Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Rabbit Starvation Syndrome"

A good friend and fellow blogger Sherrie from Pinch Of...did an eye opening post about very low calorie diets, namely referring to the Kimkins scam. In it she was talking about a phenomena known as "rabbit starvation". After reading it I thought--whoa Nellie--that sounds like what many of post WLSers end up doing. So there I went falling down that black hole called the Google search engine, in full research mode.

Rabbit Starvation was first talked about by arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson.

Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who spent many years living with the Eskimos and Indians of Northern Canada, reports that wild male ruminants like elk and caribou carry a large slab of back fat, weighing as much as 40 to 50 pounds. The Indians and Eskimo hunted older male animals preferentially because they wanted this back slab fat, as well as the highly saturated fat found around the kidneys. Other groups used blubber from sea mammals like seal and walrus.

"The groups that depend on the blubber animals are the most fortunate in the hunting way of life," wrote Stefansson, "for they never suffer from fat-hunger. This trouble is worst, so far as North America is concerned, among those forest Indians who depend at times on rabbits, the leanest animal in the North, and who develop the extreme fat-hunger known as rabbit-starvation. Rabbit eaters, if they have no fat from another source—beaver, moose, fish—will develop diarrhea in about a week, with headache, lassitude, a vague discomfort. If there are enough rabbits, the people eat till their stomachs are distended; but no matter how much they eat they feel unsatisfied. Some think a man will die sooner if he eats continually of fat-free meat than if he eats nothing, but this is a belief on which sufficient evidence for a decision has not been gathered in the north. Deaths from rabbit-starvation, or from the eating of other skinny meat, are rare; for everyone understands the principle, and any possible preventive steps are naturally taken."
Normally, according to Stefansson, the diet consisted of dried or cured meat "eaten with fat," namely the highly saturated cavity and back slab fat that could be easily separated from the animal. Another Arctic explorer, Hugh Brody, reports that Eskimos ate raw liver mixed with small pieces of fat and that strips of dried or smoked meat were "spread with fat or lard." Pemmican, a highly concentrated travel food, was a mixture of lean dried buffalo meat and highly saturated buffalo fat. (Buffalo fat, by the way, is more saturated than beef fat.) Less than two pounds of pemmican per day could sustain a man doing hard physical labor. The ratio of fat to protein in pemmican was 80%-20%. As lean meat from game animals was often given to the dogs, there is no reason to suppose that everyday fare did not have the same proportions: 80% fat (mostly highly saturated fat) to 20% protein—in a population in which heart disease and cancer were nonexistent.
Fat has been a big part of traditional diets for thousands of years. Modern society has demonized the use of fat of any kind. The lower the fat the better. Most of my fellow WLSers think the same way. Their mantra is always lean, clean protein. But are they fooling themselves? Can they continue to eat such a lean type diet and achieve their goal of optimal health.? Let's look more into what Stefansson has to say in his book, My Life With The Eskimo.
In certain places and in certain years rabbits are an important article of diet, but even when there is an abundance of this animal, the Indians consider themselves starving if they get nothing else, ~~ and fairly enough, as my own party can testify, for any one who is compelled in winter to live for a period of several weeks on lean meat will actually starve, in this sense : that there are lacking in his diet certain elements, notably fat, and it makes no difference how much he eats, he will be hungry at the end of each meal and eventually he will lose strength or becomes actually ill.

Of our entire seven I was now the only one not actually sick, and I felt by no means well. Doing hard work in cold weather on a diet nearly devoid of fat is a most interesting and uncommon experiment in dietetics, and may therefore be worth describing in some detail. The symptoms that result from a diet of lean meat are practically those of starvation. The caribou on which we had to live had marrow in their bones that was as blood, and in most of them no fat was discernible even behind the eyes or in the tongue. When we had been on a diet of oil straight, a few weeks before, we had found that with a teacupful of oil a day there were no symptoms of hunger; we grew each day sleepier and more slovenly, and no doubt lost strength gradually, but at the end of our meals of long haired caribou skin and oil we felt satisfied and at ease. Now with a diet of lean meat everything was different. We had an abundance of it as yet and we would boil up huge quantities and stuff ourselves with it. We ate so much that out stomachs were actually distended much beyond their usual size ~~ so much that it was distinctly noticeable even outside of one's clothes. But with all this gorging we felt constantly hungry. Simultaneously we felt like unto bursting and also as if we had not had enough to eat. One by one the six Eskimos of the party were taken with diarrhea.
Stefansson and his party did not fair well on all lean protein, as you can plainly see. Years later Stefansson was asked to reproduce the conditions of his meat based diet for scientific research. He and a colleague were followed by a group of scientists at Bellevue Hospital in New York for a year. He published the story, Adventures in Diet, in the Harper's Monthly Magazine, November 1935. Here is a exert concerning his experience when they attempted to have him eat lean meats with very little fat.
The experiment started smoothly with Andersen, who was permitted to eat in such quantity as he liked such things as he liked, provided only that they came under our definition of meat - steaks, chops, brains fried in bacon fat, boiled short-ribs, chicken, fish, liver and bacon. In my case there was a hitch, in a way foreseen.

