicine yeast has no important place except as a means of furnishing vitamin B, which ordinarily should be and would better be obtained from one’s food. As for a deficiency of iron, the average American dietary, rich as it is in meat, should make such a deficiency unnecessary if not improbable.”

Ironized yeast was believed to stimulate appetite because it was a rich source of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate. And the manufacturers added considerable quantities of iron to the yeast. The enrichments now added to refined grains are are thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate and iron.

When US food enrichments were first being proposed, it became clear that replenishing what was lost in the refining process was not the intention. Elmer McCollum discovered Vitamin A, Vitamin B complexes, and devised the naming system for vitamins. He soon realized that enriching foods was not about promoting health.

Nutritional Biochemistry and the Discovery of Vitamins: the Work of Elmer Verner McCollum (1917)

“McCollum was involved in many policy debates including one over the best strategy to fortify bread. He had shown, and publicized, that white bread was nutritionally deficient. With the development of synthetic vitamins, it was proposed that bread and flour be enriched with thiamin, niacin, and iron. This effort was lead by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council. McCollum was a member of the Board but disagreed and was strongly critical of the recommendation because supplementation with such nutrients failed to make up for all the losses suffered during milling wheat. As a result of his disagreement with the other members of the Board, his Board colleagues changed his status from Board member to panel member. As a panel member he was not invited to any of the Board meetings.”

McCollum was a great believer in nutrition through food and the importance of trace metals in the diet. He regarded drugstore vitamin pills and supplements as snake-oil quackery. And he was not alone. Many prominent scientists during his time were opposed to widespread fortification while those who backed fortification believed it was a temporary measure until more gradual education in the fundamentals of good nutrition, including the consumption of wholegrain foods, could take effect.

The Militarization of Food

Most of the technology for packaged junk food was developed by the US military. As a matter of national security, the technology to produce MREs is purposefully given away, for free, to the commercial food industry so that the cost will become cheap enough to produce it for the troops.

War and Pizza

“As a means of cost reduction, and as way to readily tap the private sector during wartime, the government has forged a series of public/private partnerships with commercial food producers. The military’s technology and influence can be seen in effectively every grocery aisle…There haven’t been many studies about the long-term health impacts of the specific food technologies pioneered by the military.”

America’s widespread enrichment began during WWII when the food industry was called upon, by the military, to start enriching US flour. Given that WWII soldiers had diets limited by combat rations, the US military enacted War Food Order Number 1, issued April 25, 1944, which required all military purchases of flour to be enriched.

British troops were given Marmite—a vitamin B yeast extract. The troops needed these vitamins when surviving on limited rations, often eating them for weeks at a time. Non-enriched militaries, like the Russians, simply ate wholemeal flours with excellent results. Many state mandated enrichment laws soon followed the military’s use of enriched foods.

US Bread Becomes Fattening

Only, there was just one problem. Over time, American bread became seen as fattening. By the 1950s the “Wheat Flour Institute” was running major advertisements telling people that enriched white bread was an ideal food for dieting and that thiamine was necessary for a “normal appetite.”


The campaign didn’t reverse the decline in carbohydrate consumption. Americans were replacing their carbohydrates with fat—often with linoleic acid—and their health was deteriorating. Health officials and lobbyists agreed that something needed to be done to reverse the trend.

Adjusted macro intake 1909-2006

Source: The Carbohydrate Hypothesis of Obesity: a Critical Examination

By the 1970s, lobbyists for the wholesale baking industry set out to fix the problem as they pressured the government to promote more grain consumption.

Goody!…U.S. Senate Panel Says We Should Eat More Bread (1977)

…”Bread has been falsely perceived as fattening, but that myth has been shattered by many nutritional studies including the research conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs and the Agriculture Research Service,” said Robert Wagner, president of the American Bakers Association.

The Senate panel noted that “bread consumption has been declining in the United States in part because it has been viewed incorrectly as fattening. Bread is of intermediate calorie density and relatively good source of protein.”

The concern over plummeting total carbohydrate intake over the 20th century was right there in the official Senate reports and in USDA studies leading up to the new 1980s Dietary Guidelines. The data showed that Americans had consumed roughly 56% carbs / 12% Protein / 32% Fat in 1909, and consumed even more carbohydrates during the 19th century.

The American Bakers Association

Founded in 1897, the American Bakers Association (ABA) is the lobbying group for the $102 billion wholesale baking industry, and if there were a single organization that was responsible for the destruction of traditional baking, they would be the prime suspect.

With a main office just a stone’s throw from Capitol Hill, their goal is to lobby congress, the FDA, the USDA and the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) to enable them to sell more white flour, sugar and junk food. They also lobby to undo healthcare reform.

By the 1970s the ABA had a problem with people eating significantly less carbohydrates each year. Little did they realize, it was their own adulterations and enrichments that caused grains to become a liability for Americans. While Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz tell us that increased carbohydrates caused American obesity, the fact of the matter is that complex carbohydrates alone couldn’t have caused the obesity epidemic because Americans were once scrawny eating a high carbohydrate diet. In fact, from 1889 to 1961, carbohydrate consumption in the US dropped by ~30%.


Meanwhile, this perception of bread being fattening wasn’t happening in European countries, like France, which has never fortified its flour with appetite-stimulating vitamins or adulterations.

By the 1960s, Americans were eating significantly less flour than their Western counterparts in Europe.


France continues to successfully sell more flour and baked goods because it cares a great deal about its traditional breads. In 1993, the French government passed the décret pain (Translation) to protect the strict definition of traditional breads and the purity of their ingredients. Adulterations and enrichments are not permitted.

Today, France consumes 40% more wheat per capita than Americans do, has maintained one of the lowest obesity rates of any developed country, for decades. They eat smaller portions and routine gym exercise is unpopular there.

The ABA Lobbies to Promote and Increase Enrichments

During the 1970s, the FDA was systematically being transformed through political maneuvers. In 1976, Congress overruled the FDA’s regulatory efforts with the passage of the Vitamins and Minerals Amendments. The new law prevented the FDA from classifying excessive levels of vitamins or minerals as a drug. At the time, the FDA viewed the industry’s use of enrichments as needless and irrational consumptions of added vitamins and minerals.

Next, the ABA was able to convince the FDA to triple iron enrichment levels—a move that was later rescinded due to an outcry from doctors.

The Enrichment Debate (1977)

“The iron super-enrichment controversy which has been simmering for several years shows signs of coming to a boil once again. Five years ago the Food and Drug Administration proposed to require a three-fold increase in the amount of iron presently added to bakery products. The American Bakers Association has renewed its request to the Food and Drug Commissioner this regulation while many physicians have steadfastly opposed the adoption of such a ruling.

In order to increase to FDA enrichments levels, sufficient information needed to be presented to identify the nutritional problem and the affected population groups. The FDA’s current policy does not specify that deficiencies be present in “a significant number of people” as recommended by the Food and Nutrition Board. So long as any deficiency exists, everyone can be dosed with the enrichment.

For instance, folic acid enrichment is now given to 318 million Americans solely to improve the folate status of pregnant women, to reduce Neural Tube Defects (NTDs). The policy is celebrated by the American Bakers Association for reducing NTDs by “36%”. However, in absolute terms, enrichment only reduces NTDs by 0.015%. Unfortunately, the policy may be ineffective, is believed to harm considerably more people than it helpsand it may also be increasing colon cancer..

In the 1970s, doctors knew that high levels of iron were toxic and inflammatory, while industry lobbyists wanted us to consume more enrichments. No one knew this better than William H. Crosby, one of the founding fathers of modern hematology, who wrote two public letters in JAMA[7][8] expressing his outrage for lobbyists who were pushing dangerous fortification guidelines. Crosby accused the FDA, and McGovern, of falsifying data in order to invent a non-existent anemia epidemic.

William H. Crosby (1975)

“…the data were manipulated to suggest a national catastrophe, especially in the area of anemia”[7]

“One nutritionist with whom the plans were discussed has written to me: “I was particularly pleased to see your criticism of the Ten-State Nutrition Survey. It was apparent from the protocol that there were no controls, or I should say random sampling techniques, for which I was very critical, and the response was simply, This is what McGovern wants.”[8]

Iron “super enrichment” was reversed in 1978 thanks to Crosby and others who were concerned about iron overload. However, in 1981, iron enrichment levels in flour was increased by approximately 25% and the amount of enriched products on the shelves began to skyrocket.


In 1994, cereal grain products provided more than 50% of the iron in the U.S. food supply. Today, enriched flour compares to whole wheat like this.


Grain manufacturers “super-enrich” refined foods with appetite-regulating B vitamins.
(Source: The Whole Grains Council)

A single slice of enriched white bread now has as much appetite-stimulating B vitamins as a medium sweet potato and more riboflavin and niacin than a cup of beans. These enrichments are specifically designed to enable people to eat refined foods as staples, which are rapidly digested and lack the satiating fiber and phytonutrients that are found in whole grains and complex carbohydrates. Moreover a diet that lacks fermentable fiber promotes diet-induced adiposity.

As the ABA was influencing the Dietary Guidelines during the 1970s, the ABA was simultaneously lobbying to significantly increase the FDA-suggested enrichment levels in wheat flour (rice enrichment levels did not increase). Next they made sure the Dietary Guidelines and Food Pyramid heavily promoted the consumption of those enriched grains.


The 1980 US Dietary Guidelines recommending enriched grains.

To this day, the ABA leads a group of 7 major grain lobbyists known as the “Grain Chain” whose primary mission is to get enriched grains perpetually included in the government’s official Dietary Guidelines, just as they did in 1980.

Bread is Broken

For thousands of years, traditional bread was made with a sourdough fermentation and it was considered a health food.

But now for almost a century, bakers have added brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) to flour to speed up the fermentation process. This strain of yeast was not only the source of the B vitamins that Osbourne & Mendel’s discovered, but the yeast imparts a umami flavor, and research in the 1940s showed that associating some B vitamins with a flavor can enhance their appetite-stimulating effect—especially if the enrichments are promoted and encouraged through an education program, as they are today.

In recent years, it’s become a fad to be wary of grains. Yet, few acknowledge that modern industrial grains are heavily processed into oblivion.

There is some hope, however, as many people are finally beginning to rediscover that real unadultured and traditionally milled whole grains can offer significant health benefits.

Only Three Developed Nations Enrich Their Grains

Enrichment in developed nations is not about curing widespread deficiencies—it’s about enabling people to eat more processed foods that they would otherwise lose their appetite for. It is done to sell more processed foods.

American mills and grain suppliers add enrichments to refined grains out of their own pockets and their own volition. The policy makes the products more expensive. It is not mandated by the US government (though it is mandated in the UK and Canada). It comes off looking like charity, but it should be obvious that the multi-billion food dollar industry does not spend large amounts of money influencing Washington and on enrichment machinery for charitable reasons.

Today, only three developed nations have widespread food fortification: The US, Canada and the UK.

Enrichments are banned in some European countries, like Denmark, and are prohibited by law in traditional French breads (French Bread Law / Le Décret Pain, 1993).

Developed countries have no need for fortification. Pellagra and Beriberi are almost non-existent in unfortified developed countries and NTDs are very rare, even without fortification.

