The Ketogenic Diet's Effect on Cortisol Metabolism

The Ketogenic Diet for Health

One of the myths surrounding ketogenic diets comes from misunderstanding the role of cortisol — the "stress hormone".

In a previous post, we addressed one of the arguments behind this myth: the idea that to activate gluconeogenesis (to make glucose out of protein), extra cortisol must be recruited.
That is just factually incorrect, as we showed in the post.

The other argument, which we address here, is more complex.

Like the previous cortisol myth, it involves a faulty chain of reasoning.
Here are the steps:

  1. Ketogenic diets may raise certain measures of cortisol.
  2. Chronically elevated cortisol is correlated with metabolic sydrome,
    and therefore higher cortisol measures may indicate the onset of
    metabolic syndrome.
  3. Therefore, ketogenic diets could cause metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is a terrible and prevalent problem
It is that cluster of symptoms most strongly identified with diabetes —
excess abdominal fat, high blood sugar, and a particular cholesterol
profile — but also correlated with other life-threatening conditions
such as heart disease and cancer.

In this post, we're going to explain some of the specifics of cortisol metabolism.
We'll show how this argument is vague, and how clarifying it leads to the opposite conclusion.
The confusion may all stem from misunderstanding one important fact:
different measures of cortisol are not equivalent.

First, though, there is an important reason why the argument doesn't make sense.

We already know that a ketogenic diet effectively treats metabolic syndrome.
As we will describe below, it turns out that certain cortisol patterns
are strongly linked to metabolic syndrome, and might even be a cause of
metabolic syndrome.
If the cortisol pattern that develops in response to a ketogenic diet
were the kind that was associated with metabolic syndrome, then we would
expect people on ketogenic diets to show signs of abdominal fat gain,
rising blood sugar, and a worsening cholesterol profile, but we see the
This by itself makes it highly unlikely that ketogenic diets raise
cortisol in a harmful way.

In other words, because cortisol regulation is so deeply
connected to metabolic syndrome, the fact that ketogenic diets reverse
symptoms of metabolic syndrome is itself strong evidence that they
improve cortisol metabolism.

In Brief

  • There are many different measures of cortisol,
    because researchers have identified many different processes in cortisol
  • Increases in some of those measurements are consistently linked to metabolic syndrome, and others are not.
  • Some researchers believe that cortisol dysregulation is a key underlying factor in metabolic syndrome.
  • The cornerstone of this connection may be the activity of an enzyme, 11β-HSD1.
    It converts from the inactive form cortisone to the active cortisol.
  • In metabolic syndrome, 11β-HSD1 is underactive in liver tissue and overactive in fat tissue.
    This results in a high rate of cortisol clearance, and low rate of regeneration.
  • These symptoms of cortisol dysregulation associated with metabolic
    syndrome were found to be reversed by a keto diet in a study that made
    the necessary measurements.

Does a ketogenic diet raise cortisol?

Boston Children's Hospital graphic (with our markup in black). Click for the original.
Boston Children's Hospital graphic (with our markup in black). Click for the original.
In a widely-cited study [1], from the Harvard-affiliated Boston Children's Hospital, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,
three different diets were tested: a low-fat diet, a low-carb diet, and a low-glycemic-index
The study showed that the different diets had substantially different
metabolic effects, with the low-carbohydrate diet having the best
To our surprise, the researchers then recommended the low-glycemic-index
diet instead.
As they explained in the accompanying press release:

“The very low-carbohydrate diet produced the greatest improvements
in metabolism, but with an important caveat: This diet increased
participants' cortisol levels, which can lead to insulin resistance and
cardiovascular disease.”
The Boston Children's Hospital then went on to produce a graphic advising patients to follow the low-glycemic-index diet,
and giving this as the primary reason not to choose the low-carb diet.
Here is that graphic, which we've marked (in black) to show our disagreement. (Click for the full version without our markup.)

The cortisol levels are an understandable concern, because high
urinary cortisol has been epidemiologically associated with a greatly
increased risk of death from heart attacks [2].

However, because a ketogenic diet effectively treats metabolic syndrome, we should expect that it also reduces those specific cortisol patterns that are associated with metabolic syndrome (and therefore heart disease).
As we show below, this has, in fact, been found.

How is cortisol associated with metabolic syndrome?

Figure 1 from “11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1: translational and therapeutic aspects.” Gathercole LL, Lavery GG, Morgan SA, Cooper MS, Sinclair AJ, Tomlinson JW, Stewart PM. Endocr Rev. 2013 Aug;34(4):525-55. doi: 10.1210/er.2012-1050. Epub 2013 Apr 23.
Just as we
now understand that measuring an individual's total cholesterol without
looking at its component parts is inadequate for assessing
cardiovascular health
, there are different ways to measure cortisol, and only specific patterns of measurements are found with metabolic syndrome.

Cortisol can be measured in fluids, such as urine, saliva, or blood.
Within those fluids, the amount of free cortisol can be measured, but so can cortisone,
the inactive form, or the metabolites that are the result of enzyme
action, and the ratios of any of these to the others can be measured
(see Figure 1).
Moreover, these measurements have a diurnal rhythm, being higher and
lower at different times of the day.

The enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11β-HSD) can convert back and forth between cortisol and cortisone.
11β-HSD1—a subtype of 11β-HSD—converts cortisone to cortisol.
When inactive cortisone is converted to the active cortisol, it is called regeneration.
The other enzymes in the illustration break cortisone or cortisol down into metabolites.
That process is called clearance.
It turns out that measurements of these enzyme are important for evaluating cortisol metabolism.

The cortisol profile that has been associated with metabolic syndrome includes the following characteristics:

  • high cortisol production rates [3].
  • high cortisol clearance rates [4], [5].
  • high 11β-HSD1 expression in fat cells, and low 11β-HSD1 expression in the liver [6], [7], which determines when and where cortisol is regenerated.
Similarly to the way total cholesterol measurement is correlated with heart disease, but only because it is roughly
correlated with more informative cholesterol measurements, 24-hour
urinary cortisol may be a proxy for production or clearance, but a poor
one [3], [4], [7].

Cortisol levels are affected by production, but they are
also affected by regeneration and clearance.
In other words, if regeneration were increased, or clearance decreased,
levels could go up even if production stayed the same or went down.
(We previously discussed a similar situation with blood glucose and faulty inference about glucose production rates.)
This means that levels can look similar, even when cortisol metabolism is very different.

Implication for those following the “adrenal fatigue” hypothesis:
if you measure your cortisol, and it is high, you can't conclude that
your adrenal glands are working correspondingly hard. It could be due to
increased regeneration and reduced clearance by enzyme activity. Higher
cortisol could actually mean the adrenals are working less!

In obesity, it appears that production goes up to compensate
for high clearance and impaired regeneration, although sometimes not
enough to compensate; blood cortisol is sometimes actually lower in
obese subjects [8].

How does a ketogenic diet affect the relevant cortisol measures?

In [9], investigators put obese men on either a high-fat/low-carb (fat 66%, carb 4%) or a moderate-fat/moderate-carb (fat 35%, carb 35%) diet ad libitum
(eating as much as they wanted).
Note that both diets had the same protein percent, and both were lower
carb than a standard American diet, but only the high-fat/low-carb diet
was at ketogenically low levels.

For the high-fat/low-carb group, “the metabolic syndrome pattern” was
reversed: blood cortisol went up, clearance went down, and regeneration
went up.
This was apparently due to an increase of 11β-HSD1 activity in liver

(Activity of 11β-HSD1 did not go down in fat tissue of those
subjects, but the authors point out that the activity in fat tissue
tends to go down when more fat is eaten, and the high-fat/low-carb group
weren't actually eating more fat in absolute terms than at baseline,
only lower carb.)

This reversal didn't happen in the moderate-fat/moderate-carb group, even though they lost a similar amount of weight.

