07 July 2009

I wish I'd known

Old study I'd missed supports a great deal of Trick and Treat

One of the difficulties I have had, writing as I do in favour of a high-fat, low-carb diet, is that it is deemed to be 'unhealthy'.

A few weeks ago I came across a study from 1997 which I had missed - probably because it concerned the gorilla's diet, rather than ours. But now that I read it, it is a real eye-opener and I wish I'd read it when it was first published so that I could have incorporated it in Natural Health and Weight Loss and in Trick and Treat. It really supports my ideas in a way I hadn't considered.

If you'd like to see what it's about, you can read an article here


Anonymous said...

Awesome article and finding.

Anonymous said...

Definetly an eye-opener.
Please keep posting more articles, I always read them with great interest.

Barry Groves said...

Hi both

I can take this a lot further - and will - but I've got a lot of work to do on my house at present.

Thanks for your support


brainpower said...

Funny how things seem to happen in twos and threes. This week a major science magazine in Germany carried the Title: The ascent of Early Man - and two articles about how early man evolved only after learning to use tool to kill animals and eat lots of meat and fat to feed his growing brain. And how gorillas could never do the same as they are plant eaters and need to eat all day long to get enough energy to survive.

Barry Groves said...

Hi Brainpower

It takes them a while to catch on, doesn't it. The subject of ttose two articles is already in Trick and treat, starting at page 200.

Here is the relevant piece:

If you want to get ahead, get a brain
The evidence that we could not be a vegetarian species was already overwhelming when, in 1972, the publication of two independent investigations confirmed this.11,12 They concerned fats. These studies showed that without the correct fats in the diet – fats that come only from animal sources – our brains could not have developed as they did.
About half our brain and nervous system is composed of complicated, long chain, fatty acids. These are also used in the walls of our blood vessels. These fatty acids do not occur in plants. This is where plant eating herbivores come in. Over the year, the herbivores convert the simple fatty acids found in grasses and seeds into intermediate, more complicated forms. By eating the herbivores we can convert their stores of these fatty acids into the ones we need.
About 2.5 million years ago, as the world grew colder and food plants became scarcer, animal foods began to occupy an increasingly prominent place in our ancestors’ menus. Smaller molar size, less robust facial muscles and alterations in incisor shape from that time all suggest a greater emphasis on foods such as meat that require less grinding and more tearing.
An increasing proportion of meat in the diet would obviously have provided more animal protein, a factor perhaps related to the increase in stature which accompanied the transition from Australopithecines through Homo habilis to Homo erectus.13 But greater availability of animal fat was probably a more important dietary alteration. Crude stone tools allowed early humans to break bones and allowed them access to brain and marrow fats from a broad range of animals. These and other carcass fats were probably as prized by early hominids as they are by modern human hunter-gatherers.14 Not only did more animal fat in the diet mean considerably more energy; it was also a source of ready-made, long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega-6 arachidonic acid (AA), omega-3 docosatetraenoic acid (DTA) and omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These three fatty acids together make up over 90% of the fatty acids found in the brain matter of all mammalian species.15
Our brain is considerably larger than that of any ape. Looking back at the fossil records from early hominids to modern man, we see a remarkable increase in brain size from 375-550 millilitres at the time of Australopithecus, to 500-800 millilitres in Homo habilis, 775-1,225 millilitres in Homo erectus, and 1,350 millilitres in modern humans. While there is still speculation about why this should have happened, this increase in brain size could not have happened without an increased intake of preformed long-chain fatty acids which are an essential component in the formation of brain tissue.16 It would never have occurred if our ancestors had not eaten meat – with its fat.


Drs. Cynthia and David said...

Very interesting stuff. At some point I was reading about fiber in human diets, and the researchers talked about the short chain fatty acids, and how they are taken up by the liver and lengthened for use and storage, potentially increasing triglyceride levels in the blood!

I think it would be helpful to compare and contrast the health consequences of the two sources of fat- dietary or short chain fatty acids derived from fermentation in the gut. Presumably eating vinegar and other fermentation products directly isn't harmful, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone even mention it. Any thoughts?

Megan said...

Fascinating stuff, Barry. Thanks for that.

Barry Groves said...

Hi Drs Cynthia and David

There really doesn't seem to be a lot about this in the literature. One of the problems is that whenever studies are conducted into dietary matters such as this, people eating a 'healthy diet' or a 'western diet', or a 'Mediterranean diet', etc, are always used as subjects. No study seems to have been done of people who eat a completely natural diet.