The Iron Fortification Myth

There are no anemia epidemics in countries that ban fortification. Iron supplements are now known to be highly inflammatory in the gut even at low doses, and have been found to disrupt the microbiome. Most Westerners already have too much iron in their diets. Even low levels of iron fortification is known to promote inflammation in non-anemic men.

Solving iron’s solubility problem (2014)

…There are two major problems [with iron supplementation]. The chemical environment in the gut, particularly the rapid pH change from the acid of the stomach to the essentially neutral small intestine, as well as the presence of reducing agents like ascorbate, will promote redox cycling between the Fe(iii) and Fe(ii) states. Therefore, any iron that doesn’t get absorbed — which can be up to 70% of the content of a supplement tablet — can cause serious problems, since this redox cycling generates free hydroxyl radicals through Fenton-type chemistry, which leads to inflammation. The second problem is that any remaining soluble iron will travel to the lower bowel, where it is absorbed by pathogenic bacteria. ‘The iron-hungry pathogens can then outcompete the more favourable gut microflora,’ Pereira explains, ‘which is when you get side effects like diarrhoea.’

There is even some evidence that high iron intakes may increase appetite. Moreover, inflammation and obesity reduces iron absorption, furthering the unabsorbed iron enrichments to promote even more inflammation in the gut. It’s possible that this inflammation is not only reducing absorption of other micronutrients, but inflammation can also disrupt B vitamin metabolism, which interestingly, can be a feature of obesity. Increased iron intakes promote copper deficiencies—and copper is needed to reduce inflammation. However, copper is not one of the standard enrichments.

If iron fortification were actually about solving anemia, the food industry would have fortified with copper—it’s been known since at least the 1930s that iron deficiency anemia can be cured by increasing copper intakes, as copper is needed for iron utilization.

Too Much Zinc

It’s been long known that a zinc deficiency can promote anorexia. However, there may be another side of the spectrum. Zinc is added to breakfast cereals in large quantities. This started in the 1970s, shortly before the obesity epidemic. Zinc inhibits expression of uroguanylin, which is now known to be a satiety hormone.

This suggests zinc deficiency would cause anorexia, and indeed it does. It also causes poor growth and late puberty, which means zinc deficiency is unlikely to be common because poor growth and late puberty are not common. Puberty is actually too early these days. People are obese, not anorexic. So why does Big Food add all that zinc to breakfast cereals?

Big Food doesn’t care about our health. They fortify foods because they don’t want the consumers to lose their appetites for the refined foods they are selling us.

Not Enough Manganese or Copper

The food industry makes every effort to give us excess iron, even though most people in developed countries have too much iron. Iron can be highly inflammatory as it tends to oxidize in our bodies. The food industry cares very little about giving us manganese and copper, since deficiencies in these key minerals are silent killers that can go unnoticed and have little effect on our appetites, but which are also needed to keep iron in check.

The food industry cares very little about giving us these micronutrients, since deficiencies in these key minerals are silent killers that can go unnoticed and have little effect on our appetites.

A Government Corrupted and Unable To Curb Enrichments

In the United States, white flour, white rice, pasta and corn grits are all enriched. Soon after the revision of the 1980 US Dietary Guidelines, promoting enriched grains, came significant increases to the FDA’s suggested fortification levels of flour. Both iron fortification and B vitamins were increased significantly. Thiamine was increased ~28% from the previous average range. Niacin was increased ~33% from the previous average range. And iron was increased by ~38 increase from the previous average range. The industry also expanded enriched flour into virtually all wholesale refined grain products. The total amount of iron compounds in the US food supply increased by 19-fold from 1970 to 1987.


By that time, the American obesity epidemic was well on its way, later followed by increases in diabetes, as Zhou et al. showed in their published correlations. Unfortunately, the FDA has been rendered powerless to regulate the food industry’s abuse of enrichments:

The History and Future of Food Fortification in the United States: A Public Health Perspective (2002)

In 1980, the FDA published its final policy statement on food fortification, and emphasized that “FDA policy continues to be that current nutrition surveys show that widespread fortification of food is unnecessary…food fortification should provide consumers with a reasonable benefit without contributing to nutritional imbalance in the diet and without misleading consumers into believing that the consumption of a fortified food per se will ensure a complete or nutritionally sound diet.”

However, the new policies reflected the limits placed on the FDA by the Vitamins and Minerals Amendments, and were “expressed as a series of guidelines [italics added] which manufacturers are urged to follow…it is not intended to encourage widespread nutrient fortification of foods.” These 1980 guidelines remain the FDA’s definitive statement on food fortification to date…

…Today, federal regulation of food fortification has nearly returned to the pre-1938 situation. Juice drinks are fortified with b-carotene, tortilla chips with lutein, and breakfast cereals with 100% of the RDA of a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. With the major exception of the ability to remove dangerous products from the market and to regulate health claims on labels, the FDA has little authority to regulate industry-sponsored fortification. Not coincidentally, the nutrient content of the U.S. food supply has increased steadily since the 1960s, and much of this has occurred via essentially unregulated food fortification.

The FDA is supposed to make sure that food fortification does not promote nutritional imbalances. However, the ratios of today’s enrichments do not represent what is found in real foods. Far from it. For instance, manganese is needed to keep iron in check. Whole grains and granola have an iron to manganese ratio of 1:1, whereas many children’s cereals have an iron to manganese ratio of 20:1 or higher. It’s as if today’s enriched foods are intended to be inflammatory.

Vitamins and The Microbiota

Dr. Art Ayers thinks our gut flora may be able to produce the preponderance of B vitamins in a healthy diet, provided that the microbiome is adapted to that diet. A healthy diet and gut microbiota eliminates obesity. Vitamins are singled out in nutrition, because the body requires vitamins as enzyme cofactors. Professor Ayers says vitamins are so readily available from gut microbiota that vitamin availability is not totally dependent on the vagaries of diet.

Perhaps one example of this is that Japanese women were shown to have adequate folate levels despite having a diet poor in folate as well as a culture that tends to ignore recommendations for folate supplementation. It’s also worth noting that supplement companies also use bacteria to manufacture B vitamin supplements.

Indeed, vitamin supplements are a modern fad that were even shunned by the very people who discovered them. They are mainly useful for those with disrupted gut flora and poor diets. Ayers says the reason that vitamins are normally ubiquitous in the gut, is that vitamins are used by the microbiota in the biofilms lining the gut as quorum sensing signals. Not only do we crave the vitamins from foods, but since many of the soluble vitamins are used as communication molecules in bacterial/fungal biofilms, it’s plausible that mammals “sense” vitamins via their impact on gut biofilms. Thus, it is likely that supplemental vitamins will actually disrupt the signaling of intestinal biofilms and alter micronutrient metabolism. Gut biofilms act like the mycorrhizae fungi that control micronutrient uptake by the roots of plants.

Interestingly, it may be possible for high doses of supplemental vitamins to derange the metabolisms of offspring. This may be related to interactions in the maternal flora, or perhaps it’s the nature of epigenetics—your health can be determined by the actions of habits of your ancestors.

Successful Diets Avoid Fortification

It is interesting to note that nearly all successful diets avoid enriched flour. Even gluten free diets for non-celiacs—which only started in the US after 1950, when food enrichment became common, and shouldn’t even be needed for non-celiacs—may owe much of their popularity and purported success to simple enrichment avoidance. But don’t look now, the food industry is considering fortifying of refined gluten-free products.

Food Fortification Enables Obesity

Although Zhou, et al. have argued that vitamin enrichments caused the obesity epidemic, we aren’t so easily convinced the vitamins play such a direct causal role. However, the correlations are striking.

Occam’s Razor suggests a much more simple connection: significantly increasing vitamin enrichments in our food supply enabled the obesity epidemic by artificially normalizing our appetites for a refined and refined synthetic diet that we should have naturally lost our appetites for.

In other words, the food industry turned us into Osbourne and Mendel’s fortified lab rats and impelled us to eat a diet that our bodies wanted to reject. Had the 1980 US Dietary Guidelines simply encouraged Americans to eat whole grains, tubers and other real foods, none of this would have happened.

Food Fortification Destroys Dietary Traditions

The key to understand here is that enrichment eliminates the need for traditional foods. Ancient dietary traditions were carefully crafted, over millennia, to keep appetites up and promote good health.

The traditions did this by sourcing foods that tasted good and provided the nutrients needed to maintain an appetite. When some cultures relied heavily on refined grains—as the French and many Asian cultures have—their traditional foods make up for the losses by providing nutrients elsewhere in the diet. If they didn’t, people would simply not be able to have the appetites for those refined foods.

Without enrichments people who don’t eat properly come down with Dyspepsia and their bodies make it clear to them that they aren’t eating well.

Obesity is more rare in non-fortified populations because—supplements, lots of meat or large quantities of turbid beer aside—one has generally no choice but to acquire appetite-normalizing vitamins, from satiating sources, in order to have any appetite for junk food.

This is an important lesson for those involved with fortification projects in third-world countries, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). While it may seem admirable to cure micronutrient deficiencies, giving people synthetic vitamins results in the loss of ancient cooking traditions that were designed to provide nourishing staples. Food fortification enables populations to discard those traditions and eat junk food. Whether or not this is intentional or not is up to speculation.

Today, many third-world countries face a “double burden” of malnutrition and obesity. Obesity in those countries is often attributed to junk food, and greater access to meat, and the solution from these foundations is to throw more enrichments at the problem. While that may solve obvious deficiencies, it likely worsens obesity because one must have a source of B vitamins in order to have the appetite for junk food, and giving someone B vitamins enrichments easily allows them to discard their traditional cooking practices.

Fixing Grains

Now that we can more clearly see what happened to our grains in America, and how our food was turned into fortified rat chow, is there any hope for the US, Canada and the UK’s food supply?

In fact, there is. While much of Europe has shunned fortification and their populations only seem to enjoy better health and lower obesity because of it, there is a renewed interest in reviving traditional grains here in the US.

According to an upcoming documentary on the demise and grassroots renewal of our traditional baking practices, The Grain Divide: In 1880 there were about 24,000 commercial mills in the US. In 2014 there were only 200. Today, four companies control 80% of the market.

These few companies, in conjunction with the ABA’s lobbying, may have in fact played a significant, and perhaps deliberate, role in the American obesity epidemic—all in the name of selling more product. The American Bakers Association not only duped the government into allowing the super-enrichment of grains, but they also influenced the Dietary Guidelines to promote its own super-enriched refined foods, while increasing the production of those enriched foods to nearly all refined grains and junk food products. And, to this day, they remain vigilant in lobbying the DGAC to maintain the promotion and awareness of enriched foods while publically heralding enrichment as if it were one of man’s greatest achievements. It’s rather ingenious as anyone who opposes their business model is labeled a baby killer. They can even give money to politicians—make those politicians believe they are doing something good—and on paper a contribution from the American Bakers Association looks as harmless, and as American, as apple pie.

It was the perfect smokescreen as not a single obesity researcher, beyond Zhou et al, even realized it ever happened. Nor have any ever taken the time to distinguish the difference between, or control for, enriched foods and unadultered whole foods. Nor have any noticed that enrichments had skyrocketed after 1980. Almost everyone is oblivious to it and few even realize they are eating it.

But the good news is that we have a choice. 100% Whole Wheat flour is not fortified with synthetic vitamins and it comes with the full array of nutrients, fiber and phytochemicals needed to regulate health, appetite, and digestion. (Click the image to enlarge this one.)