So the ketogenic diet actually improved the cortisol profile of
the participants, making it less like the cortisol profile seen in
metabolic syndrome.


There is some reason to believe that cortisol dysregulation is a key underlying factor in metabolic syndrome [10], [11].
The dysregulation has a particular pattern that seems to be caused by a tissue-specific expression of the enzyme 11β-HSD1.

There is a belief among some researchers that ketogenic diets worsen
cortisol metabolism (which could lead to metabolic syndrome and heart
but an examination of the specific pattern of cortisol metabolism
related to metabolic sydrome shows the opposite.

This is what should have been expected in the first place, since
ketogenic diets have already been shown to improve insulin sensitivity
(the defining symptom of metabolic syndrome) in repeated randomized
controlled trials.

One mechanism by which keto diet improves metabolic syndrome may be its beneficial effect on cortisol metabolism.

Further Reading

For a review of 11β-HSD1, see:

Gathercole LL, Lavery GG, Morgan SA, Cooper MS, Sinclair AJ, Tomlinson JW, Stewart PM.
Endocr Rev. 2013 Aug;34(4):525-55. doi: 10.1210/er.2012-1050. Epub 2013 Apr 23.

The Risks and Benefits of Eating Plants — Little Shop of Horrors? Georgia Ede, M.D. on Vimeo

Little Shop of Horrors? The Risks and Benefits of Eating Plants — Georgia Ede, M.D. on Vimeo

Little Shop of Horrors? The Risks and Benefits of Eating Plants — Georgia Ede, M.D. from Ancestral Health Society on Vimeo.

Do we need vegetables in our diet? » Diagnosis: Diet

Vegetables » Diagnosis: Diet

Do we need vegetables in our diet?

As outrageous as this may sound, I find no scientific evidence that vegetables are essential components of the human diet, because I am not aware of a single study that compares a diet containing vegetables to a diet without vegetables.

Thankfully, scientific laboratories are not our only sources of valuable information about the world. There’s real life evidence we can turn to that can answer our question.

We happen to know that a number of populations throughout history have eaten diets containing extremely few or even no vegetables, and historical reports tell us that these people were very healthy. Eskimo populations at the turn of the 20th Century are the clearest examples of this phenomenon. Nothing grows up there, so these frozen folks had no choice but to eat an essentially all-animal diet. Physician explorers of the time (before trade routes exposed traditional peoples to outside foods) observed that cancer was virtually nonexistent in Eskimo villages. Even if the historical record doesn’t prompt you to wonder whether vegetables are really necessary in the fight against cancer, it should at least convince you that vegetables are not required in the human diet for daily bodily function.

That these people were somehow able to get all of their essential vitamins and minerals entirely from animal foods I find to be fascinating and important information. These were not short-term studies lasting weeks or months or a couple of years. These were real people living entire lifetimes, being physically active, reproducing, etc., with little to no vegetable matter in their diet (and therefore virtually no carbohydrate). No biased researchers, no study subjects guessing about what they ate or cheating on their diets. I would argue that this kind of evidence is far more convincing than any scientific study.

Are vegetables good for us?

Okay, so they don’t seem to be necessary, but how do we know that Eskimos wouldn’t have been even healthier if they had added vegetables to their all-meat diet? We don’t know. So let’s look at the scientific research to see what it tells us about vegetables and health.
The reason why we are led to believe that vegetables are good for us is that there are thousands of epidemiological studies comparing high-vegetable diets to low-vegetable diets, and often (but not always), the people eating high-vegetable diets seem healthier. So why isn’t that convincing? Because when epidemiologists compare two different diets, there are usually LOTS of differences between those two diets, not just the amount of vegetable consumed.
For example, because people believe vegetables are healthy, people who eat more vegetables tend to be more health-conscious in general. However, health-conscious people also tend to do lots of other things differently from the average person—they may eat less processed food, drink less alcohol, smoke less, eat less sugar, count calories, exercise more, etc. These other differences are very hard to account for in studies. The only way to really figure out if vegetables are healthy is to compare a diet with vegetables to a diet without vegetables. I know of no scientific study that has done this.
So, epidemiological studies suggest that people who eat more vegetables might be healthier. In order to prove this hypothesis, we need to do experiments. What do actual clinical experiments tell us?
I compiled the following information for a recent presentation I gave at the Ancestral Health Symposium:
As of this writing (August 2012), there are 762 clinical studies listed in PubMed (a scientific search engine) having to do with vegetables and human health. Most of these are studies of how to get people to eat more vegetables; there are very few clinical trials attempting to show that vegetables are healthy. There were only 38 clinical studies designed to evaluate specific health effects of actual vegetables (as opposed to special concentrated vegetable extracts or isolated vegetable nutrients), and the vast majority of these (31 of the 38), unfortunately, used fruits and vegetables, instead of just vegetables. Fruits are so different from vegetables that it’s like comparing apples and oranges…except that it’s even worse, because at least apples and oranges are both fruits! However, let’s try to ignore these major design flaws and see what researchers found.
18 of these 38 clinical studies were “negative”, meaning the researchers did not find the health benefit they were looking for.  The remaining 20 studies were “positive”, meaning researchers found a health benefit when they compared groups of people who ate more (fruits and) vegetables to those who ate less of these foods.
20 positive studies is nothing to sneeze at, so at first glance, one might think that eating more (fruits and) vegetables might be a good idea. However, upon closer scrutiny, flaws become obvious that make it impossible, unfortunately, to know whether the results are actually due to the (fruits and) vegetables and not to some other factor.
Of the 20 “positive” studies, 10 did not take refined carbohydrate into consideration. This means that the group of people who ate more (fruits and) vegetables might have been healthier because they were eating less refined carbohydrate than the group that ate fewer vegetables.
The remaining 10 “positive” studies did not simply increase the amount of (fruits and) vegetables people ate; they also changed other aspects of lifestyle, such as fat consumption, alcohol intake, smoking, exercise, salt use, and/or refined carbohydrate intake. Therefore, we do not know whether the people who ate more (fruits and) vegetables were healthier because of the vegetables or because of some other aspect of the intervention.
Oh, and In case you’re wondering, of the 7 lonely studies that did look only at vegetables (instead of fruits and vegetables together), 6 of those 7 studies just happened to fall into the negative category, meaning that the vegetable(s) did not provide the health benefit expected. Hmmm.
So, we don’t have any clear scientific proof yet that vegetables are healthy for us. However, just because scientists have not yet conducted the kinds of studies that can tell us whether vegetables are healthy does not mean that they are not good for us; it just means that the idea that vegetables are good for us remains an unproven hypothesis.

Don’t we need to eat vegetables for fiber?  

Fiber is an important enough topic that I gave it its own page on the site.

Aren’t vegetarians healthier than other people?

For detailed information about this question, please see vegetarian diets and vegan diets.  

Aren’t vegetables important sources of vitamins and minerals?

Below is a copy of a PowerPoint slide I prepared for a presentation at the 2012 Ancestral Health Symposium entitled “Little Shop of Horrors: the risks and benefits of eating plants.” In this slide you can see that animal products are superior sources of most essential vitamins and minerals, including 4 that do not exist in plant foods at all:

Aren’t vegetable antioxidants important for health?

This is a very complicated topic, and I’ll be writing lots more about this over time. For starters, many vegetable antioxidants that appear to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties in laboratory studies also happen to be the same chemical weapons that plants use to defend themselves.  Therefore, it makes sense that many of these isolated compounds not only have the power to kill cancer cells, they also have the power to kill healthy, normal cells. Like any form of chemotherapy, the most powerful vegetable antioxidants are, at best, double-edged swords.
Since antioxidants from each vegetable family are numerous, unique and complex, they will be explored in detail in the special occasional articles in my food blog. From cruciferous vegetables like broccoli to nightshades like white potato, you will discover the clever ways in which each vegetable family protects itself in the world, and how its specialized defensive chemicals affect your body.
The first Veggie blog post feature is already available:  Click HERE to read “Is Broccoli Good for You? Meet the Crucifer Family.”
The second Veggie blog post feature is now available:  Click HERE to read “How Deadly Are Nightshades?”, which includes lots of interesting information about potatoes, as well as about tomatoes and eggplants (which are actually fruits masquerading as vegetables).