For I had published in 1913, on pages 140-142 of My Life with the Eskimo, an account of how some natives and I became ill when we had to go two or three weeks on lean meat, caribou so skinny that there was no appreciable fat behind the eyes or in the marrow. So when Dr. DuBois suggest that I start the meat period by eating as large quantities as I possibly could of chopped fatless muscle, I predicted trouble. But he countered by citing my own experience where illness had not come until after two or three weeks, and he now proposed lean for only two or three days. So I gave in.

The chief purpose of placing me abruptly on exclusively lean was that there would be a sharp contrast with Andersen who was going to be on a normal meat diet, consisting of such proportions of lean and fat as his own taste determined.

As said, in the Arctic we had become ill during the second or third fatless week. I now became ill on the second fatless day. The time difference between Bellevue and the Arctic was due no doubt mainly to the existence of a little fat, here and there in our northern caribou - we had eaten the tissue from behind the eyes, we had broken the bones for marrow, and in doing everything we could to get fat we had evidently secured more than we realized. At Bellevue the meat, carefully scrutinized, had been as lean as such muscle tissue can be. Then, in the Arctic we had eaten tendons and other indigestible matter, we had chewed the soft ends of bones, getting a deal of bulk that way when we were trying to secure fat. What we ate at Bellevue contained no bulk material, so that my stomach could be compelled to hold a much larger amount of lean.

The symptoms brought on at Bellevue by an incomplete meat diet (lean without fat) were exactly the same as in the Arctic, except that they came on faster - diarrhea and a feeling of general baffling discomfort.

Up north the Eskimos and I had been cured immediately when we got some fat. Dr. DuBois now cured me the same way, by giving me fat sirloin steaks, brains fried in bacon fat, and things of that sort. In two or three days I was all right, but I had lost considerable weight.
The all meat diet in the Bellevue Hospital experiment was reported by Stefansson in his book, The Fat of the Land, to be 80% animal fat and 20% animal protein.

Then we have the experiment done by Earl Parker Hanson, another explorer.
'I have long wondered about the glaring discrepancies in the nutritionists' arguments . . . On the one hand they say that fat is the most efficient energy food known; on the other they talk in doleful tones about the "debilitating" effects of the tropical climate. Why you should be careful to avoid energy-giving foods in a climate that supposedly saps your energy has always been beyond me. 'The pygmies of the tropical Ituri forest will run miles to gorge themselves on the fat of a recently killed hippopotamus. That sort of evidence from natives in various parts of the tropics, both humid and dry, you have in plenty. So I confine myself to giving my own experiences and stating my own conclusions.

'My first personal experience with fat shortage came on my Orinoco-Amazon expedition of 1931-33, when my canoe Indians practically went on strike because I hadn't included sufficient lard or other fat in my supplies.
'I bought enough fat to please my Indians, and then proceeded to eat on the journey from a separate pot, because I "couldn't stand their greasy food."

It wasn't many weeks, however, before I avidly grabbed at every turtle egg I could get hold of – for its rich oil as I now realize – and at every Brazil nut, avocado pear, and every other source of vegetable fat, when I couldn't get animal fats. In those days I did not correlate that craving with my food tastes and habits; now I do.

'Recently a lady ethnologist told me that I was all wrong in my claim that any healthy white man can stay in perfect health (as far as food alone is concerned) on any diet that keeps native populations, and 'primitive' peoples in health. She said she had tried it for a number of weeks in Mexico, with almost disastrous results. But when I asked her if she hadn't had trouble adjusting her taste to the 'greasy' food of the Mexicans, she stipulated that 'of course' she and her companions, while eating 'exactly what the Mexicans ate,' had taken pains to prepare the food in an appetizing way, by leaving out the grease! Then she went on to describe her own subsequent troubles in the typical terms of fat-shortage: constant hunger, a vague discomfort, lack of energy, distended stomach, etc.