Indeed whole grains are very health, only nobody would know it because less than 2% of the flour sold in the US is whole wheat and most of the whole wheat that is sold is overly processed.

What the US, the UK and Canada need now, more than ever, is a real bread campaign with support from consumers and without the influence of the American Bakers Association. Aside from banning enrichments, at the very least we need a décret pain to strictly define what a “traditional loaf” of bread can include: simply unadultered flour, salt, water and yeast or sourdough starter.

The beginnings of such a movement are already under way. A growing number of grist mills, especially in the Northeast, have been restored as people are waking up to the realization that minimally processed grains are essential to good health. That and a good appetite.

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. Matt on May 25, 2016 at 12:03

    Never fails to amaze me how simultaneously complex and simple the concept of diet can be.

    Hundreds of thousands of micronutrients working in different ways, and yet if you maintain a highly varied, whole foods diet, you have to pay almost 0 attention to it.

    As you all have shown, remove even a few sources of variation and replace with monotonous fortifications, and disaster strikes…

    • Richard Nikoley on May 25, 2016 at 12:12

      Reductionist, decromstuctionist, specialist hubris.

  2. thhq1 on May 25, 2016 at 12:56


    Stephan’s macronutrient graph isn’t consistent with USDA’s food availability data. Carbs and protein look about the same, but fat is MUCH too low. Stephen shows 1909 at about 800 kcal/day fat, rising to about 1000 kcal/day in 2006. USDA shows 1071 kcal/day fat in 1909, rising to 1710 kcal/day in 2010 using 9 kcal/g to convert. I’d like to see his explanation. He’s pretty consistent in 1909, but I don’t think he’s showing the true rise in fat consumption. Here’s the UADA data set.

  3. Tami on May 25, 2016 at 10:21

    I’m wondering what your thoughts are on vitamin supplements outside of fortified food. I have multiple MTHFR issues, and my regimen consists of L-Methylfolate, B-12, and a B-complex which has neither of the first 2. If the idea is that the excess vitamins are overstimulating the appetite, how does this work for someone who eats unprocessed foods and takes the supplements? In my case I have issues processing all the B vitamins, so I take specific supplements each day to combat the issue. I feel great, after years of struggling with depression (since childhood). However, I’ve also had some weight gain over the past year or two, regardless of diet and exercise. Could it be my excess B vitamins?

    • Richard Nikoley on May 25, 2016 at 10:43

      Hard to say, Tami.

      You have certainly identified a potential association but it’s up to you to account for variables and test the hypothesis.

      I’d suggest focussing on gut. That may modulate B vitamins in a balanced way.

    • Corey on May 25, 2016 at 13:00

      For what it’s worth, I too have the MTHFR issue, for which I take methylfolate and methylcobalamin. And on top of that I take large doses of niacin to treat my extremely high Lp(a) number (thanks to my parents for gifting me with this one).

      So reading this does raise a concern as you mentioned. I’m not overweight or obese, but I wonder how much of a role these vitamins play in my day to day appetite/metabolism. Of course I could try to cut them out for a while, but I think the benefits to my overall health outweigh any impact they might be having on my appetite.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 25, 2016 at 18:10


      Just to clarify, we never said that B vitamins over-stimulate the appetite to make people hungrier than they ought to be. We didn’t find good evidence to suggest that. What we said is that vitamins normalize the appetite so that you have the freedom to eat foods to you should otherwise lose your appetite for. Though, I doubt anyone knows what high doses will do.

      A few years ago I found out I was homozygous for the MTHFR mutation. At first I bought into the dogma that I needed to super-dose myself with methylfolate and methylcobalamin vitamins. That is, until they made me feel absolutely awful. At the time I believe I was suffering from candida and I discovered that candida is known to feast on methylfolate (actually many are known to microbes compete for it). When I stopped the supplementation I felt much better.

      This isn’t medical advice, but my personal opinion is that doctors who advocate lots of bioavailable B vitamins based on genetic tests may be barking up the wrong tree. It depends on the condition and the individual, of course. Companies use bacteria and other microbes to manufacture and sell us methylfolate. However, if we can have a healthy gut (a big IF, I know), then we have the ability to make a methylfolate factory in our guts.

      But, if we dose ourselves with lots of methylfolate supplements, then my uneducated guess is that our gut bugs stop making their own methylfolate, since it is so freely available from external sources. And then perhaps supplemented methylfolate just becomes a free for all, like feeding fish in an aquarium.

      I think folate from natural foods is very different. When one eats beans, whole grains, or plants rich in folate, they are also eating the natural anti-fungal and antimicrobial compounds that are present in the foods. Wild guess: perhaps these compounds help prevent microbes from stealing dietary methylfolate. The microbes can eat the fiber and make extra methylfolate.

      So, it may be that eating real sources of methylfolate and fiber allow even those with MTHFR mutations to thrive, if their guts are healthy.

      The reason I think that is because MTHFR mutations are really common and in fact they are so common that it seems extremely unlikely that those mutations would have been deleterious for so many of our ancestors who also had to have had them without doctors giving them pills and whatnot. There are too many people walking around, doing relatively fine, with these mutations for them all to need such advice.

      Up until the 20th century most of our European ancestors got their folate from grains and legume.

      American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge, Volume 2, edited by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Elizabeth Manning Hawthorne (1836)

      “There is a singular disproportion between the quantities of bread consumed in France and in England; in the former country, it is computed that each person eats, including what is taken with soup, two pounds and a quarter of bread per day; while in England, the average quantity is thirteen ounces.”

      And they ate lots of potatoes too! If they ate whole wheat, they would have had gotten ample RS and folate. I’ve been eating a lot of whole wheat for the past 6 months, as a peasant-like diet, and feeling quite good, without any B vitamin supplements. YMMV, of course.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 29, 2016 at 12:44

      Kati, I think most, if not all, of the fear of carbs and grains comes mainly from smart people who never bothered to look into the massive amounts of adulterations and refinements of processed carbohydates as the major factor for modern health issues. It’s either lazy science or blatant demonization.

      So, people cut out these processed carbs, and they feel better and then they conclude that carbs or wheat must have been the problem. But, high starch diets, (Kepner/Pritikin/McDougal/peasant diets, etc) and high carb ancestral diets that provide ample RS, prove otherwise.

      People will do anything to demonize carbohydrates, but it only takes a deeper look to see that low carb fanatics aren’t telling the whole story.

      For instance, it’s popular these days to demonize wheat. They tell us Borlaug’s modern wheat is dangerous and causes all sorts of diseases—nevermind that countries like Pakistan (whom the wheat was made for) eat at diet of 70% of their calories from Borlaug’s modern wheat, with one of the lowest obesity rates in the world (5.5%). Obviously the wheat itself doesn’t cause obesity. It’s something else.

      Or people will say that wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) is supposedly toxic, without acknowledging that cooking destroys WGA, low levels of WGA are tolerated by humans and WGA has been shown to have anti-cancer properties:

      Effects of wheat germ agglutinin on human gastrointestinal epithelium: insights from an experimental model of immune/epithelial cell interaction. (2009)

      Indeed, experimental work carried out in vivo has shown that within a huge range of concentrations WGA is non-toxic, its toxicity for the normal gastrointestinal tract occurring at doses much higher (7 g WGA/kg bodyweight over a 10-day period) than those ingested in a regular human diet ([Pusztai et al., 1993] and [Dalla Pellegrina et al., 2005])…Within this concentration range, however, WGA is cytotoxic for human colon cancer cells (Pusztai et al., 1993).

      Sounds like WGA might be rather good for you, don’t you think?

      As for getting more folate, our ancestors would have easily gotten 100% RDA of folate from roughly a whole foods peasant diet—a few eggs, a pound of whole wheat bread and a small serving of beans. Since so many of our ancestors had to have had these MTHFR mutations, I do not see how normal consumption of whole foods would not be adequate.

      Sometimes I think if all these genetics tests are just looking for excuses and fad diets to excuse the health issues caused by a modern and processed diet.

      As for how to lose weight… a “meatavore diet” would be high in zinc, high in iron and low in manganese and copper (high zinc antagonizes copper). Besides the well known issues with iron, in the article above we showed evidence that high zinc suppresses the satiety hormone uroguanylin. I suspect this is one of the reason high meat diets are associated with weight gain.

      This isn’t medical advice, but high meat diets have never been shown to be healthy over the long term. I’d be willing to be that if you switched to a low meat, low fat high-RS peasant diet of whole grains and tubers and just walked 10,000 steps per day (get a FitBit), you’d find yourself more satiated and able to walk off the pounds. You’d also be surprised just how much protein is in some whole grains. So, much that you barely need any meat. Just make sure you get your B12 from dairy and swiss cheese is an excellent source.

    • Kati on May 29, 2016 at 06:55

      I’m very interested in any additional insights into MTHFR also, as everyone in my family has varying degrees of defect. DD, you are correct about it being super common. Is there anyway to know if mental health has regressed in our population due to this gene variant and fortification? I know that I feel better without the methyl b supplementation, but want them to work. :/ I have been changing our family diet to include more and more legumes, greens and tubers, with occasional gf bread. I feel better than I did as a child when I routinely ate fortified foods, but have so many questions that my health care professionals can’t answer at this point, like COMT variant that makes it harder to use methyl groups, how much natural folate do we need in a day with MTHFR, etc.
      I have been sucking up info from all the DD posts and am now not afraid of carbs, and scaling back on my mainly meatavore way of eating. Next question will be how to lose weight (hahaha, I think I already know).
      Thanks for the post and food for thought in the comments.

  4. Tim Steele on May 25, 2016 at 11:21

    Great job, Duck! There is a fine line between “needing to gain weight” and “becoming obese.” Lots of animal studies on RS showed that the animals gain weight when fed RS, this led to many people hyperventillating: See! RS makes you fat! Yet, in animal husbandry, getting animals to market weight faster is the name of the game and young animals are supposed to gain weight quickly, otherwise they need to use antibiotics, growth hormones, and worse.

    I think that somewhere along the line, humans lost sight of helping people grow strong and healthy with a good appetite and instead the food manufacturers found ways to make their foods addictive and make people want to shovel them in their mouth by the handful.

    I’m starting to see more of the “just eat real food” movement getting popular attention. Kids need to get away from breakfast cereal, Pop-Tarts, and whatever else passes for breakfast now, as a good start.

    Thanks for the time you put into all this!

  5. Mycroft Jones on May 25, 2016 at 12:55

    Holy shit. I’m writing a little book on honey bees. This material ties in directly. I will be referencing this article! The competition between beekeepers is so fierce that they are now feeding their bees year round. What? Sugar. And… pollen patty. Pollen patty is largely made up of brewers yeast! We’ve been doing this for years. No wonder the bees are going bonkers and dying off in droves.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 25, 2016 at 13:13

      Are you suggesting hive collapse might be more attributable to human intervention in terms of food enrichment or supplementation?

      If so, fucking wow.

    • Mycroft Jones on May 25, 2016 at 13:31

      It fits. Bee metabolism has a lot in common with mammal metabolism.

      It isn’t the only thing, but it is now in my top three list of epigenetic triggers. The other two:

      Inbreeding. Decades and decades of it. Almost all commercial and package bees come from a small pool of 600 queens. That might be ok for a human population (barely) but bees need much more diversity; a hive needs sperm from about 15 different hives to be healthy. The Africanized honeybee actually bought us a few more years.