Bottom Line about Vegetables

There is no scientific evidence proving that vegetables are necessary, let alone good for us.  However, most vegetables are naturally filling, low in carbohydrate, and low in calories, and therefore may be useful alternatives to junk food, sweets, baked goods, dairy products, and seed foods (grains, beans, nuts and seeds) when trying to control weight. Very sweet and starchy high glycemic index vegetables, such as white potatoes and beets, are exceptions to this rule.
Due to high fiber content, vegetables can be hard to digest, especially if eaten raw.
Vegetable nutrients are harder for us to absorb and use than animal food nutrients.
Vegetables contain naturally-occurring defensive chemicals that are designed to harm creatures that try to feast upon them.  These chemicals are very toxic to living cells, however, the concentrations that exist in most types of whole vegetables may be relatively safe for most people to eat in moderation.  Vegetable extracts and concentrates may not be as safe as whole vegetables because the “dose” of vegetable chemicals is much higher in these products. Some vegetable families contain more potent toxins than others, so watch my food blog for my “Vegetable of the Month” feature to learn which vegetables are most likely to cause trouble for sensitive people.
Some vegetables are actually fruits, because they contain seeds.  Examples of fruits masquerading as vegetables include:  cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, and squashes. Pureed preparations of these “vegetables” which include pureed seeds are probably riskier choices, as seeds contain especially harmful chemicals that are released when seeds are pureed.
Some vegetables are actually legumes.  Examples include green beans, wax beans, and snow peas.  The pods or beans inside of these vegetables pose special risks to our health.  For more information, see the grains/beans/nuts/seeds page.
Young vegetable sprouts contain higher concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals than mature vegetables because baby plants are vulnerable and need more protection from predators.
As a general rule, toxins are more likely to be concentrated in the skins of vegetables, to protect the plant on its outer surface.  Sensitive individuals may therefore want to skin vegetables before eating. Cooking can also reduce the activity of some of these chemicals.
We and most of our ancestors have been eating vegetables for as long as 2 million years, so our bodies have adapted some ways of handling their natural toxins that may reduce their risk to our health.  This is probably not true of “newer” foods, such as seed foods (5,000 to 10,000 years), refined carbohydrates (100-150 years), and artificial food additives (about 70 years).  Therefore, vegetables are likely to be superior choices when compared to these newer foods.

Was I Wrong About Gluten? Part 2 - Critical MAS

Was I Wrong About Gluten? Part 2 - Critical MAS

For those that haven’t read Part 1,
please do so now. In it I describe how I removed gluten from my diet
and experienced positive health benefits. Then I reflected on how I
became sensitive to gluten and how I am in a better position now to
handle small amounts of gluten.

Has the fear of gluten been exaggerated? Is it just one of a long
list of foods that have been demonized unjustly? In the past year there
have been many smart individuals that believe this is the case. The new
wave of gluten defenders seem to be falling into 2 camps.

Diet Recovery / Broken Metabolism

Matt Stone is a fan of using wheat to jump start a metabolism wrecked
by excessive dieting. If someone has a history of food restriction and
has developed unhealthy attitudes about food, then food typically
thought of as “junk food
can be both metabolically and psychologically beneficial. The thinking
here is that by increasing metabolism, so many other health markers move
in a positive direction that total health benefits in spite of the
wheat. Here wheat is used as a convenient tool to solve a greater

I really don’t have much to comment here. It’s an area of health I
know little about, but if one can eat cookies to boost metabolism to
restore health then, why not? It isn’t denying the possible health
issues with gluten, it is about addressing a larger health issue

“It’s only 10%”

The other group of gluten defenders state that Celiac represents just
1% and when you add in those with any gluten intolerances that number
is only 10%. I’ve talked to a local naturopath whose research suggests
that number is 30%. On a recent Robb Wolf podcast with Dr. David Perlmutter MD,
author of Grain Brain, also uses the 30% number. Regardless of the
number, this camp feels that gluten issues have been overstated. As a
side note, I’ve noticed the people in this camp are almost all coming
from a fitness background. They tend to be resilient as do their

When I listened to Evil Sugar Radio Episode 9,
Antonio Valladares and Alan Aragon were mostly dismissive of gluten
issues. Alan shared his research stating that 90-91% of the population
does not have any gluten issues, so therefore gluten is fine and that
projecting these problems out to everyone is absurd.

I have a few problems with the logic here. One is 10% is not a small
number. What if it really is 30%? That is a tremendous number. Something
is going on and even if I wasn’t gluten intolerant, I’d be taking
notice. Why are so many people having so many issues with a food that is
so prevalent? And what does “fine” really mean? Do we know? I have
trouble believing that a food would be harmful to 10% (or 30%), but
beneficial to 90% (or 70%).

Maybe Alan is right and the much of the gluten demonization is about
praying on the insecurities of the fitness culture? God knows they’ve
done it before. For me the numbers are too high to ignore and too many
smart people have raised concerns that in my opinion have not been fully
addressed. Robb Wolf, Paul Jamient, Chris Kresser, and others have gone into great detail why they feel gluten is best avoided.

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs,  and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers is by Dr. David Perlmutter who sat down with Robb Wolf for a podcast interview on the book. The second half of the interview deals with his neurological concerns related to grains.

Moving from 100% GF to 99% GF

As I covered in Part 1, I believe I have to some degree healed my
body’s ability to handle gluten. It took years, but I’m now more resilient.
But just because I’m not showing symptoms when I have soy sauce or 4 oz
of beer, does not mean that I’ve accepted that gluten is beneficial. I

Even if the only benefit I’m receiving from removing gluten these
days is that I’ve replaced those calories with more nutrient dense and
nutrient diverse foods, then that is still a benefit. And if someday we
all learn that gluten was innocent then we can resume eating it at that
time. I doubt that will happen, but I’ll keep an open mind.


  1. Txomin says

    There is a lot of room between making grains the core of one’s
    diet and eliminating them all together. I find that extreme positions
    demand more effort than they are worth. So, unless you have a health
    issue, I say follow a 90/10 or even an 80/20 rule. You will receive more
    benefit/damage from what you choose as your dominant diet than what
    floats on the periphery. And so, my diet is dominated by foodstuffs that
    humans can digest as found (vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats, fish,
    etc). That alone is my bet and so far so.. great, in fact.

  2. says

    @Txomin – Well said. I also suspect traditional methods of grain
    preparation play a significant role in tolerance over a long period.

  3. Not all gluten is created equal.

    I would guess there’s a huge difference between eating a Twinkee and a slice of organic sourdough bread from a artisan baker.

  4. says

    @Glenn – I agree. Thanks for the link you sent me. I think I’m going to one more gluten post.

Be Kind to Your Grains...And Your Grains Will Be Kind To You - Weston A Price Foundation

Be Kind to Your Grains...And Your Grains Will Be Kind To You - Weston A Price Foundation

Written by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD
Saturday, 01 January 2000 14:57
Read this in: Czech

The science of nutrition seems to take a step backwards for every
two steps it takes forward. When the study of vitamins was in its
infancy, researchers realized that white flour lacked the nutrients that
nature put into whole grains. One of these researchers was Dr. Weston
Price who noted in his studies of isolated, so-called "primitive"
peoples that when white flour and other devitalized foods were
introduced into these communities, rampant tooth decay and disease of
every sort soon followed. But defenders of the new refining process
argued that phosphorus in whole grains was "too acid" and was the true
cause of bone loss and tooth decay. Warnings against the use of white
flour went largely ignored.