Dietary short chain fatty acids (found principally in highly saturated fats such as coconut oil) do not form triglycerides. Unlike long-chain fatty acids they are absorbed from the small intestine and taken directly to the liver via the portal vein and used for energy just as they are.

The colonic flora also form short chain fatty acids from plant fibre. While these may, or may not, (there seems to be some discussion) ameliorate the ravages of eating the fibre, they are poorly absorbed for use as energy in the body.

It seems, therefore, that a natural dietary source may well be more useful than a fermented fibre source.

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

I wasn't sure if the medium chain trigs are used as is or lengthened for storage or excretion as triglyceride particles, and/or optionally desaturated. We have all these desaturases, but I haven't seen anyone explain what role they play.

This also agrees with what I read, that only a small amount of short chain fatty acids are absorbed and so they might be insignificant as a nutrient, but there was speculation that the colonocytes used them as fuel (but still they would need a source of oxygen to oxidize these fats wouldn't they? not so much oxygen down there).

Still there is so much research out there, I wouldn't be surprised if someone did radiolabeling of these substrates and watched their metabolism in the body and reported on it. Sometimes I think we've forgotten everything we ever learned, or that the only lessons we remember are those shouted loudly by someone with megalomania (like Keys).

Thanks again. Cynthia

Trinkwasser said...

I wonder if this is the mechanism whereby a very small percentage of the population actually do seem to do well on a high carb low fat diet: they are actually able to metabolise the fibre into fats, ulnike most of the rest of us.

Gorillas blow off worse than carthorses. Now one of the "ecological" arguments for a grain based diet is the relative lack of methane production from a lower animal population. This makes me wonder if this is yet another red herring and the methane production will simply be transferred from the animals to the humans . . .

westie said...

Extremely interesting post!

I've read about MCFA's that the amount increases in the fat tissue when diet is enriched with those. So atleast part of MCFA's will reach fat tissue.

Researchers who are studying gut bacteria claims that SCFA's derived from bacteria is absorbed through portal vein and then triglycerised in the liver and shipped to the fat tissue.

With human's it seems that SCFA absorption from the colon is poor, but does the situation change with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)? Could then increased absorption of fermented SCFA's interfere with low fat, high glycemic diet livers?

Barry Groves said...

Hi Trinkwasser

Good points but it would take a pretty big mutation to change the small intestine so that it worked the same as a herbivore's caecum and colon. Even herbivores' small intestines work the same way as ours - absorbing the products of foregut fermentation, but not actually participating in the fermentation process.

You are right that humans would produce more methane - vegetarians already do! And as our guts are much less efficient at extracting nutrients in this way, I suspect we would produce more methane than cattle, without reaping as much benefit.

SCFAs and MCFAs already present in food art transported via the portal vein to the liver from the small intestine, but I know of no evidence that SCFAs from bacterial fermentation in the colon are.

As for fermentation in the small intestine, I suppose it is possible, except the small intestine should not contain bacteria; it should be sterile, all bacteria having been killed by the hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Under the circumstances, if you are deriving usable amounts of SCFAs ferom fermentation in the small intestine, I suspect there is something wrong.

westie said...

"but I know of no evidence that SCFAs from bacterial fermentation in the colon are."

Me neither but in this review they claim as a theory that fermentation is a source of portal SCFA:

Curr Pharm Des. 2009;15(13):1546-58

"If you are deriving usable amounts of SCFAs from fermentation in the small intestine, I suspect there is something wrong."

Yes, and there seems to be something wrong with a lot of people. :) Metabolic syndrome and gut bacteria connection is discussed in that review.

"As for fermentation in the small intestine, I suppose it is possible, except the small intestine should not contain bacteria; it should be sterile, all bacteria having been killed by the hydrochloric acid in the stomach."

Proton pump inhibitors for example increase the risk of SIBO:

Digestive and Liver Disease
Volume 41, Supplement 1, March 2009, Page S21

So in the situation where the concentration of HCl decreases small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can occur. Can you affect on that with your diet?

In the small intestine it is not HCl which keeps it sterile; that is made mainly by bile acids and I'd love to know how diet affects on that too. Bile acids are used to break down lipids and I wonder if low fat diet vs. high fat diet changes the amount of bile acids secreted?

Barry Groves said...

Hi Westie

I'm not a subscriber to
Current Pharmaceutical Design so can only read the abstract. And there are several glaring errors in that. For example, they say: "high-fat diet feeding triggers the development of obesity, inflammation, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis", all of which is completely untrue. The opposite - that high-fat diets reduce these - has been shown for about a century now and is well documented. So I have to wonder how much the rest of the review is worth.

I agree that HCl is not the acid that maintains sterility in the small intestine, but it is the acid that kills bacteria (except, perhaps, H. pylori) before they reach the small intestine.

