9 Steps to Perfect Health – #3: Eat Real Food

Grass fed beef

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In the first article of this series we talked about the negative impact of 4 common food toxins: wheat, industrial seed oil, fructose and processed soy. In the second article we discussed which fats, carbohydrates and proteins are the best source of fuel for your body. In this article we’re going to importance of eating real food.

“Real food” is:

  • Whole, unprocessed and unrefined
  • pasture-raised (a.k.a. grass-fed) and wild
  • local, seasonal and organic

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Whole, processed and unrefined: if it comes in a bag or a box, don’t eat it!

The introduction of industrial food processing has without a doubt had the most detrimental effect on our health of any other factor in the last few hundred years – and possibly in the entire history of humankind.

Food refining has brought us all four of the food toxins destroying our health: white flour, white sugar & HFCS, industrial seed oils and processed soy products. It has also brought us chemical additives and preservatives, some with known negative effects and others with effects still unknown.

New research is revealing the harm these newfangled processed foods have on us almost every day. Just yesterday a study was published demonstrating that emulsifiers used in packaged foods ranging from mayonnaise to bread to ice cream increase intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”) and cause a chain reaction of inflammation and autoimmune disease.

Another study showed that diet soda consumption increases your risk of stroke and causes kidney damage, possibly because of the phosphoric acid used as an acidifying agent to give colas their tangy flavor.

To avoid the harm caused by processed and refined foods, a good general rule is “if it comes in a bag or a box, don’t eat it.

Of course not all foods that come in bags and boxes are harmful, so this isn’t meant to be taken literally. It’s just a helpful guideline. Butter is often packaged in a box, and Trader Joe’s (for some strange reason) packages vegetables in sealed plastic bags. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat butter and vegetables.

But in general, if you follow this guideline, you’ll avoid most common food toxins. And that’s more than half the battle.

Pasture-raised animal products and wild-caught fish: as nature intended

While the reasons to eat pasture-raised animal products and wild-caught fish span social, political, economic and nutritional considerations, I’m only going to focus on nutritional factors here. For a more comprehensive discussion, check out Eat Wild.

Several studies have been done comparing the nutrient content of pasture-raised (PR) and grain-fed (confinement animal feeding operations, or CAFO) animal products. PR animal products are superior to CAFO in 2 primary respects: they have a better fatty acid profile, and higher levels of vitamins and other micronutrients.

Omega-6 ratio
If you remember from Step #1: Don’t Eat Toxins, for optimal health we want to consume a roughly equal amount of omega-6 (n-6) and omega-3 (n-6) fats. This ratio, referred to as the n-6 ratio, should be as close to 1 as possible. Studies have shown that grain-feeding animals depletes their omega-3 levels, thus raising the n-6:n-3 ratio. The following chart depicts the effect of grain-feeding on the omega-3 levels of cows:

http://eatwild.com/images/gr_nutrition2.gif

Ducket and colleagues studied the omega-3 and omega-6 content of both pasture-raised and grain-fed animal products. They found that grass-fed beef had an n-6 ratio of 1.65, whereas grain-finished beef was 4.84. They also found that grass-feeding decreased total fat content by 43%.

Rule and colleagues found an even more significant difference. They looked at the n-6 ratio of several different types of meat, ranging from pasture-raised bison and beef to wild elk to chicken. They found the following ratios:

  • Range-fed bison: 2.09
  • Feedlot bison: 7.22
  • Range-fed beef: 2.13
  • Feedlot beef: 6.28
  • Elk: 3.14
  • Chicken breast: 18.5

What is apparent from both Ducket and Rule’s studies is that pasture-raised beef has approximately three times the amount of omega-3 than grain-fed beef, and is much closer to the ideal n-6 ratio of 1. In fact, grass-fed beef has a superior n-6 ratio to even wild elk. This means that grass-fed beef falls within evolutionary norms for the fatty acid content of animals that humans have eaten throughout our history. Grain-fed beef does not.