Only in recent decades has Dr. Price been vindicated. Even orthodox
nutritionists now recognize that white flour is an empty food, supplying
calories for energy but none of the bodybuilding materials that abound
in the germ and the bran of whole grains. We've take two important steps
forward—but unfortunately another step backward in that now whole grain
and bran products are being promoted as health foods without adequate
appreciation of their dangers. These show up not only as
digestive problems, Crohn's disease and colitis, but also as the mental
disorders associated with celiac disease. One school of thought claims
that both refined and whole grains should be avoided, arguing
that they were absent from the Paleolithic diet and citing the obvious
association of grains with celiac disease and studies linking grain
consumption with heart disease.

But many healthy societies consume products made from grains. In
fact, it can be argued that the cultivation of grains made civilization
possible and opened the door for mankind to live long and comfortable
lives. Problems occur when we are cruel to our grains—when we
fractionate them into bran, germ and naked starch; when we mill them at
high temperatures; when we extrude them to make crunchy breakfast
cereals; and when we consume them without careful preparation.

Grains require careful preparation because they contain a number of
antinutrients that can cause serious health problems. Phytic acid, for
example, is an organic acid in which phosphorus is bound. It is mostly
found in the bran or outer hull of seeds. Untreated phytic acid can
combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the
intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in
improperly prepared whole grains may lead to serious mineral
deficiencies and bone loss. The modern misguided practice of consuming
large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at
first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in the long term,
many other adverse effects.

Other antinutrients in whole grains include enzyme inhibitors which
can inhibit digestion and put stress on the pancreas; irritating
tannins; complex sugars which the body cannot break down; and gluten and
related hard-to-digest proteins which may cause allergies, digestive
disorders and even mental illness.

Most of these antinutrients are part of the seed's system of
preservation—they prevent sprouting until the conditions are right.
Plants need moisture, warmth, time and slight acidity in order to
sprout. Proper preparation of grains is a kind and gentle process that
imitates the process that occurs in nature. It involves soaking for a
period in warm, acidulated water in the preparation of porridge, or
long, slow sour dough fermentation in the making of bread. Such
processes neutralize phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Vitamin content
increases, particularly B vitamins. Tannins, complex sugars, gluten and
other difficult-to-digest substances are partially broken down into
simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.

Animals that nourish themselves on primarily on grain and other plant
matter have as many as four stomachs. Their intestines are longer, as
is the entire digestion transit time. Man, on the other hand, has but
one stomach and a much shorter intestine compared to herbivorous
animals. These features of his anatomy allow him to pass animal products
before they putrefy in the gut but make him less well adapted to a diet
high in grains—unless, of course, he prepares them properly. When
grains are properly prepared through soaking, sprouting or sour
leavening, the friendly bacteria of the microscopic world do some of our
digesting for us in a container, just as these same lactobacilli do their work in the first and second stomachs of the herbivores.

So the well-meaning advice of many nutritionists, to consume whole
grains as our ancestors did and not refined flours and polished rice,
can be misleading and harmful in its consequences; for while our
ancestors ate whole grains, they did not consume them as presented in
our modern cookbooks in the form of quick-rise breads, granolas, bran
preparations and other hastily prepared casseroles and concoctions. Our
ancestors, and virtually all pre-industrialized peoples, soaked or
fermented their grains before making them into porridge, breads, cakes
and casseroles. A quick review of grain recipes from around the world
will prove our point: In India, rice and lentils are fermented for at
least two days before they are prepared as idli and dosas;
in Africa the natives soak coarsely ground corn overnight before adding
it to soups and stews and they ferment corn or millet for several days
to produce a sour porridge called ogi; a similar dish made from
oats was traditional among the Welsh; in some Oriental and Latin
American countries rice receives a long fermentation before it is
prepared; Ethiopians make their distinctive injera bread by fermenting a grain called teff for several days; Mexican corn cakes, called pozol,
are fermented for several days and for as long as two weeks in banana
leaves; before the introduction of commercial brewers yeast, Europeans
made slow-rise breads from fermented starters; in America the pioneers
were famous for their sourdough breads, pancakes and biscuits; and
throughout Europe grains were soaked overnight, and for as long as
several days, in water or soured milk before they were cooked and served
as porridge or gruel. (Many of our senior citizens may remember that in
earlier times the instructions on the oatmeal box called for an
overnight soaking.)

Bread can be the staff of life, but modern technology has turned our
bread—even our whole grain bread—into a poison. Grains are laced with
pesticides during the growing season and in storage; they are milled at
high temperatures so that their fatty acids turn rancid. Rancidity
increases when milled flours are stored for long periods of time,
particularly in open bins. The bran and germ are often removed and sold
separately, when Mother Nature intended that they be eaten together with
the carbohydrate portion; they're baked as quick rise breads so that
antinutrients remain; synthetic vitamins and an unabsorbable form of
iron added to white flour can cause numerous imbalances; dough
conditioners, stabilizers, preservatives and other additives add insult
to injury.

Cruelty to grains in the making of breakfast cereals is intense.
Slurries of grain are forced through tiny holes at high temperatures and
pressures in giant extruders, a process that destroys nutrients and
turns the proteins in grains into veritable poisons. Westerners pay a
lot for expensive breakfast cereals that snap, crackle and pop,
including the rising toll of poor health.

The final indignity to grains is that we treat them as loners,
largely ignorant of other dietary factors needed for the nutrients they
provide. Fat-soluble vitamins A and D found in animal fats like butter,
lard and cream help us absorb calcium, phosphorus, iron, B vitamins and
the many other vitamins that grains provide. Porridge eaten with cream
will do us a thousand times more good than cold breakfast cereal
consumed with skim milk; sourdough whole grain bread with butter or
whole cheese is a combination that contributes to optimal health.

Be kind to your grains. . . and your grains will deliver their
promise as the staff of life. Buy only organic whole grains and soak
them overnight to make porridge or casseroles; or grind them into flour
with a home grinder and make your own sour dough bread and baked goods.
For those who lack the time for breadmaking, kindly-made whole grain
breads are now available. Look for organic, stone ground, sprouted or
sour dough whole grain breads (we have many brands listed in our yearly
Shopping Guide) and enjoy them with butter or cheese.

Copyright: From: Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, PhD. © 1999. All Rights Reserved.  To order Nourishing Traditions, go to www.newtrendspublishing.com.

5 Most Frequent Foods in My Diet Fitness, Nutrition, Self-Improvement, and How to Become the Best Version of Yourself

5 Most Frequent Foods in My Diet Fitness, Nutrition, Self-Improvement, and How to Become the Best Version of Yourself

| ,

have been contemplating which foods I most frequently consume in my
diet these days. I wanted to become aware of the foods which are at the
core of my nutrition and build its basic foundation. This seems rather
important considering that these foods make up the bulk of my daily
Often, people will tell you that a
particular health food is part of their diet (e.g. salmon) but they
neglect to mention that they only consume salmon once a month. This
obviously makes salmon a rarely consumed food which doesn’t contribute
greatly toward better health.
After recording a tally chart for most
food items I eat for the past 2 weeks, I have found that the following
foods are the ones I consume most frequently on a weekly basis:

1. Salmon

Lavendel Blossom-Covered Wild Salmon
Either fried in the pan or cold-smoked, I
absolutely love the taste of salmon and its amazing nutrient profile.
Lots of proteins, essential Omega-3 fats, no carbs –> simply a health
food in my opinion that anybody’s brain development could benefit from.
I ALWAYS try to go for wild-caught Sockeye salmon or Oncorhynchus keta from the Pacific Ocean – especially after watching the SALMON CONFIDENTIAL
documentary which shocked me and opened up the disastrous reality of
aqua-cultured farmed salmon. Everybody should watch this who is
interested where their salmon comes from and how the salmon industry is
fucking up the wild salmon stocks.