      And, AIDS. We gave the bees AIDS in the 1980’s, same time it was getting big among humans. However, honeybee AIDS doesn’t come from HIV. 150 years ago a little spider called the Book Scorpion, was known as “the bees best friend”. In the 1980’s, a few hives were dying from tracheal mite. So pretty much everyone started chemically treating their hives. Book Scorpion is super sensitive to bee medicines. They die within minutes of medicine application. Immediately after tracheal mite was brought under control, varroa came out of nowhere, killing up to 90% of hives. Took years, but now beekeepers have a set of chemicals that mostly keep varroa under control. And you know what? Now suddenly Small Hive Beetle is moving in and wiping out hives. As soon as one thing is under control, another comes along. But… a German schoolteacher was reading an old beekeeping book a few years ago and discovered the Book Scorpion. He put some in his hive, and found it stayed alive without medicine. Turns out the Bees Best Friend is its immune system. It eats the eggs and larvae of the mites and parasites that attack it. Even brand new ones that never used to attack bees; varroa, small hive Beetle, and who knows what else will come along in the future. Just as the honey bird cooperates with humans, Book Scorpion and Bees are on first name friendly basis with each other.

      But these yeast cakes we’ve been feeding bees year round (I’m guilty too) are yet another stressor; bees eating sugar instead of honey, lacking the micronutrients and enzymes. A diet of non-stop “white bread” compared to their proper diet.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 25, 2016 at 13:50

      That is reminiscent of my salt water aquarium days. I had many, both fish and reef. The reef are far more difficult, but it’s worth it.

      It takes a lot of attention to keep an entire ocean in balance in a hundred gallons of salt water.

    • Gemma on May 25, 2016 at 21:34


      don’t bees need trehalose (mushroom sugar)?

    • Resurgent on May 26, 2016 at 10:11

      W O W…!!

    • Duck Dodgers on February 17, 2017 at 19:23

      Turns out someone else noticed this:

      Save the Honeybee, Sterilize the Earth

      Bees can also become malnourished from foraging in monocultural conditions, as opposed to natural habitats or even cities, where parks and gardens provide diverse sources of pollen. At the Beekeeping Federation conference last winter in Baton Rouge, Pettis explained that even pollinating a crop like almonds, which provide abundant and nutritious pollen, is “like living on nothing but broccoli” — in other words, not a balanced diet. And that’s during the two weeks the crop is in bloom; before and after, the bees must rely heavily on artificial supplements, usually mixtures of brewer’s yeast, sugar, and vitamins. The feeds provide protein when natural pollen is scarce, but they aren’t yet as good as the real thing, and bees can’t live on them alone. Weakened by pesticides and malnutrition, bees are likelier to succumb to disease…

      So, bees are supplemented, which enables them to eat a limited diet they weren’t really meant to eat. And it makes them weak and more susceptible to other stressors.

  6. Thad C. on May 25, 2016 at 12:57

    Very informative article. Excellent hypothesis, now comparisons with other cultural diets exhibiting a similar French paradox such as Asian (rice) and Italian (pasta) start to make more sense. I have always noticed my cravings for junk processed food and really appetite in general diminishing when I went strict Paleo, this could be key. Looking forward to experimenting with only home made sourdough bread and potatoes added back and seeing what kind of effect it will have with cravings and body fat.

    • Thad C. on May 25, 2016 at 13:19

      Just an FYI you can buy flours that are not enriched in the US, you just have to pay special attention to the ingredients and Nutrition Data. Health Food stores typically have a few choices.

    • Thhq on May 25, 2016 at 15:37

      When Keys left Minneapolis to live out his life in Italy he left fortified flour behind. Who knew? You can’t possibly guess all the differences in making a complete cultural change like that. He ate the local bread and pasta and was healthy until he was well into his 90’s.

  7. Runsalot on May 25, 2016 at 13:12

    Bravo! I thing is a brilliant article which obviously took lots of research and thought. We can all benefit from your hard work. Thank you so much.
    Richard and others have got me interested in bread making with whole wheat flour. However, the French seem only interested in using unadulterated flour, not whole wheat flour. My guess is that whole wheat flour is better but more difficult to work with. I gather that simply using unfortified flour is enough. Is that correct?

    • Richard Nikoley on May 25, 2016 at 13:15

      Runs a lot

      I think that is essentially correct. Fortification is a bigger deal than processed in this context.

  8. Alex on May 25, 2016 at 13:52

    You know, in light of this article, it’s fascinating to see the number of people on the Ray Peat Forum who simultaneously eschew fiber and supplement B vitamins at the same time….

  9. Gabriel on May 25, 2016 at 16:17

    I’m enjoying this post immensely. I’m taking the time to read each link and mull it all over. Really, well done.

  10. thhq1 on May 25, 2016 at 18:20

    I can buy certain aspects of the Vitamin B Enrichment Theory of Obesity. I became obese eating huge amounts of Raisin Bran and Frosted Mini Wheats. The extra vitamin B may have been a stimulant to eat more. But it wasn’t the only stimulant. I had an unlimited supply of these cereals that I had gotten for free. On the back of each box was a coupon, and sending in 5 coupons got me a free DVD. So I was incentivized to empty boxes quickly by something other than enhanced hunger. In the end I ate at least 6 cases of 12 boxes, judging from the number of DVD’s I amassed. In addition to that, the cereals were also tasty because they were sweet. All that healthy fiber, and all those vitamins, and all for free…how could I possibly lose by eating more?

    This orgy of cereal eating probably lasted six months. I didn’t keep track. But my doctor did. He looked at my blood tests, particularly the 200 fasting glucose, and my weight. He asked me “What did you do to screw up your diet?” and told me I had diabetes. I haven’t eaten a bowl of Raisin Bran or Frosted Mini Wheats since.

    Like I say, I can believe that the excess vitamins were part of this, but I can’t believe that it’s the whole story. I still tend toward obesity being caused by the chips. Neither corn nor potato chips are fortified the way wheat flour is. I couldn’t see that potato chips were enriched at all. Calorie density, packaging, flavor, freshness, crunch, salt, mouth feel, etc. are separate factors from the B vitamin triggering effect from eating the slice of enriched bread toast or bowl of MiniWheats for breakfast.

    Then there’s the enriched flour in the pizza dough. Pizza has enough unstable elements to create its own nutritional Chernobyl.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 25, 2016 at 19:01

      For the record, we didn’t say that B vitamin enrichments over-stimulate the appetite. That’s not what we are saying here.

      What we are saying is that B vitamins simply normalize the appetite for foods that we would otherwise lose our appetites for—and those foods are typically refined to be low in fiber and less satiating. Whereas in non-fortified countries, you generally have to fill up on real foods to obtain these appetite-normalizing vitamins in order to have an appetite for such foods, and by that point you’re usually already full.

      That’s not particularly controversial. It’s rather obvious actually, (i.e. give someone an easy source of vitamins and they no longer need to seek them from real foods).

    • thhq on May 25, 2016 at 19:50

      It might be obvious to you, but how could you prove it? It would be like herding cats IMO.

      The foods that supply the enriched B vitamins tend to be the ones that are low in fiber and less satiating. So you have a possible explanation for gorging on bread and enriched rice….not a big concern since no one gorges on those….but pizza…hmmm. The B vitamins in the crust reduce the satiating power of pizza? If I started eating pizza on 100% unenriched whole wheat crust I’d give up after one slice because I lost my appetite for it?

      Living in the unenriched flour-land of France for over a year I had no problems downing whole pizzas, ile flottantes, frites, pasta, chocolate mousse, tarts, etc. every day of the week, and I lost weight. But I was also walking 2-3 hours a day. I ate because I was hungry.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 26, 2016 at 07:39

      “but how could you prove it?”

      I’m not sure I follow. The early studies with animals already proved that animals naturally gravitate towards enriched foods. What the studies seemed to show is that the animals remembered which enriched foods made them feel good and they associated the taste of those foods with the beneficial effects of the enrichments. The researchers were also able to trick the animals into eating the wrong foods once an association had been made, which proved that the animals were simply going by memory of which foods had previously made them feel good. The studies very clearly showed that the enrichments were a significant part of the food preference.

      When the enrichments were not in the purified diets, the animals would simply gravitate towards other foods that had vitamins in them, particularly as they became deficient in those vitamins. You will notice that most enriched junk food has high palatability and is often spiked with umami flavorings (Rice-a-Roni is one example). Based on the research with animals we cited, this seems to be done so that the effects from the nutrients are associated in the brain with a specific flavoring. It is also interesting to note that American bakers uniformly switched to quick-rise yeasts that also have distinct umami flavorings and noticed that people preferred the taste, as cited in the article.

      For more examples, I’d recommend you read the Men’s Health Journal article.

      “So you have a possible explanation for gorging on bread and enriched rice….not a big concern since no one gorges on those….but pizza…hmmm. The B vitamins in the crust reduce the satiating power of pizza? If I started eating pizza on 100% unenriched whole wheat crust I’d give up after one slice because I lost my appetite for it?”

      The “satiating power of pizza”? lol.

      Whole grains are well known to have satiating effects and lower palatability.

      Whole Grains and Health: Perspective for Asian Indians (2009)

      “Several factors may explain the influence of whole grains on body-weight regulation. The high volume, low-energy density and the relatively lower palatability of whole grain foods may promote satiation. Additionally, whole grains may enhance satiety for up to several hours following a meal. Grains rich in viscous soluble fibre (for example, oats and barley) tend to increase intraluminal viscosity, prolong gastric emptying time, and slow nutrient absorption in the small intestine. Newby et al.[14] report that a healthy eating pattern, including the consumption of whole grains, is
      associated with smaller gains in body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) in the ongoing Baltimore longitudinal study of aging”[15]

      “I was also walking 2-3 hours a day. I ate because I was hungry.”

      Yes. Exercise is key to having a good appetite.

    • halibetlector on June 12, 2016 at 09:11

      The B vitamins in the crust reduce the satiating power of pizza? If I started eating pizza on 100% unenriched whole wheat crust I’d give up after one slice because I lost my appetite for it?

      It may sound ridiculous, but I performed that exact same experiment about 6 months ago. I got some unenriched Italian flour through amazon and used it to make pizza and bread. My overall consumption went down. I can eat a whole pizza in one sitting, but made with unenriched flour I’m full after 2 slices. Ditto with sandwiches; I used to eat 2 at a time, now I barely finish one. My overall desire to snack went down too, though it didn’t go away completely (I blame that on my sugar and/or “natural flavoring” addiction, ala abdada).

      The important thing to note is that this is an overall effect over time. You’re not going to eat a slice of pizza and immediately feel full. You have to commit to not eating enriched wheat of any kind and even then it took me about 2 weeks before I noticed my food consumption go down.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 12, 2016 at 09:18


      Dude or dudess, you have understood everything. So with you on this. I can make biscuits, muffins, even cookies with whole grain flour (Bob’s, currently) and have one, two at most…where I can eat a dozen of the various stuff made with package mixes, frozen cookie dough, etc.

      As for sandwiches with whole grain bread? I typically make a half of sandwich.

      No joke.

      And check this out as another factor:

      Make sure to watch the video.