Martin in London said...

Barry this is a very Interesting article.
I've just read a new book published by Richard Wrangham and this touches on the same subject. His thesis is that we as humans have evolved to cook food both meat and plant material and that this is part of the reason that we can support such large brains.

He briefly touches on the fermentation of plant material in the lower intestine. However he also points out that humans empty their stomachs much faster then other carnivors and I wonder what you might think about this? the book is called catching fire, how cooking made as human.

Thanks Martin

Barry Groves said...

Hi Martin

I haven't read Wrangham's book; however, my understanding is that widespread cooking of food is too recent to have been the cause of the massive brain growth seen from Australopithecus (375 ml) to Homo sapiens (1350 ml).

I think brainpower (earlier in this blog) is more likely to be right - it was our ancestors' change from herbivore to carnivore that provided the right nutrients, particularly long chain fatty acids found in other animals' brains, to enable our remarkable brain growth.

Derek said...

Trinkwasser said...

I wonder if this is the mechanism whereby a very small percentage of the population actually do seem to do well on a high carb low fat diet: they are actually able to metabolise the fibre into fats, ulnike most of the rest of us.

Well as one of those people who can eat a high carb, low fat, medium protein diet (and not get fat), I don't know if that is what
happens. Whatever it is, I generally stay around 13 stone.

However, I recently decided to switch to a high fat, low carb diet for 6 months to see what happens - if anything.

Anonymous said...

If you are serious about finding out then I suggest you go and get your blood tested before you start and then again at the end of six month of Low-Carb-High-Fat. The proof of the pudding and all that you know...

Derek said...

If you are serious about finding out then I suggest you go and get your blood tested before you start and then again at the end of six month of Low-Carb-High-Fat.

Err - why?

The suggestion is also a bit vague - tested for what?

I've had blood tests before simply as a consequence of prior visits to the doctor, and I've never been informed of anything being of concern.

What the tests you have in mind tell me that I can usefully interpret? (Not being a doctor).

I am interested in macro effects, not what it may achieve wrt my biochemistry.

Anonymous said...

Just a suggestion - you might want to know if your triglycerides, HDL and LDL etc. move in a desirable direction. Not necessary of course.

George must lose weight said...

To Anonymous:

What is a 'desirable direction' for the LDL, HDL and triglycerides?

To Dr Groves:

You write about the benefits of a low carb diet. I think you say that ALL carbs are bad. The findings of this research:


state: "Body mass index was found to be positively associated with glycemic index, a measure of the glycemic response associated with ingesting different types of carbohydrates, but not with daily carbohydrate intake, percentage of calories from carbohydrates, or glycemic load. Results suggest that the type of carbohydrate may be related to body weight"

They stress the TYPE of carb.

The mercola site: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2005/03/05/obesity-carbs.aspx

even says:

"In fact, most people might be surprised to find out that one-third of Americans actually require a high-carb diet."

Anonymous said...

Groves, in his books recomends not to cut out all carbs.
The link you posted does not work.
and the quote dosen't realy say enything, offcause if you eat a lot of fiber which is also carbohydrate its not gonna have the same effect as eating from a bag of refined sugar because the bodys abillity to use them are different. Being less unhealthy is not the same as being healthy
@ mercola
dosen't say why 1/3 should eat high carb just says it.

I was also skinny when I ate high carb(infact that din't mean I was healthy, high fat has really helped on my mood, my asthma, my skin and my athletic ability.

George must lose weight said...

The link does work - copy and paste the URL:


The point is that the research says that it depends on the carb as to the harm or not whereas Dr Groves says that ALL carbs are bad.

The Mercola site was saying that we are not all the same and thus what is 'good and healthy' for one person may not be for another

Steve said...

The questions about blood HDL, LDH levels etc have tempted me to stop lurking and contribute to the discussion.
I became interested in the science behind low carb diets after trying the Atkins diet - or rather my version of it, and then read 'Trick and Treat'.
I changed job eight years ago and now work for a large research company in Italy that organises obligatory medicals once a year. Since I have small veins, I hate giving blood, but the advantage is that I have data from all these years and was able to see the effects of switching to a low carb diet.

I have tried to paste the table here, but it formats in a strange way. If anybody wants all the data, I will happily email it.

In a nutshell, my diet resulted in 12kg loss over 3 months at which time I had my most recent medical exam.

Blood glucose and Cholesterol - no significant change.
HDL - approx 30% increase.
LDL - approx 20% decrease.
Trigly - approx 50% decrease.
AST - 30% decrease.
ALT - 50% decrease.