2. Ground Beef

Meatball Time
Always going for the organic grass-fed
version of pure beef. This is a big staple in my diet. I usually
alternate between salmon and ground beef each day. So that’s roughly 3 x
salmon + 3 x ground beef = 1 week. I am not afraid of red meat as most
of the media world seems to be – I think it’s a wonderful protein source
and if you get grass-fed stuff it will actually have MORE
omega-3s, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), antioxidants, vitamins &
minerals than any conventional grain-fed beef can even dream about.
You can create a lot of diverse meat dishes with ground beef, ranging from Mexican flavoured Taco meat, Spanish “Albondigas” meatballs or burger balls inspired by my Polish grandma.

3. Eggs

That’s a no-brainer for me but no for
the majority of Western people. We have been indoctrinated with the idea
that saturated fats are bad and give you heart disease. Therefore, egg
yolks are to blamed and not consumed en masse due to their high level of
evil saturated fats. I have inherited a genetic mutation called Familial Hypercholesterolemia
(FH) from my dad with the consequence that my LDL level and my risk for
cardiovascular disease are pretty high. Still, I eat egg yolks (mostly
raw in a smoothie) because they provide important nutrients and
saturated fats which (if not oxidised due to heat) are blessing for
proper brain functioning and nerve signal transduction.
For me, it’s roughly 10 eggs per week
from pastured chickens which get to see sunlight and eat anything they
find (as opposed to most conventional chickens).

4. Milk

Strictly speaking, I am not Paleo and have never been Paleo. I have kind of settled for a Paleo + Dairy deal.
I love milk but not the homogenised crap you get at the supermarket.
Most of the time, I buy raw milk from an organic farm who also sell the
most amazing raw cheeses and joghurts.
Typically, I consume about a litre of
milk per day – more on workout days to reap the anabolic effects of
dairy’s Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF 1). I like to have a big glass
of milk in the morning after my early coffee to ingest some calories
without having to prepare a big breakfast. This lasts me till lunch.
Post workout I can easily down a litre in my shake.

5. White Rice

White rice is a clean source of carbs
whose sole purpose is to fill up my glycogen stores and fuel my next
workout. It does not come with the gut-disrupting gluten protein found
in grains andPaul Jaminet and Dave Asprey consider white rice a “clean”
carb source. I have recently bought a big 5kg (~11 lbs) bag of Basmati
rice from the Asian store. Super stuff and very cheap per kg. I like to
use cooked rice primarily as a carrier for all the healthy fats bound in
a nice gravy. Similarly, rice waffles also act as a vector for more nutrient-dense foods such as butter, cheese or ham.

Beef, lamb, eggs, white rice, kimchi

Was it Gut Flora?....Was I Wrong About Gluten? - Critical MAS

Was I Wrong About Gluten? - Critical MAS

Was it Gut Flora?

Why was I handling gluten exposure much better in 2013 than I did
from 2010-2012? Was my body more resilient? If so, what was going on?
Last month Chris Kresser did a podcast on What Are the Hidden Costs of Modern Hygiene? that helped me connect the pieces.

…it’s possible that if we still had the Paleolithic
microbiome intact, we could tolerate grains and all of these compounds
with no problem. And perhaps that explains why some people are able to
tolerate those foods with apparently no problems. But given that the
microbiome has changed so significantly because of things like
sanitation and hygiene and also increased use of antibiotics and decline
in the consumption of fermented foods and fermentable substrates that
lead to a better gut microbiome…
In 2008, I began taking a lot of antibiotics to deal with rosacea. Is
it possible that my gut flora was in a far worse state to digest gluten
because of the meds? And starting in early 2010 I began making kimchi
and sauerkraut, both fermented foods to support gut flora. However, I didn’t get into dairy kefir
on a regular basis until December 2012. Since that time, I haven’t had a
single incident where trace exposure has triggered ill effects.


Bring on the Bread?

I needed to do a test to support the theory that my gut flora was
destroyed by antibiotics in 2008 and healed via fermented foods from
2010 to present. So last Saturday, I went to a microbrewery and drank a 4
oz ale. Beer makes more sense than bread, since beer is fermented and
tastes better. :)
This was the first beer I had since 2010. I had no issues. No
headache, no stomach ache. I slept fine. Granted this is only one point
of data, but a very encouraging one.

I’ve read several accounts of individuals that have reversed their
gluten insensitivity, so this idea isn’t new. Although it is doubtful
this will help Celiacs, being less sensitive to wheat is a step towards
greater resilience.

This post is getting long, so I’ll explain in Part 2 why I do not have any plans to resume eating bread and what the new wave of gluten defenders have gotten wrong.

What Are the Hidden Costs of Modern Hygiene?

What Are the Hidden Costs of Modern Hygiene?

Chris Kresser:  Sure.  I can just give a brief topline summary.  We’ve talked about this before in more detail when we had Moises Velasquez-Manoff, author of An Epidemic of Absence, on the show
to talk about the “old friends” or hygiene hypothesis, which is the
idea that we co-evolved with certain microorganisms that turn out to
play a crucial role in regulating our immune system, and the
disappearance of those microorganisms over the last hundred years in the
industrialized world has led to a dramatic increase in chronic
inflammatory disorders that can basically be separated into three
categories:  autoimmune disease, allergies, and then just general
inflammatory conditions like asthma and arthritis, eczema, psoriasis,

There’s a lot of evidence to support this hypothesis.  You can look
at epidemiological studies which show that the incidence of these
inflammatory conditions is basically a mirror image of geographical maps
of the incidence of helminth infections.  Helminths are worm-like
parasites that are considered to be “old friends,” meaning we evolved
over a very long period of time with them, and they plan an important
role in regulating our immune system.  And so if you look at maps of
helminth infections, they’re basically a flip-flop of maps of chronic
inflammatory diseases, and the same is true when you look at levels of
exposure to things like saprophytic mycobacteria, which is a kind of
bacteria that are present in soil and untreated water that we’ve been
exposed to throughout our entire evolutionary history but is
increasingly absent in the modern environment because of changes. 
Essentially there is what we might call, not just a Paleolithic approach
to food, but there’s a Paleolithic microbiome, and that microbiome has
profound impacts on our physiology and particularly our immune system,
and the shift in that microbiome may actually even be more important in
some ways in terms of its effect on our health than the shift from a
hunter-gatherer lifestyle to agriculture.

You may remember, Steve, when I talked about this in my presentation,
what’s really interesting is there’s the theory that’s prevalent in the
paleo community that the shift from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to
agriculture led to an increase in inflammatory disease and worsening in
health, and there’s no doubt that there’s evidence that moving from a
hunter-gatherer lifestyle to agriculture did lead to a decline in
certain measures of human health, but the idea that compounds like
gluten and saponins and lectins and capsaicin in peppers were
responsible for this decline isn’t very well supported by the evidence
because the significant increases in chronic inflammatory disease didn’t
happen, really, until the last hundred years, and the change from a
hunter-gatherer lifestyle to agriculture happened a full 10,000 years
ago at least, maybe more like 11,000 or 12,000 years ago in certain
areas.  So there has to be something else that explains this because if
it was true that gluten and capsaicin and lectins significantly increase
the risk of inflammatory disease, it would have done that a lot longer
ago than it actually did.  And when you look at the evidence, one of the
things that might clarify this or tie this together is it’s possible
that those compounds in Neolithic foods are not a significant risk
factor for inflammatory disease as long as the Paleolithic microbiome is
still intact, whereas if the Paleolithic microbiome has been depleted
or altered by sanitation and hygiene and other aspects of the modern
lifestyle, then those foods do become risk factors for inflammatory

I think actually this is probably the most important part of my whole
talk, and it was a little bit buried in there.  I hope it came across
clearly because, for me, this has been one of the big challenges of
resolving some of the apparent conflicts in this ancestral paradigm, is
that if you ever talk to someone who’s well informed about anthropology
and the history of human health and you say to them that grains have
significantly increased the risk of inflammatory disorders, they might
turn around and say:  Really?  Well, how did that not happen when all of
these cultures were eating grains for thousands of years and those
disorders were incredibly rare?  Weston A. Price, for example, studied
the people in the Lötschental Valley in Switzerland and the Scottish and
Gaelic living in the Outer Hebrides both of whom relied on grains and
dairy as staples.  And then there are contemporary agricultural
communities in South America and other parts of the world that really
rely on tomatoes and grains and other foods that contain these Neolithic
compounds, and yet autoimmune disease and asthma and things like that
are really rare in those places.

