Thursday, August 22, 2013

100 of 100:The no deficiency diet.

In my last blog post, I discussed an experiment I planned to begin on next Monday and run for 2 weeks.  The plan is to make a diet that provides 100% of the RDA of all nutrients deemed essential by the USDA.  I still intend to run the experiment, but since the following weekend is Labor Day weekend and I'll be away, I am going to push it back a week.  I have, however, begun devising the diet and a few red flags have popped up regarding my current diet.  I currently stick to a Paleo diet during the week and stray a bit on the weekends.  Some of the red flags are:
  • There are several water soluble nutrients I am not getting enough of
  • I am not getting anywhere near enough magnesium through diet
  • I am more than likely under-eating during the week
  • I will have to add organ meats, nuts, and bone broth back in for this experiment
 In addition to these red flags, some other interesting points have popped up:
  • Nuts or seeds must have been a huge part of the diet if these RDAs are correct
  • The need for calcium has to be way overstated
  • I wonder if some of these RDAs are truly necessary
One thing you need to keep in mind is that vitamins were discovered because it was determined that many of the diseases that were prevalent prior to 80 years ago were due to deficiencies in these vitamins.  In other words, while looking for what caused scurvy, rickets, or any of the other diseases that were prevalent at the time, researchers identified foods that would help with these conditions.  For example, scientists as far back as the 1700s knew that citrus fruits helped scurvy.  It wasn't until 1932 that vitamin C was identified and eventually fingered as the culprit.  Therefore, in some disease, a lack of certain components found within food was determined to be the causative factor.  These components are called vitamins and now most people try to make sure they are getting enough either through diet or supplementation.

Are pills enough?

This has, in my opinion, given people the erroneous notion that all they need to do to be healthy is to eat whatever the hell they want and chase that down with some supplemental vitamins.  The problem is, just because some diseases are born out of vitamin deficiency doesn't mean vitamins are the only components of food that you need to consume to be healthy.  Most people know of the anti-cancer effects of broccoli.  It is completely possible that cancer could be due, at least in part, to a deficiency in sulfur containing vegetables in the diet.  We know that the sulforaphane found in cruciferous vegetables activates a genetic pathway that mops up oxidative damage to cells and that oxidative damage is a hallmark of cancer as well as many chronic diseases.  Given the length of time it takes cancer and other chronic diseases to progress, we are unlikely to figure out anything definite any time soon.  There is, however, another possible explanation.

Vitamin deficiency combined with modern diet? 

One of the things repeated time and time again in the Paleosphere is that traditional hunter gatherer tribes who eat a traditional diet are free of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.  When these people are fed a more modern, westernized diet, they begin to experience cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.  In addition, it seems to be common knowledge in anthropology that with the advent of agriculture humans lost bone density and experienced an increase in dental cavities.  In researching for this experiment, it has become blatantly obvious to me that there is no way any hunter gatherer from the past or present has or ever will be able to meet the RDA for the mineral calcium.  Despite this, they tend to have better bone density, go figure.

A vitamin that they would not be able to reach the RDA for is thiamin, or vitamin B-1.  Thiamin is found in cereal grains, pork, yeast, and in minute quantities in some vegetables.  Beriberi is one of the diseases caused by thiamin deficiency and can effect the cardiovascular or nervous systems.  Symptoms include difficulty walking, loss of muscle function/paralysis, mental confusion, strange eye movements, and a host of other symptoms that would make it very difficult to find food.  In addition, most cultures that lived in a latitude with a prolonged winter would have had no chance of getting adequate thiamin during those months. How could these people have survived without adequate thiamin?

If it hasn't become blatantly obvious by now, my point is that these RDAs may only be valid for people consuming a modern diet.  In my example above, perhaps cancer is the result of a sulfur containing vegetable deficiency in someone eating an agricultural diet.  Since any of the recorded data and/or scientific studies done to determine the RDA for vitamins and minerals was more than likely done on people consuming an agricultural diet, extrapolating this data to someone who doesn't consume an agricultural diet is wrong.  It could be that 1.4mg of thiamin is necessary to prevent Beriberi, but it could also be that only people eating an agricultural diet require that much thiamin to prevent Beriberi.

Does it seem accurate to say that a thiamin deficiency causes Beriberi when you can get less than the RDA of thiamin and still not get Beriberi?  That's the problem with being a part of something that is not part of the dogma of scientific society.  They ask for scientific evidence that what you are saying is true while at th same time extrapolating their results beyond what is scientifically valid.  In fact, there have been no randomized placebo-controlled experiments looking at any of the RDAs for someone consuming a paleo diet.  I cannot tell you how many people have told me that the Paleo diet will lead to nutritional deficiencies.  It could very well be that their entire set of nutritional recommendations is only necessary if you are eating the foods they tell you to eat.


This is one of the reasons I plan on doing this little experiment.  My first step is to establish a diet that provides 100% of the RDA of all nutrients deemed essential by the USDA.  I may, in the future, tinker with lower amounts of some vitamins and minerals to see how lower levels of each effect me.  While it could certainly be the case that eating a Paleo diet lowers your requirement for certain vitamins and minerals, it could also be the case that a nutrient deficiency in a Paleo diet will lead to a different set of symptoms than the same nutritional deficiency in a modern diet.  I definitely plan to make a seasonal diet for each of the seasons once I establish one that I like.  I look forward to this long term project.