This was after about 3 months, so it will be interesting to see what the figures are next year - assuming I stick to it!

I'm not sure why the liver enzymes improved. My major change was drinking spirits instead of beer and I sure do like my drink!
I was also surprised that my glucose and cholesterol levels hadn't changed much.

Best wishes from a hot and humid north Italy!


billye said...

Hi Derek,

The purpose of blood tests are the same as a report card is. One should always make sure that a copy of the blood test is given to you. That way you will have a permanent record of how you are progressing. As to the tests you may require, that is generally up to your doctor. I can tell you the tests that I think are critical. A 25 hydroxy for vitamin D3 is advisable, because most people are severely deficient. The health benefits of supplementing with vitamin D3 are huge. Another test is omega 3 to omega 6 ratio, because, being too heavy in omega 6 causes inflammation which brings on many diseases including cancer. Supplementing with fish oil will improve your ratio. An A1c test will let you know how your blood sugar is doing. I have been on a high fat low carb diet for 10 months now and according to my physician Dr. Kenneth Tourgeman "nephropal.blogspot.com"I have been made into a new man. Here is my report card so far. I have lost 56 pounds down from 240 pounds. My diabetes type 2 is cured. Last 3 A1c tests showed 4.6, 4.7, and 5.0. Triglycerides have gone down from 115 mg/dl to 66 mg/dl. Protein in my urine was 1700 it is now 206. Many more health markers too numerous to mention have reversed. I have been trying to get thin and healthy for fifty years and by following the consensus low fat and high carb diet all I did was get fatter and sicker. Barry Groves is right on, and since over 60 to 70% of western population is either overweight or obese and has metabolic syndrome disease of one kind or another, it's time to stop the nonsense of low fat and high carb, and get back to eating a naturally healthy evolutionary diet as we evolved to eat.

Anonymous said...

Stil unable to read your link, says can't find page?

Read, Groves books he does not say that all carbs are just bad no matter what, he recomends not eating much more than 60g a day but also not cutting them out all together.

Its true that we are not all the same but we are not all that different either and the mercola site dosen't say why 33% should eat high carb, seems strange that 33% of a race should eat one way and the rest another also how do you determin which group you belong to?
As fare as I understand your glucose leves are not gonna drop they are just gonna be much more stable no spike after a meal with the insulin shot to take it out of your blood again.

Barry Groves said...

Hi All

Thanks for your comments. I've been snowed under for the last couple of weeks.

The Am J Epid paper contradicts a whole host of others, but that tends to happen in medical and dietary research (it keeps scientists in well-paid employment). It depends to a large extent on the context of the trial. For example, all dietary trials today are biased by 'healthy eating', so a 'high-fat' diet would be one where fats are 40% of calories - which is pretty low-fat in my philosophy.

So, are all carbs harmful? Well, I wouldn't say 'all'. But the neolithic, ubiquitous cereal grains certainly are; modern fruit, bred for excessive sugar content are also a health hazard; and everyone knows that sugars are.

I can't see any harm in green, leafy veges or traditional, not-very-sweet fruit (if you can get it). The 60g daily total I suggest should be sufficiently low as to prevent carb-related conditions, while being high enough to prevent any adverse effects to someone starting out on a low-carb, high-fat lifestyle.

And, let's face it, there are some very nice carbs out there. It would be a shame to give them all up. I eat 72% cocoa continental chocolate, for example (about 100g (3 1/2 oz) a week). The excuse is that it helps to prevent prostate cancer and is also better than aspirin for helping the blood flow, without aspirin's adverse side effects.

In a nutshell, the danger is proabably in the dose.

The fad which classifies people into different dietary groups and says that some are 'carb' types, and some 'protein' types, etc, began in the early 1900s. In those days, even less was known about the effects of diet than are today. But consider this: all members of a species are designed to eat exactly the same classes of foods as all other members of that species. So, all lions eat antelopes; and all cows eat grass. You never get cows deciding to eat other animals or lions turning vegan.

That also applies to us. We humans might look different from each other - different colour hair and eyes, short and tall, etc, but we are still all one species - and all designed to eat the same basic foodstuffs.

The only area I see where there might be differences are in the range of unnatural foods we can tolerate, because of habituation to different things eaten in different parts of the world over the last few thousand years.

But that does not mean that some of us are natural carnivores while others are natural vegans. Just that some can tolerate foods that others can't.

Anonymous said...