We have to be able to resolve that contradiction if we want people to
take us seriously when we talk about this diet, and so this “old
friends” hypothesis is a way of really tying that together.  And the way
I would explain it to people now is by saying, look, it’s possible that
if we still had the Paleolithic microbiome intact, we could tolerate
grains and all of these compounds with no problem.  And perhaps that
explains why some people are able to tolerate those foods with
apparently no problems.  But given that the microbiome has changed so
significantly because of things like sanitation and hygiene and also
increased use of antibiotics and decline in the consumption of fermented
foods and fermentable substrates that lead to a better gut microbiome,
and increased use of soaps, which actually deplete the skin from certain
types of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria that we’ve evolved with for a long
time, a decline in breastfeeding – because of all of that, these foods
which didn’t really bother us that much for many thousands of years when
our microbiome was still intact are now significant risk factors for
inflammatory disease, and that’s the reason why I tend to recommend that
people avoid or minimize them because we’re not living with that
microbiome still intact, and there are many other aspects of the modern
lifestyle that are problematic and hostile to our immune system.  So
given all of that, it makes sense to me to minimize the inputs that
could potentially dysregulate the system in spite of the fact that it’s
theoretically possible and even epidemiologically likely that those
foods are not the sole cause of an increase in inflammatory disorders.

Steve Wright:  So if I understand what you just said and if I
understood the talk correctly, basically the prevalence of a different
gut microbiome, which your talk specifically centered in on some
specific parasites, but also talked about how there was typically
probably a completely different makeup because we know that that changes
based on what you eat and where you live and everything, but if we
focus more on this other microbiome, then it basically modulated the
immune system so it made us less reactive to potential problematic foods
or other things in our environment, right?

Chris Kresser:  Yep.  That’s pretty much it.  Let’s take
helminths as an example.  These are the worm-like parasites that we
co-evolved with for millions of years, and in fact, helminth infections
first started between 564 and 528 million years ago, so we’re talking
about a very, very long time.  There’s evidence that not only all
humans, not only all hominids, not only all mammals, but all vertebrates
in the history of evolution have been exposed to helminths and infected
by helminths.  And if that’s true, which it certainly seems to be,
based on the fossil record, then there’s actually evidence suggesting
that the adaptive immune system, which is one part of our immune system
that evolved in response to helminth infection, which indicates that our
immune system can’t really even function as it was designed to do
without helminths being present, which is kind of a mind-blowing
concept, right?!  That are immune system is really not normal if
helminths, which are parasites, are not present, and I think that’s a
difficult concept to grasp.  We’re conditioned to think that parasites
are harmful, and of course, some are.  Some are very harmful.  This is
not to suggest that we have this relationship with all parasites.  But
helminths have been around for a long time, and our immune system is
tuned to expect their presence.

What they do is they have gently suppressed inflammatory responses,
and that has acted as a type of brake, if we’re going to use an
analogy.  Our immune system has one foot on the brake throughout most of
its history, and then there are these other genetic variants that were
selected for that restored inflammatory responses when helminths were
present.  Why would this happen?  Well, let’s say you live in an area
where malaria is endemic, and inflammation is the body’s way of fighting
malaria off, so if you had helminths that suppress your inflammatory
response, that could potentially be a disadvantage in that situation,
and any genetic variants that arose that restored inflammatory responses
in that situation would have been selected for.  Those genetic variants
were like having one foot on the accelerator, so we had one accelerator
and one foot on the brake, and it kept our immune system in a type of
dynamic balance.  Then all of a sudden in the last hundred years or less
– because in 1947 in Europe, for example, a third of the population or
more than a third still had helminths; we’re talking about a relatively
recent period of time – helminths completely disappeared from the
environment and from our guts, and so that foot on the brake that was
providing that dynamic tension with the accelerator, so to speak, was
gone, and the pedal was to the metal [indiscernible] this really
dramatic epidemic of inflammatory disease because there’s nothing now
that’s preventing excess inflammation that’s caused by those genetic

Steve Wright:  This wasn’t part of your talk, but I think it’s
a question on my mind and probably others who watched your talk:  How
do we start to reconcile the fact that only some of us – well, it is a
big enough portion of the population – are having allergies, asthma,
inflammatory disorders, but nowhere near the majority yet are having
those?  Are do we begin to reconcile that?  We know that everything has
changed.  The food has changed, the environment has changed, and the
microbiome has changed, and there are only some of us who are extremely
affected by this.

Chris Kresser:  Well, actually 1 in 2 people now has allergies
in the industrialized world, so that is nearly a majority, and it’s
shocking when you really contemplate it.  It’s 1 in 10 for autoimmune
disease, and it’s tens of millions for chronic inflammatory conditions. 
The numbers are pretty impressive when you think about it, but
nevertheless, the answer to that question, I already alluded to it. 
It’s a combination of genetic susceptibility, so I just talked about
these genetic variants that evolved in places where other acute
infections were endemic, like malaria, and they evolved as a way of
protecting us from those life-threatening infections, especially when
helminths were present because helminths kind of suppressed the immune
response or the inflammatory response, and that’s beneficial in a
certain way in that it protects us from autoimmune disease and allergies
and inflammatory conditions, but it’s potentially harmful when we can
get an infection like malaria and die unless we’re able to mount a
sufficient inflammatory response.

There were certain areas where those genetic variants were selected
for and more common.  An example of this is Sardinia.  Right now in
Sardinia, 1 in 430 people has multiple sclerosis, and 1 in 270 has type 1
diabetes, which are extraordinarily high rates when you consider the
global averages.  So why are rates so high there?  Well, malaria was
very common in Sardinia up until it was eradicated from the island in
the 1950s, and so all the people who live on Sardinia had these genes
that promoted inflammation in order to help them fight off malaria
infection, and as long as malaria was present at the same time, those
genes didn’t lead to excess inflammation because the malaria was keeping
it in check.  But then when malaria was eradicated from the island in
the 1950s, everyone still had those genes that promote excess
inflammation, but the malaria was no longer keeping it in check, so
those genes, all of a sudden, became a risk factor for autoimmune

So definitely genetic predisposition is playing a big role here. 
Some people have these genetic variants that promote inflammation, and
if they had helminths, those genetic variants wouldn’t be an issue and
they wouldn’t be subject to an increased risk of autoimmune disease. 
And not just helminths, also the saprophytic mycobacteria and early
exposure maybe even to certain viruses, like hepatitis A, and certain
bacteria, like H. pylori, which is harmful later in life but may even be
protective earlier in life.  There are all these different aspects of
the microbiome that help suppress inflammatory responses and protect
against any excessive inflammation that would have been caused by these
genetic variants.  So that’s number one.  And then number two is just
exposure to other aspects of the modern lifestyle that predispose us to
autoimmune disease and inflammatory conditions.  For example, if you’ve
taken a lot of antibiotics when you were a kid, that had a significant
impact on the microbiome, which, again, as I mentioned, shifts our
susceptibility to inflammatory disease.  It makes it more likely that
you’ll have a leaky gut, which Dr. Fasano, who we’ve had on the show in
the past, suggests is a big risk factor for autoimmune disease and may
even be a precondition, which means that you can’t even develop
autoimmune disease without having a leaky gut.  And there’s exposure to
environmental toxins.  There’s exposure to food toxins.  The
poor-quality Western diet certainly affects the microbiome.