    • thhq on June 12, 2016 at 10:18

      And now we come to frozen cookie dough in the twists and turns of this thread…

      Chocolate chip cookie dough was, and is, one of my favorite foods. Cookies themselves are an imperfect method of preserving the dough IMO. And having a relatively cast iron stomach I’ve never gotten sick eating the dough.

      In an attempt to make this high energy density junk food healthier, I use half olive oil half butter for the fat (Crisco was gone years ago). The use of oil increases the need for flour, which is straight 100% Bob’s stone ground whole wheat. If eaten raw the flour is nearly indigestible and IMO functions more like fiber in the GI, and lowers the carb load (unless you bake it). The olive oil wets out the surface of the extra dark chocolate chips, which has the strange effect of intensifying their flavor, but also causing them to pop out of the dough. The salt I use is coarse grain sea salt, which does not dissolve into the dough and gives it a kick. Finally I use plenty of the best vanilla I can afford.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 12, 2016 at 11:05

      Not a fan, but at least you’re making your own and doing it right.

  11. Duck Dodgers on May 25, 2016 at 19:48

    Just found out that Men’s Journal published a short article about this at the end of 2015.

    Men’s Journal: More Nutrients, Less Nutrition: The Truth About Fortified Foods (2015)

    “We never stop to think about it, but if you want an animal or a human to get fat quickly,” Provenza says, “you can’t do it without vitamins.”

    So, looks like this idea is already gaining acceptance in some mainstream publications. They didn’t uncover as much evidence as we did, but they found a few things we hadn’t come across. Decent article.

    • Thhq on May 27, 2016 at 08:04

      Ironic this would show up in Men’s Health, since male bodybuilders supplement with B like crazy. The intent is muscle vs lard growth, and marketed that way.

      But if you’re a sedentary adult maybe not so much muscle. Consider these mature pigs

      Extra B supplementation = thicker back fat

  12. thhq on May 25, 2016 at 21:25

    Thiamine deficiency is associated with loss of appetite, but that is fixed with a pork chop as well as with whole grains. Loss of appetite is more an issue of extreme deficiency. To show that excessive thiamine intake normalizes higher appetite you’d need a response curve, or a control group vs high dose group.

    Googling isn’t helping me develop a case for reducing thiamine as a tool to suppress appetite. I can’t paste links with this device unfortunately, but found a Spanish study showing thiamine depletion on hypocaloric diets and a benefit to the dieters by eating fortified breakfast cereals to increase thiamine levels. That would seem counterintuitive. If thiamine promotes appetite, why would supplementing benefit a hungry dieter?

    • Duck Dodgers on May 26, 2016 at 14:04

      “It was not hard to find that thiamine (among other vitamins and minerals) deficiency is common among obese patients, and supplementation is necessary to avoid the diseases of deficiency”

      Yes. We found that too. And for awhile it made me wonder if obese patients with deficiencies are craving enriched foods because of such deficiencies. One study mentioned the obvious fact that the larger obese people get, the more B vitamins they need. Zhou argues they are overloaded with vitamins due to methylation methylation issues, which interestingly, we found are dependent on copper. But, at the end of the day, all we know is that obese people have disrupted B vitamin metabolisms. It became too convoluted and Occam’s Razor reminded us of a much easier explanation.

      “It would be irresponsible to create a scare around B vitamins similar to the fructose panic.”

      ?? No one here is trying to create a scare around B vitamins. I really don’t understand why you’re implying that. All we are suggesting is that people shouldn’t get B vitamins from junk food (duh). Get your vitamins from real foods.

      “Finally, Aussies have been taking massive doses of B vitamins, eating Marmite sandwiches and guzzling beer, for years without an obesity epidemic. Colpo bemoaned this trend recently on his blog.”

      Huh? You must be joking.

      Australia has a 26% obesity rate. That’s very high and is on par with the UK and Canada. Australia also has one of the highest meat intakes in the world and nearly 70% of the adult population is overweight.

      Also, not sure where you think Colpo said that. On March 3rd, 2016, Colpo wrote, “Like the US, Australians suffer unusually high rates of obesity and eagerly embrace all manner of fad diets and health scams.”

      Where are you getting your info from?

    • thhq1 on May 26, 2016 at 12:20

      Here’s the Spanish weight loss study.

      It was not hard to find that thiamine (among other vitamins and minerals) deficiency is common among obese patients, and supplementation is necessary to avoid the diseases of deficiency. Here’s a good summary

      “Such findings may explain the apparent paradox that obese people may present with micronutrient defi- ciencies. An assessment of 232 morbidly obese subjects (BMI>35) showed deficiencies in ferritin (6.9%), hemoglobin (6.9%), vitamin B12 (18.1%) and folate (3.4%) [22]. Prevalence of anemia (in women only) significantly increased with BMI [22]. In another study by Schweiger et al. of 114 obese patients showed the prevalence of pre-operative nutritional deficiencies were: 35% for iron, 24% for folic acid and 6% for vitamin B12. In addition to this Hb and MCV (Mean Corpuscular Volume) levels were low in 19% [23].”


      Further, excess thiamine is excreted. So at least with obese people the major concern is avoiding deficiency rather than avoiding surfeits. It would be irresponsible to create a scare around B vitamins similar to the fructose panic.

      Finally, Aussies have been taking massive doses of B vitamins, eating Marmite sandwiches and guzzling beer, for years without an obesity epidemic. Colpo bemoaned this trend recently on his blog.

    • thhq1 on May 26, 2016 at 14:35

      Colpo says a lot of stuff, you just have to read more of his posts. In his December Sweet Stupidity post ripping Lustig, this is what I was recalling:

      “Yep, the old image of us Aussies as sun-bronzed, sports-loving, outdoor-dwelling people has, most regrettably, given way to a far less appealing reality: Australians are now one of the most obese populations in the world. In an extensive survey of 188 countries published in Lancet in 2014, Australia ranked as the world’s 25th fattest country (Tonga received the dubious honour of #1 spot, while the US came in 16th)[9].”

      Sounds like he’s bemoaning the good old days…and it was vegemite sandwiches that Men at Work were singing about (same stuff wrong country)…Colpo quotes the same lyrics…a nation fueled by Vitamin B if they can keep from chundering it…

      Buying bread from a man in Brussels,
      He was six foot four
      And full of muscles.
      I said, “Do you speak-a my language?”.
      He just smiled, and gave [ME] a vegemite sandwich.
      And he said, ” I come from a land down under,
      Where beer does flow, and men chunder
      Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
      You better run, you better take cover.”

      Regarding a B scare, I say that because some people take things the wrong way. If someone says B vitamins are bad, there is a certain segment of the population that will throw out their B vitamins and become B-orexic. Some of them need to be on them, but the idea appeals to a fanatic vegan/paleo/Atkins mindset I’ve seen a lot of over the past 10 years. They’ll miss the part about whole foods completely….way too subtle and difficult and animals might be harmed, etc etc etc.

  13. Thhq on May 26, 2016 at 07:05

    I’m still going with social norms, satiety and sedentarism as lead arguments. Thiamine excess is like fructose. A facile argument that leaves us as victims of shady interests. That’s not good enough. Lawyers fighting Cargill or the USDA will only produce more lobbyists, executive actions and spending.

    Not that clever nutrition scientists aren’t major factors. Take a look at the fullness factor.

    Clustered at the low fullness end are cookies, chips, cake and donuts. White bread is the low end reference, but is much better than the others because it’s not nearly as calorie-dense. That comes primarily from added fats that white bread doesn’t contain.

    Now add social norms and sedentarism to the mix. When I see empty chip bags around school grounds I read 60% fat, 35% carbs and 5% protein. This is a much bigger issue than mom packing the satiating, same-calories, tuna sandwich on white vs wholegrain unenriched bread. The tuna sandwich was gone in the 60’s when mom ran out of time.

    Sedentarism. I’ll be brief. Our digestive systems are better at processing 2500 calories than 1500. If you’re sedentary 1500 is all you need. You can’t eat the 2500 which produces satiation without becoming fat. Been there done that.

    • thhq on May 26, 2016 at 08:45

      Or mom ran out altogether and went to work for Huffpost for the big bucks. Children don’t do that well at choosing the best nutritious foods on their own. They are also creatures of habit and if they are subjected to supervision by occasional parents drinking beer and chardonnay, eating chips and googling ad libidum they will do the same.

      French children that I saw when I was there were subjected to the sort of controlling influences that went away in the US in the 50’s. School was tedious and hard. Meals were at mealtime. It was surprising to see children that liked pate and foie gras. They knew they were special treats.

    • GTR on May 30, 2016 at 03:37

      It’s not only the macronutritients in chips. One of the reasons that chips are fattening is that salt is added to them. Salt leads to overconsumption. Official published science has it recognized now:

      This has been known by junk food scientists for a long time, and some of it described in a book by Michael Moss, called “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us”. Even the title suggests sodium is an important part of this trinity.

      Notice salt is not just for taste, but that sodium (wchich can also come from MSG) participates in important processes in the organism, eg. sodium-potassium pumps. Excess sodium can mess things up.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 30, 2016 at 07:28

      I agree salt and perhaps other seasonings play a role, GTR. In fact, my original “Paleo” foray years ago did something to both my dad and I. We lost our taste for salty stuff. Even bacon. I hardly ever eat it and some brands literally taste like salt to me and little else. I’m more inclined now to use bacon itself in small bits or portions as an enhancement, not something to just eat by itself.

      And it has persisted. Has never come back and now I use salt only very sparingly.

  14. Victoria West on May 26, 2016 at 09:19

    So I am very fond of brewers yeast – I add it to my salads most days. Is this increasing my appetite? I am overweight, but I also have very nice hair and skin which I in part attributed to B vitamins.
    I would love to be able to eat bread again without guilt.

  15. John Brisson on May 26, 2016 at 11:56

    Great article and I agree with most points. My only issue is that you stated there is not enough manganese in the diet. In fact, for most Americans this is not the case, there is way too much. Manganese is needed for the production of SOD enzymes and enzymes required for gluconeogenesis, that is correct, BUT too much of it has shown to cause neurotoxicity issues. Paul Jaminet has written a lot about it in the Perfect Health Diet, and I did on my website.

    We ingest a lot of manganese through our water supplies. Most multivitamins contain way too much.

    Excessive iron in an enriched diet, on the other hand, does overfeed and lead to a controlling craving microbiome (which you mentioned well in the blog.) Bacteria use iron for homeostasis much like we do (Borrelia is different however and uses manganese.)

    All, in all it is best to try to get the nutrients we need for a varied natural diet and supplement what is needed.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 26, 2016 at 12:59

      Thanks John. We looked into Paul’s claims, and while we are fans of his work, we came to the conclusion that he was confused about Manganese.

      The Adequate Intake is nothing more than the average intake, which is extremely low because of modern diets are based on refined carbs and meat. I don’t know anyone can think that’s an ideal model to base AI off of, considering that ancestral unrefined diets had much higher levels of Mn. The true adequate intake might be five times as much as the modern AI, if you consider that the diabetes-busting Ma-Pi diet has eight times as much.

      Manganese: Linus Pauling Institute

      … Because there was insufficient information on manganese requirements to set a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the Institute of Medicine set an adequate intake (AI). Since overt manganese deficiency has not been documented in humans eating natural diets, the FNB based the AI on average dietary intakes of manganese determined by the Total Diet Study — an annual survey of the mineral content of representative American diets (4)

      It’s a fallacy for the FNB to base the AI on modern diets. Since they don’t see overt Mn deficiency, the FNB assumed that average intake must be enough. But they have no idea of this average intake results in marginal Mn deficiency or not.