'With such convictions to start with, growing out of years of personal experience in the tropics, I went on a pemmican regimen in the summer of 1943, staying on it for nine weeks. [Pemmican is a mixture of dried lean meat and fat, and nothing else.] I was leading a sedentary life of office work, and it was one of the hottest summers on record in New York and Washington, where my activities were mainly centered, with temperatures that went higher on a number of occasions than I have ever experienced them in the Amazon basin.

'Some of the results of the 'test' are listed below.

'Fat content. The dietitians warned me when I started that I was endangering my health, because they 'knew,' from years of research, that a fat content of more calories than about 35 per cent in the diet is dangerous.

'My pemmican was one of three types: Type A was so designed that 80 per cent of the calories came from the fat and 20 per cent from the lean, meaning a ratio of about 50-50 by weight; type B had 70 per cent of the calories in the fat and 30 per cent in the lean; type C had 60 per cent of the calories in the fat and 40 per cent in the lean.

'At first I preferred the lean 'Type C' pemmican, because I wasn't used to eating much fat. It wasn't long, however, before I began to realize it was unsuitable. I tried the other kinds and found that where 3/4 pound per day of the fat pemmican (Type A) was absolutely satisfying, I would eat well over one pound per day of the lean pemmican (Type C), and still feel hungry, with a craving for fat. In one period of a few days, when I had nothing on hand but Type C, I added bacon grease and roast beef drippings to this pemmican, and so got along very well. [Emphasis in the original]

'After sixteen days some of the nutritionists got hold of me, showed me figures provided by the National Research Council to the effect that man can't assimilate more than 35 per cent of fat in his diet, and so, 'proved' to me that I was either dead or coasting along on my last reserves of energy. It was a gorgeous battle, especially in view of the fact that I had more 'pep' for such purposes as arguing with nutritionists than I remembered ever having had before. I was in the very pink of condition with all the minor difficulties of the first, mainly psychological, adjustment to an all-meat diet behind me. I finally gave up such fruitless argument, however, when the nutritionists asked me in despair whether I didn't even believe the National Research Council!

'The important thing is that during the entire nine weeks in very hot weather, my appetites and 'cravings' constantly demanded a high fat content, of around 75 to 80 per cent by calories. That was to me one of the most striking results of my experiences.

'Being highly concentrated, pemmican is tricky stuff, resulting in almost immediate cravings to warn of shortcomings, where less concentrated foods seem to take much longer to give warning signals. In the beginning it took only an hour or so, after eating the lean pemmican, before I knew from the way I felt that I had had too little fat. Later, after I had learned to trust to my own appetites and reactions, that adjustment was automatic
The higher the fat content the less Hanson ate. When trying the lower fat version of pemmican first, it was not tolerated. He much preferred the higher fat version. He felt better, had more pep. I too feel better with my higher fat eating plan.

I've seen many post WLSers get unusual "cravings". Could it be the lack of fat? A typical person that I come into contact with who have WLS thrive on lean chicken breast, boneless and definitely skinless. According to NutritionData.com, a single chicken breast roasted with bone and skin removed would yield 27gm of protein and only 3gm of fat. Only 1gm of that would be saturated fat. Whereas a 4oz rib eye steak would yield the same amount of protein but the fat content would be much higher. A total 15gm of fat and 6gm of that is saturated. In all likelihood, your appetite would be less after eating the steak than you would be after eating the chicken breast. Plus you would stay satisfied for much longer.

Dr Barry Groves also points out why you can exist on a high protein diet without it being high fat also.

During fasting in humans, and when we are short of food, blood glucose levels are maintained by the breakdown of glycogen in liver and muscle and by the production of glucose primarily from the breakdown of muscle proteins in a process called gluconeogenesis, which literally means 'glucose new birth'.

But we don't want to use lean muscle tissue in this way: it weakens us. We want to get the glucose our bodies need from what we eat. Some of that will come from carbs, the rest from dietary proteins. Our bodies need a constant supply of protein to sustain a healthy structure. This requires a fairly minimal amount of protein: about 1 to 1.5 grams per kilogram of lean body weight per day is all that is necessary to preserve muscle mass. Any protein over and above this amount can be used as a source of glucose.