Basically what determines whether someone will manifest autoimmune or
allergies or inflammatory disease is a combination of genetics, the
status of their microbiome, and then the presence of environmental
triggers, like poor diet, stress, sleep deprivation, and environmental
toxins, to name a few.

offee on an empty stomach, it should always be with food, since it increases the metabolic rate, and can deplete glycogen stores - Critical MAS

Approaching Nutrition From An Investor's Mindset - Critical MAS


Dry instant coffee is close to 0.5% magnesium, so a cup of strong coffee has about 40 mg. I make strong drip coffee.

The antioxidants in very fresh coffee might have some special value,
but I think instant coffee is on average just as good as brewed coffee.
The high temperature of espresso gets the most caffeine, lower
temperature processes get the minerals and vitamins (mostly niacin) and
aroma, but a little less of the caffeine.

It’s important not to drink coffee on an empty stomach, it should
always be with food, since it increases the metabolic rate, and can
deplete glycogen stores.

(I took away two things from the above – if I want to decrease the
amount of caffeine, I should cut back on espresso coffee and have filter
instead, and the other is don’t drink coffee on its own but with some
food). I am doing both of these and find that I have less of a
cortisol/adrenaline response to coffee ensuring I drink it with food and
drinking filter coffee (I am getting less caffeine per cup).


@Pauline – Espresso actually has the least amount of caffeine as the
contact time is the shortest. However, it has the strongest flavor
signal, which makes it the most addicting to me. I sold my espresso
machine, which has helped me reduce my caffeine levels.

The Peat folks are convinced that depleting glycogen is always a bad
thing. I’m less convinced. Although I am willing to concede it may be
bad for me at this time.

The problem with most nutritional gurus is they believe nutrition is settled science and that their interpretation is correct.

Approaching Nutrition From An Investor's Mindset - Critical MAS

Last Words

I left the low carb interpretation of Paleo a year before the safe
starch debate even began. I had leaned out and I wanted to lock in my
gains. If I could add back carbs and stay healthy and lean, then
my portfolio was more diversified, which I view as less risky. And that
is exactly what happened. Going from Paleo to a more WAPF diet was a no-brainer to me. The investor in me saw it as a very low risk way to greatly expand my nutritional portfolio.

The problem with most nutritional gurus is they believe nutrition is
settled science and that their interpretation is correct. But simple
observation shows that can’t be true. Not only is there too much
disagreement, but even what they are disagreeing about is always
changing. I don’t expect that trend to end. Nor does it need to. In the
absence of information, I can still make good decisions when I approach
nutrition using an investor’s mindset.


Oxysterols: modulators of cholesterol metabolism... [Physiol Rev. 2000] - PubMed - NCBI

Oxysterols: modulators of cholesterol metabolism and other processes.


derivatives of cholesterol (oxysterols) present a remarkably diverse
profile of biological activities, including effects on sphingolipid
metabolism, platelet aggregation, apoptosis, and protein prenylation.
The most notable oxysterol activities center around the regulation of
cholesterol homeostasis, which appears to be controlled in part by a
complex series of interactions of oxysterol ligands with various
receptors, such as the oxysterol binding protein, the cellular nucleic
acid binding protein, the sterol regulatory element binding protein, the
LXR nuclear orphan receptors, and the low-density lipoprotein receptor.
Identification of the endogenous oxysterol ligands and elucidation of
their enzymatic origins are topics of active investigation. Except for
24, 25-epoxysterols, most oxysterols arise from cholesterol by
autoxidation or by specific microsomal or mitochondrial oxidations,
usually involving cytochrome P-450 species. Oxysterols are variously
metabolized to esters, bile acids, steroid hormones, cholesterol, or
other sterols through pathways that may differ according to the type of
cell and mode of experimentation (in vitro, in vivo, cell culture).
Reliable measurements of oxysterol levels and activities are hampered by
low physiological concentrations (approximately 0.01-0.1 microM plasma)
relative to cholesterol (approximately 5,000 microM) and by the
susceptibility of cholesterol to autoxidation, which produces
artifactual oxysterols that may also have potent activities. Reports
describing the occurrence and levels of oxysterols in plasma,
low-density lipoproteins, various tissues, and food products include
many unrealistic data resulting from inattention to autoxidation and to
limitations of the analytical methodology. Because of the widespread
lack of appreciation for the technical difficulties involved in
oxysterol research, a rigorous evaluation of the chromatographic and
spectroscopic methods used in the isolation, characterization, and
quantitation of oxysterols has been included. This review comprises a
detailed and critical assessment of current knowledge regarding the
formation, occurrence, metabolism, regulatory properties, and other
activities of oxysterols in mammalian systems.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text
PubMed Commons home



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Oxysterols are oxidized derivatives of cholesterol, which may be important in many biological processes, including cholesterol homeostasis, sphingolipid metabolism, platelet aggregation, apoptosis, and protein prenylation,[1] though their roles are poorly understood. [2][3]

Frying foods in overused oil or smoking cigarettes can oxidize cholesterol, creating oxysterols.


  1. Jump up ^ Schroepfer, Gj, Jr (Jan 2000). "Oxysterols: modulators of cholesterol metabolism and other processes" (Free full text). Physiological reviews 80 (1): 361–554. ISSN 0031-9333. PMID 10617772.
  2. Jump up ^ Björkhem, I (Sep 2002). "Do oxysterols control cholesterol homeostasis?". The Journal of Clinical Investigation 110 (6): 725–30. doi:10.1172/JCI16388. PMC 151135. PMID 12235099.
  3. Jump up ^ Ingemar Björkhem; Ulf Diczfalusy (2002). "Oxysterols: Friends, Foes, or Just Fellow Passengers?". Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology 22 (5): 734–42. doi:10.1161/01.ATV.0000013312.32196.49. PMID 12006384.

True or False? Butter, Ghee, Lard & Tallow - Are Saturated Animals Fats the Kings and Queens of the Frying Pan? - SuppVersity: Nutrition and Exercise Science for Everyone

True or False? Butter, Ghee, Lard & Tallow - Are Saturated Animals Fats the Kings and Queens of the Frying Pan? - SuppVersity: Nutrition and Exercise Science for Everyone

If you "liked" the SuppVersity on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SuppVersity) you will probably already have seen the controversies and questions my post "Scientists on the Quest for the Perfect Frying Oil" (read more) has triggered. Eventually, it all revolves about yet another of those nutritional wisdoms that's circulating on the Internet: "Ghee,
tallow, lard, ... saturated animal fats and the coconut micacle, of
course, are the best and only frying oils you should use
." (next best Internet source)

How on earth could F. Aladedunye, and R. Przybylski, the authors of the
previously cited study even dare stating that high-oleic low-linolenic rapeseed, high-oleic sunflower oils are good frying oils?

But enough of the sarcasm: In today's installment of "True or False" (read previous installments) we will focus solely on the cholesterol-containing animal fats, and save the one and only "coconut miracle" (Coconut oil - virgin, of course - must be good for everything, right? There have after all (E)-Books been written about it ;-) for another installment of this series.
So, where do we start then? I guess, we could start by rendering down a
big packet of butter in my frying pan... but *wtf* what's that? It's
turning tar black!? Can that really be the ideal frying fat? Probably
not, but if regular butter sucks, what about clarified butter aka
"ghee", then? It's easier to process and there are not tarry clouds
floating in the pan, when you heat it.

"But don't we all know that cholestrol ain't bad for us?"