      People have also been terrified by a Canadian report of impossibly tiny amounts of Mn damaging children’s brains.

      The authors claim that an amount of Mn in drinking water 100 times less than the amount in food can get into children’s brains and lower their IQ. In fact Mn is known to be one of the least toxic metals, is easily excreted, and if you inject it directly into rats’ brains it protects them. Clearly there is something wrong with that water study.

      We also found that 100g of caribou stomach contents has ~10mg of Manganese, which is just below the set upper tolerable limit of Manganese. That’s a huge amount of Manganese, yet nobody claims Caribou stomach contents to be toxic.

      Mine workers get Manganism, but the mechanism is unknown and I don’t think we should be conflating lots of inhaled mine dust—that contains far more than just Manganese—with Western refined averages of dietary Manganese.


  16. Kevin on May 26, 2016 at 19:00

    Overnutrition is interesting.

    I remember as a child I could never eat just one bowl of Captain Crunch, Honeycomb, Sugar Smacks, Fruity Pebbles (a box of this would be gone in like three days) etc, those cereals were just so incredibly good and they made me feel awesome. Every school day I had at least two bowls of some sugary fortified cereal for breakfast and then on the weekend my mom would make scrambled eggs and toast or cream of wheat. If my mom bought Corn Chex or Raisin Bran I would pour lots of sugar on it to try and make it taste good and after all the bland cereal was gone, I had the reward of a bowl of sugary milk.

    Looking back those cereals and the milk I ate them with were likely some of the most nutrient dense foods available to me as a child, due to the fortification/enrichment. I consistently ate them because they tasted so good. I would have never eaten the variety and amount of real foods necessary to get the amount of vitamins and minerals in two bowls of Cookie Crisp.

    As an adult that amount of overnutrition would likely offer little to no benefit and possibly cause harm.

    • thhq1 on May 27, 2016 at 05:40

      Reading this, I read the Duck’s Osbourne and Mendel 1920 reference again, regarding the promotion of rat growth with vitamin supplementation. It wasn’t hard to find more of the same kind. Then I thought of Ancel Keys’ acerb comments on athletes. Here’s what he said in 1959:

      “The team player’s diet is apt to be built on the same philosophy as the old Chinese idea – if you want to be big and strong you eat the muscles of big and strong animals – plus the notions of nutritionists who believe whatever grows baby rat meat faster is better. So they are stuffed on the biggest (and most expensive, therefore fattest) steaks to be found, they guzzle gallons of milk, and nowadays they may be plied with vitamin pills as well.

      This is an indoctrination into adult dietary foolishness.”

      Ancel was being critical of the milk and steaks for their fat more than the huge B vitamin dose…though in his typical ornery fashion he takes a jab at rat nutritionists like Osbourne and Mendel. But pile those vitamins into breakfast cereals and bread and you get the same effect. Super rat chow. OK for growing kids maybe, but not so good for adults growing adipose fat.

  17. Duck Dodgers on May 26, 2016 at 19:32

    We hadn’t seen this report before publishing the post. Now folic acid fortification is back under the microscope. Can’t say I’m surprised. I’d imagine the American Bakers Association will try to push back on this one.

    New study may contribute to ongoing debate on fortification program

    Fortifying the U.S. food supply with folic acid was not associated with a decline in certain birth defects that researchers expected to see in California, according to a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine…

    …”The downward trend in neural tube defects started probably in the late 1960s or early 1970s; it was happening even before folic acid was likely added to multivitamin supplements or certain foods,” Shaw said. The reason for the pre-fortification decline is unknown.

    However, after fortification was fully implemented, between 1999 and 2010, NTDs declined more slowly, by 1.7 cases per 100,000 births per year, the study found.

  18. Hap on May 27, 2016 at 08:12

    all I know is that girls are becoming in general taller and larger…….can I prove it ? No and don’t care to try.

    • Robert on May 28, 2016 at 05:34

      I’m in the U.K and kids there are definitely a lot of tall kids appearing. I’m half an inch past 6 foot and that used to be enough to feel like I was looking down on everyone. Now I have 15 year old girls (I can tell because of school uniforms) who are looking down on me. It’s incredible. They’re not few and far between either.

      I remember a time when the papers started talking about the obesity epidemic coming to the U.K and I started to see kids getting fat at a young age. Teens girls and boys were looking much rounder and then one day, I realised that kids no longer did. Rather than go round, they went up. They’re not just thin but some seem positively Amazonian.

      I’m really interested to see where this goes. Will the 10 year olds now , be even bigger in 5 years?

  19. Hap on May 27, 2016 at 09:07

    As a general rule,if such exists, the government is constantly identifying problems it must “fix”….often to our detriment and always to our wallets. Problems, as they occur are often in the process of self resolution ( like NTDs) or amenable to the common sense of citizens…..if such common sense has not yet successfully been purged from our character through “education”.

    Common sense and the value of tradition aside ( which we are constantly in the process of recovering and renewing), those who aggregate power (always in our best interest) are fighting last wars.

  20. James on May 27, 2016 at 13:55

    I cut all the gibberish out of my diet. I mainly eat brown rice. lightly oiled baked fries, Baked beans on wholmealmultigram bread and a bit of tofu when I feel like it with sautay sauce and or course goiled potatos and multi grain toast. If I east a steak when I’m out then theres that too. I think its a better diet that what most paleo gurus promote..

  21. Eric on May 29, 2016 at 10:20

    Thanks Duck Dodgers! Do you have a real name? that might make it easier for people to access your writings, also if they were featured on other sites or publications.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 29, 2016 at 12:52

      That is my real name. lol

      Kidding aside. The Duck Dodgers is a group of anonymous amateur and professional researchers (I just compile and edit the ideas into an article). We do not need or want the credit for our findings and ideas, nor do we want to have to manage our own blog. Rather, we only want our ideas and articles to spur further conversation and further investigations. We currently only publish our work on Richard’s blog, but you are welcome to copy our ideas and spread the knowledge to others. Cheers.

  22. Duck Dodgers on May 29, 2016 at 16:21

    Another hit job by the ABA. In 2011, the federal Interagency Working Group proposed voluntary principles for food marketing to children. The idea was to set up voluntary guidelines to limit junk food advertising to kids. The moment the guidelines were released, all of the food industry lobbyists got together and shot down the proposals and had them dismantled.

    The Sunlight Foundation wrote an article about how the industry manipulated Washington so that they could continue to market junk food.

    Congressional letter writing campaign helps torpedo voluntary food marketing guidelines for kids (2012)

    The ABA was right there making sure these guidelines allowed for enriched food to be marketed to children:

    American Bakers Association Statement: Public Meeting on IWG Proposed Principles for Food Marketed to Children

    As you can see from the ABA’s letter, they do everything in their power to continue marketing enriched grains to children. And this was all for voluntary guidelines that they could have ignored if they wanted to.

  23. Eric on May 29, 2016 at 18:51

    Well I’m glad to see y’all got to the bottom of this question I asked about on a previous post, that is why have they been doing this? I think you’ve disproven the idea that it was all due to left-wing stupidity but rather another one of many, many cases where the answer is found when you follow the money. And not only do they sell more junk food that is cheap to produce, store and transport they also create major health issues that many people seem to believe should be treated with expensive pharmaceuticals so there’s even more money to be made by large corporations.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 30, 2016 at 18:26

      “Figure 31 shows thiamine. To the Ducks point, thiamine consumption is up 15% from 1980 to 1990, then flat at 3 mg per day. Figure 32 shows the sources. 62% of thiamine was supplied by meat/dairy/vegetables in 1909, with only 32% from grains. in 2000 meat/dairy/grains were only 35% of thiamine, with grains supplying 59%.”

      My problem is that’s the best you can get, it’s crap, and I never use industrial consumption married with calculations from real food. It’s just crap and intuition, common sense, and Occam’s Razor are far better for people with actual brains.

  24. Nenad Kojić on May 29, 2016 at 08:43

    “It may be hard for us to relate to, but during the 19th century people were said to be in good health when they had a good appetite. To say Bon appétit, was more than to wish someone a good meal—it was to wish them good health.”

    Boy, has the world changed, or what?

    Today we highly regard just the opposite. Diets that curb our appetite get praised, such as low-carb, keto and the flintstones dietTM. Makes me wonder, if there might be some deficiency causing this as well. Apart from the whole “simulated famine” fairytale.

    It’s weird that so many today perceive healthy appetite as something to be ashamed of.

  25. Eric on May 30, 2016 at 08:07

    @Tim Steele – Read up about about the gut microbiome, it’s composition can actually take precedence over personal genetics. Personal genetics are like suggestions for a wide range of possibilities, their actual expression depends on other factors.

    • Gemma on May 30, 2016 at 08:11

      I absolutely agree. Read up about gut microbiome, Tim Steele, before daring to comment!!!

    • Tim Steele on May 30, 2016 at 08:20

      If only there were a blog, or book, or even a way to search Free the Animal…what is this, how you say, “gut microbiome?” Sounds like an incredibly twisting rabbit hole. One a person could spend years studying. Sounds scary!

    • Joe Blowe on May 30, 2016 at 09:52

      Hey Eric, there’s this guy “Tater Tot” who’s done some good work on the gut microbiome. You should check it out!

    • Duck Dodgers on May 30, 2016 at 10:11

      lol.. Let’s cut Eric a little slack. 🙂

      Eric, meet Tim Steele—author, and gut biome extraordinaire (a.k.a. “Tatertot”). He’s the one we go to when we want to know how certain foods affect the microbiome.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 30, 2016 at 15:00

      I still think Tim needs to up his game. I just got back from Paleo f(x) where someone was a “Gut Goddess” (said not a single word to one-another in three days), and even high-fat, no-carbs, “resistant starch” in scare quotes Gedgaudas is now a gut (and SIBO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) expert. Apparently, probiotic bacteria and prebiotic fiber gives someone small intestine bacterial overgrowth (we didn’t say a word to one-another, either).

      Someone ought caution HGs like Hadza who live in the dirt and eat a hundred grams of fermentable fiber daily. Their small intestines must be veritably infected. Hope they don’t develop septic shock.

      Tim needs to start a blog something like “Gut Zeus.”

  26. thhq1 on May 29, 2016 at 20:37

    Colpo bemoans the increase in Aussie obesity. He lives in a country that has always consumed a lot of Vitamin B via beer, vegemite and meat. He does not blame Vitamin B for the increase in obesity. Australian calorie consumption has not been increasing. He blames increasingly sedentary behavior.

    Creating facile narratives to explain the obesity epidemic is a common problem. I like what Levinovitz has to say in regards to the demonization of gluten:

    “Science is not great at constructing narratives. That’s its virtue and its downfall. Scientific inquiry has to divorce itself from what makes the best story, and science writers, myself included, are in the business of making science compelling by telling stories.”

    When I asked earlier how a study could be conducted to prove the Duck claims, I was rebutted with a “self evident truth” argument – as you put it “it’s rather obvious actually”. I appreciate what you are doing, and think there may be some B effect (especially among increasingly sedentary people). But please realize that constructing a narrative made from a patchwork of internet cut-and-pastes is not the same as doing a population or ward study. It’s only the literature search that precedes the actual study. NuSI is finding this out now, to their dismay.