Ketone formation and a shift to using more fatty acids also reduces the body's overall need for glucose. Even during high-energy demand from exercise, a low-carb diet has what are called 'glucoprotective' effects. What this all means is that ketosis arising from a low-carb diet is capable of accommodating a wide range of metabolic demands to sustain body functions and health while not using, and thus sparing, protein from lean muscle tissue. Ketones are also the preferred energy source for highly active tissues such as heart and muscle.

The case against getting energy from protein

We know, then, that dietary fats can produce all the energy the body needs, either directly as fatty acids or as ketone bodies. But, as there is still some debate about the health implications of using fats, why not play safe and eat more protein?

There is one simple reason: While the body can use protein as an energy source in an emergency, it is not at all healthy to use this method in the long term. All carbs are made up of just three elements: carbon, hydrogen and. oxygen. All fats are also made of the same three elements. Proteins, however, also contain nitrogen and other elements. When proteins are used to provide energy, these must be got rid of in some way. This is not only wasteful, it can put a strain on the body, particularly on the liver and kidneys.

Excess intake of nitrogen leads in a short space of time to hyperammonaemia, which is a build up of ammonia in the bloodstream. This is toxic to the brain. Many human cultures survive on a purely animal product diet, but only if it is high in fat. A lean meat diet, on the other hand cannot be tolerated; it leads to nausea in as little as three days, symptoms of starvation and ketosis in a week to ten days, severe debilitation in twelve days and possibly death in just a few weeks. A high-fat diet, however, is completely healthy for a lifetime.
All of the hoopla that the media puts out about how a low carb diet is bad on the kidneys stems from the excess protein, not the high fat content. You can not eat your fill of just lean proteins. You must add fat to keep you healthy. Also a higher fat content ensures weight loss too.
Low-carb, high-fat diet and weight loss

There is just one other consideration: If you want to lose weight, the actual material you want to rid your body of is fat. But to do that you have to change your body from using glucose as a fuel to using fat – including your own body fat. This is another reason not to use protein as a substitute for carbs, as protein is also converted to glucose.

If you think about it, Nature stores excess energy in our bodies as fat, not as protein. It makes much more sense, therefore, to use what we are designed by Nature to use. And that is fat.
I've done many posts on the benefits of adding dietary fat to your eating plan. I do this myself. My fat intake is usually >70% of my total intake. I also try to shoot for at least 50% of that to be saturated fat. Coconut oil is one of the many ways I get that ratio. To tell how much protein you actually need in your diet refer back to this post.

So if you are one of those many WLSers out there committed to eating low fat. Take heed of this post. You may just be setting yourself up for trouble. So my advice, take it or leave it, cut down the carbs, especially the fiber and grains. Limit your protein to just what your body needs to maintain muscle mass. Last but most importantly increase your fat intake. You got yourself "gut whacked" for a chance at better health. Shouldn't you do everything you can to make it all worth it. If you aren't, you NEVER should have had the surgery in the first place. This is a lifestyle, not just another useless diet.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Bamagal, wow. The effort you put into this post is tremendous and I sincerely appreciate you writing it. I'm always learning something here. I had read a few things about that explorer hanging out with the Eskimos but you explained the whole experiment in great detail.
Me thinks I'm having bacon for breakfast tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Gweebles here! Just wanted to say thanks for finding that information. I couldn't find my "Neanderthin" book and wanted to see that post again. I agree, I always felt like crap in Kimkins for this reason.

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Anonymous said...

it's "glucogenogenesis" not "gluconeogenesis" and it does not mean "re-born christian glucogen". moron

Anonymous said...

Not all foods that are low in fat are actually low in calories. There has been an explosion of foods that are reduced in fat in the market but mind you most of them are low in fat yet contain lots of sugar such as snacks bars, cookies, cakes, candies, ice cream and so on. Such foods do not promote a healthy diet, even if they are low in fat. http://www.phentermine-effects.com

mark said...

Great post. Very informative. Thank you.

You make a compelling case for fat consumption, but I can think of cultures that eat very little fat--the Lao for example--and still enjoy long lifespans. In Lao cookery, meat is almost always stripped of fat or the fat is lost during cooking.