Unfortunately, there are other problems with ghee;  problems that are
related to the heat-induced oxidation of cholesterol and the presence of
large amounts of cholesterol oxides in commercially available
"clarified butter" even before you even start heating it as it was reported by Kubow et al. in 1993 (12.3% w/w of total sterols).

If rancid fish full of oxidized PUFA ain't bad for us (read previous article),
why would we want to use saturated animal fats for frying then? Please
note that the overwhelming evidence says that oxidize PUFAs are bad for
Not a problem? We all know the whole cholesterol thing is a hoax that
was made up just to put everyone on statins? Well, even if that were
the case, the "whole cholesterol thing" is about the effects of intact,
not oxidized cholesterol on heart health. The oxidized sterols in your
"healthy" clarified butter, on the other hand, don't just make it into
the bloodstream (Staprans. 1994 & 2003), they will also be
incorporated in various tissues (Vine. 1997) and lead to a rapid (+100%)
increase the formation of fatty streak lesions in the aorta of lab
animals (Staprans. 2000) and have been linked to the unexplained high
risk of atherosclerosis in Indian immigrant populations in the US
(Jacobson. 1987) as well as the occurrence and progression of
atherosclerosis in general (Leonarduzzi. 2002; Gargiulo. 2011).

As mentioned before, butter is unfortunately, not the only high
cholesterol item on the Internet's list of "best, because highly
saturated, frying oils". Next to butter (215mg of cholesterol / 100g)
you will also find lard (95mg of cholesterol / 100mg) or tallow (109mg
of cholesterol / 100mg) on these lists.

"I always pour away the oil! I am safe, right?" If I had not heard this argument before I would certainly not mention that the oxidized cholesterol do
make it into the fried products. In a study from 1991, Zhang et al.
report that the average content of the measured forms of oxidized
cholesterol in french fries that had been fried in fresh, previously
unoxidized tallow at a fast food restaurant ranged from 1.6-3.8 mg/100g
and thus 3-8x more than Pie et al. found in a rare steak (>0.5mg
/100g after 3 minutes of cooking) or cooked pork (>0.56mg /100g) in
1991 or those reported by Al-Saghir et al. for cooked farmed salmon
(0.33-0.9mg/100g; cf. Al-Saghir. 2004 -- the table on the left is a
fully referenced overview of COP levels in various foods from
Otaegui-Arrazola. 2010).
Needless to say that neither tallow nor lard or any other of these
animal fats contain enough antioxidants to protect their cholesterol
from being oxidized (Ryan. 1981; Park. 1986a,b).

Figure 1: Even if
you believed that cholesterol was bad for you, the ~50% reduction in
intact cholesterol that occurs, when you heat tallow at temperatures of
155°C and 190°C should not be a reason to celebrate (Park. 1986a)
Interestingly, Park et al. have been able to show that this process
starts at temperatures as low as 135°C (the recommended frying
temperature for most products is 160°C+) and does not increase
with higher temperatures. For pure cholesterol Osada et al. determined
120°C as the lowest temperature that induces oxidative changes (Osada.

In 1986, a group of researchers who conducted research for the French
government found that 78% of the total cholesterol that was lost (23% of
total cholesterol) from beef tallow during deep frying was recovered in
form of the four best known forms of oxidized cholesterol, i.e. Triol-,
7a-, 7/3-, and 7-Oxo-cholesterol (Bascoul. 1986).

The latter have been shown to decreases barrier function of cultured
endothelial cell monolayers (induce leaky gut; Hennig. 1987) and smooth
muscle cells (Zwijsen. 1992).

Aside from their previously mentioned effect on the progression of atherosclerosis
and their direct effect no the gut lining and other protective barriers
in your body. These cholesterol oxidation products (COPs) have also
been shown to promote the growth of colon (Kendall. 1992) and other
forms of cancer (Sevanian. 1986; Gabitova. 2014), figure in the development of type II diabetes (Mol. 1997), block the production and blood pressure lowering effects of nitric oxide (Brown. 1999) and have been implicated in the development and progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and vascular dementia, as well as kidney failure (Sottero. 2009)

Total amounts of
COPs (mg/100g) in the extracted fat of raw, fried w/out and w/ corn,
olive and partially hydroge- nated vegetable oil, and steamed salmon
(Al-Saghir. 2004).
Surprising interactions between frying oils and fried foods: I already mentioned that (a) oxidized cholesterol from frying oils migrate into the fried foods, and (b) the cholesterol in
the foods is oxidized, as well. Now, the previously cited study by
Al-Saghir et al. (2004) happened to compare the amount of oxidized
cholesterol (COPs) in cooked farmed salmon for different cooking oils and found that the salmon that had been fried in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils had the lowest, the steamed salmon the highest
content of oxidized cholesterol (0.98mg/100g) - luckily, frying with
olive oil can protect you from both, the transfats in partially
hydrogenated veg. oils and the COPs in steamed salmon.
And while all the non-enzymatically produced COPs in fried (and
other) foods are  "bad guys", the enzymatic conversion of cholesterol in
the body (see Figure 2, bottom) can produce compounds of which Otaegui-Arrazola, Menéndez-Carreño, and Ansorena write in their 2010 review that they play
important biological role.

Figure 2: Not all
oxysterols are created equal. Those your body creates by enzymatic
reactions figure in cholesterol homeostasis (Otaegui-Arrazola. 2010)
In fact, certain oxysterols can suppress the activation of the master
transcriptional regulators of lipid homeostasis (SREBPs) by binding to
an oxysterol sensing protein in the Endoplasmic Reticulum, while others
accelerate the degradation of the key cholesterol biosynthetic enzyme,
HMG-CoA reductase, and/or serve as natural ligand activators of a
nuclear receptor (LXR) involved in coordinating many aspects of reverse
cholesterol transport (Gill. 2008).

These "good oxysterols" do thus appear(!) to play a subtle but
important role in the control of cholesterol homeostasis. In the context
of this true or false question, their existence, functions and benefits
are however irrelevant. Apropos, question! What's the answer to our
question, after all?

The best advice I can give you is to stop consuming fried foods.

We may not be able to trace obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and
dementia back to a specific frying oil - what we can do, though, is to
draw the links between these and the general consumption of fried foods.
So, no more fried Big Macs or Snickers Bars, and all the other delicious "all American style" foods, folks!

Note: You may or may not have realized this, but at least with
respect to the formation of oxidized cholesterol products, the "healthy"
steaming turned out to be even worse than frying in Al-Saghir's 2004
study (see light-blue infobox)
Are butter, ghee, lard & tallow the best or the worst frying fats? While it stands out of question that the cholesterol oxidation products (COPs) are bad for you, we don't have a study that proves
that the amount you'd consume if you were frying your eggs in butter in
the morning will cause all sorts of ailments from "A" as "Alzheimer's"
to "Z" as in "diabeteZ" ;-)

The previously cited animal studies have - as usual - been conducted
with very high amounts of oxidized cholesterol in the diet and the "Ghee
is the reason for increased heart disease in British Indians"
hypothesis Jacobson et al. proposed in their 1982 article in The Lancet would
not explain, why Indians who live in India didn't have a similarly high
heart disease risk at that time... that being said, from 1960 to 1995
the prevalence of heart disease in urban areas of India increased from a
meager 1% to almost 10% (Gupta. 1995; compare that to "only" 8.7% in US
citizens aged 50years or older; Alexander. 2003). Moreover, US Indians
who use >1kg of ghee to fry their foods have a record-breaking 4x
increase in atherosclerosis risk compared to their non-ghee eating peers
(Gupta. 1997).

You see, we can go back and forth on this and still won't make any progress. Personally, I would not
use ghee, tallow or lard for frying; and whether coconut oil, or maybe
olive oil, of which you know that it is cholesterol-free and learned
that it reduces the rate of cholesterol oxidation (Al-Saghir. 2004) are
better alternatives is going to be a topic for another installment of True or False - so stay tuned for more!

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