    • Tim Steele on May 29, 2016 at 20:59

      Don’t you suppose that on a global, multi-generational scale, the obesity epidemic has several “perfect storm” causes: Processed foods, little fiber, sedentary lifestyles, smoking, pollution, central heating, and so on. The trick today is figuring out why an individual is obese, and what can be done to correct the rampant weight gain before metabolic damage is done to that person.

      Doctors will recommend “diet and exercise” with a wink and prescribe a medicament for each identifiable complaint. I believe that doctors need to treat obesity as a disease, starting with pediatric patients. If a 9 year old boy is obese and has T2D, it’s not just because he needs to eat less and move more, although the weight gain undoubtedly causes this kid to eat more than he should with no energy to move much.

      Since we all know that the medical community has failed to help, we need to be our own advocate. If a person finds himself overweight and unhealthy, the first thing to do is completely overhaul the diet alongside removing other known health-degrading habits (smoking, drinking, no exercise, lack of sleep, stress, etc.).

      Once the low-hanging fruit is picked, one may need to reach even higher to reverse disease or to get the body of their dreams. The main endpoint should be a normal BMI and no symptoms of metabolic syndrome (high BP, high chol, high trigs, T2DM, pre-diabetes, etc.).

      And lastly, personal genetics will always take precedence for the individual. Some people are destined to be heavy, thin, or just right. Some people have genetic derangements that lead to sluggish thyroid, high cholesterol, poor blood sugar control, and big noses. The trick is learning what can be controlled with diet and lifestyle and what needs medicine or attitude adjustments.

      I think that the modern food supply is most people’s biggest enemy. Easy access to high-calorie, low-nutrition, overly-enriched, shelf-stable tasty treats eaten as meals are completely changing our views on eating. School lunches are pathetic and teach life-long bad eating habits. Busy parents can be just as bad, relying on ready-to-eat meals and boxed cereal to fill up the children.

    • thhq1 on May 30, 2016 at 16:15

      Richard and Ducks I’m not disagreeing with the potential importance of overnutrienting. I want to see it fleshed out. Where’s the Pareto chart?

      In the absence of a Ducks response on historic B vitamin trends

      Figure 31 shows thiamine. To the Ducks point, thiamine consumption is up 15% from 1980 to 1990, then flat at 3 mg per day. Figure 32 shows the sources. 62% of thiamine was supplied by meat/dairy/vegetables in 1909, with only 32% from grains. in 2000 meat/dairy/grains were only 35% of thiamine, with grains supplying 59%.

      This still doesn’t answer the question of whether the increased thiamine normalized higher appetites. Calorie consumption rose by 15%, or 500 kcal per day, in the same period, so a 15% increase in thiamine doesn’t reflect any higher concentration per calorie food intake. Grain enrichment matched the reduction from all other sources.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 30, 2016 at 09:06


      The use of vitamins to fatten animals was discovered decades ago. I’m not sure what else to tell you. Feel free to ignore that.

      More Nutrients, Less Nutrition: The Truth About Fortified Foods

      …The study’s outcome is disturbing: The micronutrient manipulated the lambs’ dietary preference. “The addition of a single vitamin can induce lambs to eat a food they would normally have no interest in eating,” Provenza says.

      And adding those nutrients to carbs can fatten animals up. As counterintuitive as that may sound — vitamins contributing to weight gain — it’s old news in farming. More than a century ago, farmers knew that corn and barley (carbs, in other words) could make animals put on weight. But if that’s all chicken and pigs were fed, they would get sick. They had to be let outdoors to forage or be fed green feed and kitchen scraps. “Back then, livestock needed to eat vegetables to get their vitamins,” says Allen Williams, a former professor of animal science at Louisiana State University and livestock consultant.

      That changed when we discovered that adding nutrients to feed allowed farm animals to thrive on a sensationally high carb diet. The feed was now nutritionally complete, and instead of making the animals sick, it made them gain weight faster than ever, Williams says. The animals were content to eat it. “If you supplement them with vitamins and minerals,” Williams explains, “they get lazy and have no desire to go out and graze. You can actually have an effect on their behavior.”


      “We never stop to think about it, but if you want an animal or a human to get fat quickly,” Provenza says, “you can’t do it without vitamins.”

    • Duck Dodgers on May 30, 2016 at 09:19

      “Colpo bemoans the increase in Aussie obesity. He lives in a country that has always consumed a lot of Vitamin B via beer, vegemite and meat. He does not blame Vitamin B for the increase in obesity. Australian calorie consumption has not been increasing. He blames increasingly sedentary behavior.”

      Well, that’s wonderful for Colpo. So, he’s decided to blame obesity on a behavior that typically didn’ cause obesity 150 years ago. If Colpo is unable to explain how people used to lose their appetites when they became sedentary, then it there is something clearly wrong with his explanation.

    • thhq1 on May 30, 2016 at 10:09

      Ducks, I’m not finding any fault with your core argument. I’m just pointing out weaknesses that are obvious to me – Australians and bodybuilders – and it wouldn’t take long to find more I’m sure. I’ve also found you some support, in excessive B supplementation of sedentary pig producing adipose fat.

      But what you have so far doesn’t get you anywhere. In the US two of the major sources of B vitamins, dairy products and red meat, have been declining for decades. Tell me, net/net, are we now consuming more or less Vitamin B? To answer that someone like the CDC may need to do a population study that doesn’t exist. Without doing that you can’t assign any order of magnitude to the effect.

      You need to be able to show whether this is a mountain or another molehill. Right now I’d assign about 5% of the obesity crisis being due to Vitamin B excess, of similar magnitude to the effect of drinking sweetened beverages. IMO 90% of the obesity crisis is due to the 3 factors I listed above – snacks, social norming and sedentarism.

      In my career I’ve blown through hundreds of thousands of dollars in lab and production R&D studies. What you have at this point is MAYBE a justification to do such a study on Vitamin B. Your next move is to convince someone to give you the money to do that. Internets don’t cut it.

    • thhq1 on May 30, 2016 at 10:30

      And Ducks, you must realize that the obvious pushback against stopping B enrichment is vitamin deficiency. Where are vegans going to get their Vitamin B? If they develop beriberi because their Cocoa Puffs, Ding Dongs and donuts are nutritionally deficient lawsuits will follow.

      I like your tin bread sign.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 30, 2016 at 10:41

      “Australians and bodybuilders”

      “What you have at this point is MAYBE a justification to do such a study on Vitamin B”


      I feel like you haven’t read the article very closely. We never said that B vitamins “cause” obesity. You seem to have made up that conclusion.

      What we said is that a diet rich in B vitamins enables you to eat a shitty refined junk food diet if you should happen to choose to eat them. Without those vitamins, you wouldn’t have much urge to consume those obesogenic foods or beverages.

      The “traditional” post-colonial Australian diet was one that was high in Vitamin B (meat, turbid beer). Few people drink turbid beer anymore (the vitamins were in the sediment) and so maybe we can say Vegemite replaced that demand. But they didn’t have the kinds of junk food as we do now.

      We would not expect Australians or Bodybuilders to become obese on a high Vitamin-B diet unless they chose to eat shitty foods. And their consumption of B vitamin-dense foods would enable them to do so, if that was their choice. Therefore a body builder and post-colonial Australian is a poor counterargument because junk foods aren’t a part of their normal diets. You’re counterargument is either a straw man or a complete misunderstanding of this article.

      Let me simplify the concept. B vitamins do not cause obesity. They simply enable someone to eat shitty foods that they would normally lose their appetites for. The vitamins themselves do not cause obesity.

      Furthermore, I don’t need to “prove” this concept because it was already proven a century ago. That’s why the farming industry fortifies their feed.

      This isn’t a particularly controversial, or new, concept. It’s widely accepted in the farming industry. All we did is point out how the food industry adopted it for feeding junk food to Americans.

    • thhq1 on May 30, 2016 at 12:57

      Ducks if your point is winning a debate I give you a gold star.

      If your point is fixing obesity you’ve got a lot of work to do. And it ain’t gonne be cheap. Animal fortification studies don’t prove anything for humans. The reason we fortify human feed is to prevent beriberi, pellagra, rickets and scurvy. By putting the vitamins in the shitty foods we ensure that we will never get rid of those foods. These are foods that people buy that can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods, and who are at the highest risk of vitamin deficiency.

      At least we can get rid of the chips. From what I can see they aren’t fortified.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 30, 2016 at 15:17

      “Ducks if your point is winning a debate I give you a gold star.

      If your point is fixing obesity you’ve got a lot of work to do.”

      Argumentum Standardentium Impossibilium.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 30, 2016 at 13:20

      lol. Please don’t give me the expensive food argument. Whole grains are very cheap and have been the staples of peasant diets for millennia. The original proponents of enrichments of refined grains saw those enrichments as a temporary measure while people could be educated to consume whole grains. They could not have conceived of enrichments being added to a multi-billion dollar junk food industry.

      And I’m not trying to “fix” obesity. I’m simply pointing out the parallels and a simple explanation for the correlations that Zhou et al discovered. Ignore all the correlations and parallels if you wish.


    • Duck Dodgers on May 30, 2016 at 13:25

      “The reason we fortify human feed is to prevent beriberi, pellagra, rickets and scurvy”

      That’s bullshit, by the way. While that may have been the initial target of early enrichment programs, the super-enrichment debate of the 1970s had nothing to do with those diseases. Those diseases are virtually non-existent in non-fortified developed countries. If that’s why you think the food industry fights to add so many enrichments to junk food, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. lol

    • thhq1 on May 30, 2016 at 14:32

      Ducks, do you see this as some arcane debate over something that doesn’t matter? Just throwing some support to Zhou?

      You’re using the Taubes white-out pen a bit too freely on inconvenient facts. You’re blown off the US dietary shifts away from natural souces of Vitamin B. You’ve ducked and dodged around presenting any evidence of US Vitamin B consumption trends over time. Is this a mountain or is it a molehill? The only thing you seem to relish is attacking the ABA.

      I call bullshit.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 30, 2016 at 15:31

      “Whole grains are very cheap”

      As are beans. Breakfast of champion bums all over.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 30, 2016 at 15:33

      “That’s bullshit”

      Yea, I know think you’re wasting people’s time, ThhQ1 over stuff that’s been dealt with for a year here, beginning with the massive iron post.

      Argue the argument, not your strawmen.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 30, 2016 at 15:51


      I have no idea what you’re even arguing at this point. Read the article more closely next time. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 30, 2016 at 15:54

      “I call bullshit.”

      No, I call bullshit. Again, you argue by a fallacy of impossible standard, which is dishonest and I fucking hate dishonesty.

      We’re trying to raise an awareness that does two things:

      1. Matches the mechanism livestock farmers have used for 100 years to reliably get their animals to market weight in the least time with the least input cost.

      2. Corresponds perfectly with fortification initiatives plotted against obesity.

      You ought know as well as anyone that demanding B vitamin intake would be unreliable—since you’re conflating content of natural foods with varied fortification levels per food, which has to be further adjusted with consumption and on and on. WHEN, we KNOW already that intake is higher than natural per se and a priori, because fortification. Clever, but I see through dishonest shit like that.