A little aside from this main topic but round about relevant, I spotted this in the press today. Those of us who already low carb and have read Fibre Menace and Dr Eades will be aware of this already, but it is good to see it getting a wider press.



ps Barry, as there are a lot of people who seem to have alot of questions, comments and a lot of information to share how about setting up a forum section on your site where we can converse, question and inform.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this INCREDIBLE? After torturing people with bran for years the truth of the matter is finally "rediscovered". A good thing, surely but at what cost!!

Barry Groves said...

hi all
Sorry I've been absent for a while. I'll catch up soon.

There has been a lot in the news over the last few days about all sorts of things - and I feel a new article coming on. Back in July, The Guardian published a study saying that linoleic acid was a contributory factor in irritable bowel sydrome. I believe them. However, they then gave sources of linoleic to avoid, and wouldn't you know it, red meat was placed first! But red meat contains very little linoleic acid: 2% for beef fat and 2.5% in lamb fat. The real sources of linoleic acid are vegetable cooking oils (50%-78%) and polyunsaturated magarines (39%). Why do they lie?

More recently mice, specially engineered to get atherosclerosis, were fed a low-carb diet and, surprise, surprise, developed atherosclerosis. The was all over the press with the message that those of us on the 'Atkins diet' and my way of life are doomed to die young of a heart attack. Crap! This sort of study has little relevance to other mice, let alone us.

Hi Ellen
I have thought of a forum, but have no idea how to set one up. If anyone can help, all advice will be gratefully accepted

I should have a bit more time by the middle of next week and will get more articles online with more detail and references about the way the media and medical professionals mislead.


Anonymous said...

I've linked to the two best takedowns of that mouse study


and some stuff about relevant carb levels


To Derek, I'd suggest getting a Full Lipid Panel if you are permitted one. First going low carb and then adding more saturated fats doubled my HDL and decimated (literally) my trigs, thus demonstrating a huge reduction in insulin resistance.

Some people also find this reduced LDL, others find it increases it - but that may not be important in view of the other numbers, trigs/HDL ratio is correlated with IR and also particle size and number. My LDL did go up, but less than the HDL, and I'm almost ashamed to admit 10mg Simvastatin on top of the diet gives me cholesterol numbers better than most. On the dietician's low fat diet they were horrendous and worsened with further fat reduction

I suspect such individual differences to differing macronutrient composition may be further down the metabolic chain than digestion. Admittedly these are rats again


they did better on a high fat diet than a "Western" diet.

Anonymous said...

I linked to a couple of the best takedowns of that mouse study


and some suitable links on carb consumption levels


To Derek, before changing your diet try to get a Full Lipid Panel, this can be indicative of changes both good and bad. Dietary changes doubled my HDL and decimated (literally) my trigs. LDL went up - but not as much as the HDL. For some people that may stay the same or go down, and even if it does increase the trigs/HDL ratio is indicative of particle size and density (and also insulin resistance). With a mere 10mg Simvastatin my results are enviously good. On the dietician's low fat diet they were horrendous - and got worse when she told me to eat even less fat.

IMO some of these individual variations are due to genetic differences in metabolism and environmental differences in gene expression. That's what seems to have happened to these rats


they did better on a high fat diet than a "Wetsern" diet.

Gita said...

Hi Barry,

I really enjoy your books and have bought a number to give out to friends who express an interest in nutrition and/or health. "Trick and Treat" is a really great book because it is comprehensive, yet not a heavy read, so I think the perfect way to introduce "real" health information.

If you want to start a discussion forum, I think the easiest way is on Yahoo Groups, just go to: http://groups.yahoo.com/ and follow the directions for starting a new group. I have not done this myself, but it seems quite staight forward. I am a member of a couple of forums that I enjoy following and would enjoy discussions centered around your work.

By the way, I tried your recipe for hot cocoa with the addition of a tablet of stevia and absolutely love it! I am amazed how simple yet delicious it is. It has replaced my morning coffee and it is a nice treat later in the day as well.

Congratulations on all of your important work, you are making a difference in people's lives!

All my best,
Gita in Prague

Barry Groves said...

Thank you, Gita, for the yahoo groups suggestion. I am a member of the THINCS Yahoo group already. I don't know why I didn't think of this before. I'll get on to it.

Glad you like my books and cocoa. I drink the cocoa without sweetener; I find it more refreshing that way, but it is bitter and does take some getting used to.

Barry Groves said...

I've started a yahoo Groups forum. It's at http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/second-opinions/

As yet there is nothing on it. Who'd like to be first?


mindhorizon said...

That is the most cogent explanation for why we must be carnivores that I have ever seen. It also solved the mystery for me of why the macronutrient balance of cow milk is what it is. It probably resembles the results of cow digestion.

Barry Groves said...

Hi Mindhorizon

Thank you.