      Plus, we already know obese people consume the most fortified junk food. We also know they eat too much too often. You’re still pretending that we’re saying vitamins cause it. Nope, still a choice.

      Animal livestock have no food choices, which is why 100% get big fast. Humans have food choices, so many escape it by whatever means, from culture to peer pressure to narcissism to greater values like a good career that demands presentability and on and on.

      And then you give a bullshit argument that he’s got a lot of work to do, which reduces to the idiocy that “your argument is invalid because too hard.”


    • Richard Nikoley on May 30, 2016 at 16:06

      “I have no idea what you’re even arguing at this point. Read the article more closely next time. Thanks for stopping by.”

      I agree. I’m pretty patient, but I lose it like falling off a cliff.

      I kept suspecting that someone who goes on and on and on and on about Keyes has a weirdness about him.


    • Duck Dodgers on May 30, 2016 at 17:33

      “Grain enrichment matched the reduction from all other sources.”

      thhq1, I understood that you want to see it flushed out. I’m afraid I would be of little help in figuring out what dosages reflect certain appetites. But, again, I feel as though you’ve missed the point here. If grain enrichment matched the reduction from all other sources, then this only proves our point that enrichments allowed people to rely on refined grains as major staples, when they otherwise would have been unable to do so.

      If you’re agreeing, and wondering why certain levels of vitamin intake allow someone to eat a certain amount of calories, I would say that the amount of calories one can eat probably depends on the kinds of foods one consumes.

      I think it’s pretty easy to consume excess calories as soda and refined carbs than it would be from real foods that have fiber and satiating qualities. The enrichments enable people to consume a lot of calories from the junk foods they would otherwise avoid.

      In other words, it may be that someone thinks that excessive soda is responsible for most of the obesity epidemic, but our point would be that one would not have the appetite for that much soda without getting a quick and non-filling dose of B vitamins from elsewhere in the diet. It just so happens that when a single slice of bread has about as many B vitamins as a medium sweet potato that one finds themselves with a good appetite and quite hungry without having to eat that whole sweet potato. Whereas the person who usually relies on real foods for their B vitamins is going to be relatively full by the time they get to a sufficiency of B vitamins. And therefore, they are going to be less likely to have much of an appetite for lots of soda (as one example).

      I’m doing my best here to explain the concept, though this was all in the article, so understandably I hope you can see why this is a bit frustrating to have to re-explain it.

      If you are agreeing with all this, and are just looking into the data more closely, I wish you well—provided you grasp the concepts of satiability from real foods. But, I’m afraid I’ve done all I can do here, by bringing this concept out into the open.


    • thhq on May 30, 2016 at 18:59

      Thanks, Ducks. What interests me about this blog is the dialectic. I’m inured over 40 years to arguing with hard cases about money for projects so my focus follows the money. I couldn’t sell what you’ve provided because it’s too conceptual. But knowing something about how much thiamine we eat, and that it’s 200% more than we need, and how we used to get it, I can make a creditable case against fortification.

      I can also start to see why it happened. In 1909 grain supplied some of our B vitamin needs, but was a weak sister to fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy. I don’t blame the ABA as much as the government and farm lobby for supplementation. The grain was going to be rammed down our throats, and the more palatable the seed oils and flour the better. But what about the missing vitamins? Oh we can fix that.

      I’ve started looking into livestock supplementation. It’s hard to compare with humans because animal growth rates are so much faster, and food consumption is massively higher. Pigs get 4 mg/kg of thiamine a day just from their soy/corn feed. Supplementation is on top of that, typically 1 mg/kg. At my current weight that’d be 400 mg, 130x the US human average.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 30, 2016 at 20:05

      “The grain was going to be rammed down our throats, and the more palatable the seed oils and flour the better. But what about the missing vitamins? Oh we can fix that.”

      Glad you’re looking deeper, digging yourself and we’re happy for all elements not already integrated one way or another. I think I know the final picture, but better resolution and color correction would be great.

      That said, I personally do not think this rises to any sort of conspiracy. Given the times and the legitimate worries over starvation and malnutrition, fortification could have legitimately been seen by any rational person as tantamount to a vaccine. Those were the times. Always endeavor to judge in the context of the times, not our times…lest we also be harshly judged in the future when we were doing the best we knew, at least the honest and forthright amongst us.

      Just wanted to put out that bit.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 30, 2016 at 21:11

      “In 1909 grain supplied some of our B vitamin needs, but was a weak sister to fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy…The grain was going to be rammed down our throats.”

      I’m not sure I follow you there. It was common for peasants to eat a pound or more of bread, before the Industrial Revolution. Generally speaking, most peasants couldn’t afford the bolted (sifted) flour that the wealthy preferred.

      A pound of whole wheat bread would give you:

      58% RDA of Riboflavin
      125% RDA of B3 (Niacin),
      59% RDA of B5
      150% of B1 (Thiamine)
      75% RDA of B6

      Bread is calorie sparse, so that pound of bread not only filled you up, but it only equaled ~1140 calories. Why should nutrient-density be a benefit when the calorie sparseness of bread filled them up?

      To get to ~100% RDA of all B vitamins, all you had to do was add 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of beans, 3 slices of Swiss Cheese and a glass of milk. This all totals ~1,900 calories.

      I’m not sure why you think grains need to be more nutrient dense. Whole grains seem to fit into a peasant diet pretty perfectly, especially when you consider how much bread people used to eat.

      If someone was dumb enough to replace those whole grains with pure refined grains, they would have become deficient and sick. The cure would have been obvious to them or their doctor—eat whole unrefined foods and you feel better. The B vitamin deficiencies would have been a warning flag for them to fix their diet and they would have naturally gravitated towards real foods. They would not be able to survive on a junk food diet.

      Fortifying grains took away this obvious warning flag as it enabled someone to eat the deficient diet without noticing the silent deficiencies (manganese, copper, fiber, etc).

      If the food industry tried to get us to eat junk food without fortification, it would be difficult for us to find an appetite for much of it without getting B vitamins from very nutrient-dense sources. And that’s what we’re saying here.

    • Duck Dodgers on May 30, 2016 at 22:04

      I agree that the early policies for fortification during WWII wasn’t a conspiracy. The early concept of fortification was to avoid the deficiencies in soldiers eating MREs and individual states soon adopted fortification policies to cure the deficiencies of the Great Depression as a stop-gap measure before people could be educated to eat more whole grains.

      However, the food industry’s push for “super enrichment”—during the 1970s—was something entirely different. Super enrichment wasn’t about curing deficiencies—the deficiencies had already been cured. Super enrichment appears to have been specifically done to artificially increase refined carbohydrate consumption (they were trying to reverse a trend of fats replacing carbohydrates). By the 1960s the scientific literature on animals and vitamins made it abundantly clear that increasing vitamins resulted in increased food preferences for that food. So, the food industry had to have known exactly what they were doing. They would not have worked so hard to pass super enrichment otherwise.

      The fact of the matter is that the desired and targeted increases in refined carbohydrate consumption could not have happened without fortification. The food industry was meticulous about passing it, they then made it ubiquitous in all refined grain products, and they continue to do everything they can to make sure a very specific mix of appetite-normalizing vitamins remains a high priority in all refined grains. That’s a highly concerted and coordinated effort that cannot be easily ignored.

      And to top it off, it was all done behind closed doors and few people even knew that super enrichment even happened. When we showed the documented enrichment increases to obesity researchers, when researching this article, none of them had even heard of super enrichment—they all thought enrichments had just been static since WWII. Can you imagine? Nobody even seemed to remember this happened.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 31, 2016 at 06:35

      We should probably publish a follow-up post soon that focuses in on the political and lobbying aspect, then, and as a counter to to motivation being to reduce fat intake because cholesterol and heart disease.

  27. Dan on May 30, 2016 at 07:52

    Awesome comment, Tim. This should be known henceforth as the “Perfect Storm” hypothesis of obesity. I have been reading Paleo/ancestral books and blogs for years, and as my Venn Diagram overlaps develop, my understanding of the problem agrees 100% with what you’ve said.

    This post is without a doubt one of the most interesting health reads I’ve come across so far. So much more helpful than the endless repeating of “just eat real food”.


  28. Eric on May 30, 2016 at 11:58

    oh sorry, haha, I thought that name sounded familiar, I’ll go read some of your stuff, not sure I understood the original comment I was replying to

    • Eric on May 31, 2016 at 07:00

      Anyway this is what I was referring to: “Some people are destined to be heavy, thin, or just right.” I don’t think a genetic pre-disposition to being just right will have much bearing if you’re destined to live a life of chronic malnourishment. I’m not trying to be nit picky here, maybe I’m weird but statements like that really stick out like a sore thumb for me.

  29. Richard Nikoley on May 30, 2016 at 14:52

    Inspired by a couple of Duck’s comments I read this morning, I tossed together a bit of a TL;DR post focussing a bit more on the livestock farming history than on the human history of fortification that’s the focus of this post.

  30. Gordon on June 1, 2016 at 19:23

    So much good information, most of it I’ve never heard before. Articles this interesting don’t come around too often across the entire internet. Outstanding. Thank you Duck Dodgers team! I mean that seriously. This is not a spam bot comment, although it is boring and adds nothing to the discussion.

  31. Gordon on June 3, 2016 at 19:04

    I am really curious about the impact of excessive b-vitamin supplementation in pregnancy. They tell women to take pre-natal vitamins on top of eating super-fortified foods. Can’t help but wonder if that has something to do with what seems like an epidemic of babies around me that are born either premature or huge.

    Wife decided to only supplement with the occasional liver pills during pregnancy and labor/delivery/infancy all have gone well so far. But it’s another thing you have to lie to the doctor about. “Have you been taking your prenatal vitamins?” “Not for the last week.”

  32. the hobbit on July 12, 2016 at 07:54

    Wow! I read this late. I tend to come to Richard’s site, binge read and then wait another three months.

    My wife is very gluten intolerant here in the states. She really has to watch her pasta and bread consumption or her stomach becomes a mess. However, when she travels in Europe especially in France, she doesn’t restrict bread consumption and has no issues. She will usually lose weight as well.

    I make bread occasionally at home. From now on, I am buying unenriched flour.


  33. Jeff Rampino on August 20, 2016 at 02:59

    Great read! Ironically the day after reading it I brought my dog to the vet. She has a trick stomach and sometimes will not eat. I never paid attention to it before but the vet gave her a b-12 shot to “stimulate her appetite”. That dog came home and everything I put in front of her! For many years I’ve believed I’ve had a gluten intolerance. After discovering that I have MTHFR it may just be the folic acid they enrich the bread with. People with this gene SNP cannot process folic acid in an efficient manner and it can cause severe intestinal problems.

  34. Kelly on November 16, 2018 at 10:55

    Does anyone know if any organizations lobbying to get food fortification reversed in the US? The only thing I could find was the “Real Bread” initiative in the UK.

  35. Andrew on February 1, 2021 at 08:23

    Is anyone aware of Dr. Garrett Smith’s work concerning Vitamin A toxicity? I wondered how it might tie in with this post. Thank you!

    • Richard Nikoley on February 1, 2021 at 18:56

      I’m only aware that it’s generally bullshit.

      What’s he selling?

      How does his dealing in fear marketing work? I’m interested. Turns out it’s easy to make lots of money if you can get people to be irrationally afraid.

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