Another interesting thing to note, which I mentioned in Step #2: Nourish Your Body, is the high n-6 ratio of chicken. In fact, it has about 14 times more n-6 than pasture-raised beef. This is why I recommend eating mostly beef, lamb and pork, and limiting chicken to the occasional meal (assuming you like it, that is). And when you do eat chicken, it’s best to choose skinless breast and cook it in a healthy traditional fat like butter or coconut oil, because the dark meat with skin has the highest concentration of n-6 fat.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
Meat, fat and dairy from pasture-raised animals are the richest source of another type of good fat, called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

CLA may have anti-cancer properties, even in very small amounts. In animal studies, CLA at less than one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) of total calories prevents tumor growth. In a Finnish study on humans, women who had the highest levels of CLA in their diet had a 60 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest levels. In another human study, those with the highest levels of CLA in their tissues had a 50 percent lower risk of heart attack than those with the lowest levels.

Pasture-raised animal products are the richest known source of CLA in the diet, and are significantly higher in CLA than grain-fed animal products. When ruminant animals like cows and sheep are raised on fresh pasture alone, their products contain from 3-5 times more CLA than products from animals fed grain.

Minerals, vitamins and micronutrients
The Ducket study I mentioned above also found that pasture-raised animal products have much higher levels of several vitamins and minerals, including:

  • 288% greater vitamin E content
  • 54% greater beta-carotene content
  • Twice as much riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • Three times as much thiamin (vitamin B1)
  • 30% more calcium
  • 5% more magnesium

Grass-fed products also have a lot more selenium than grain-fed products. Selenium plays an important role in thyroid function, has antioxidant effects and protects the body against mercury toxicity. Grass-fed bison has 4 times more selenium than grain-fed bison.

Pasture-raised eggs
We see a similar difference between eggs from hens raised on pasture, and those raised in confinement. Pasture-raised hens contain as much as 10 times more omega-3 than eggs from factory hens. Pastured eggs are higher in B12 and folate. They also have higher levels of fat-soluble antioxidants like vitamin E and a denser concentration of vitamin A.

Wild-caught fish

Farmed fish contain excess omega-6 compared to wild-caught fish. Tests conducted in 2005 show that wild-caught salmon contain 10 times more n-3 than n-6, whereas farmed salmon have less than 4 times the amount of n-3 than n-6.

Another study found that consuming standard farmed salmon, raised on diets high in n-6, raises blood levels of inflammatory chemicals linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Wild salmon also contains 4 times as much vitamin D than farmed salmon, which is especially important since up to 50% of Americans are deficient in this important vitamin.

Organic, local and seasonal: more nutrients, fewer chemicals

More nutrients
Organic plant foods contain, on average, 25 percent higher concentrations of 11 nutrients than their conventional counterparts. In particular, they tend to be higher in important polyphenols and antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E and quercetin.

Even more relevant in determining nutrient content is where your produce comes from, and in particular, how long it’s been out of the ground before you eat it. Most of the produce sold at large supermarket chains is grown hundreds – if not thousands – of miles away, in places like California, Florida and Mexico. This is especially true when you’re eating foods that are out of season in your local area (like a banana in mid-winter in New York).

A typical carrot, for example, has traveled 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table. Days – maybe more than a week – have passed since it was picked, packaged and trucked to the store, where it can sit on the shelves even longer.

The problem with this is that food starts to change as soon as it’s harvested and its nutrient content begins to deteriorate. Total vitamin C content of red peppers, tomatoes, apricots, peaches and papayas has been shown to be higher when these crops are picked ripe from the plant. This study compared the Vitamin C content of supermarket broccoli in May (in season) and supermarket broccoli in the Fall (shipped from another country). The result? The out-of-season broccoli had only half the vitamin C of the seasonal broccoli.

Without exposure to light (photosynthesis), many vegetables lose their nutrient value. If you buy vegetables from the supermarket that were picked a week ago, transported to the store in a dark truck, and then stored in the middle of a pile in the produce section, and then you put them in your dark refrigerator for several more days before eating them, chances are they’ve lost much of their nutrient value. A study at Penn State University found that spinach lost 47% of its folate after 8 days.

This is why buying your produce at local farmer’s markets, or even better, picking it from your backyard garden, are better options than buying conventional produce shipped from hundreds or thousands of miles away. Fruits and vegetables from local farms are usually stored within one or two days of picking, which means their nutrient content will be higher. And as anyone who’s eaten a fresh tomato right off the vine will tell you, local produce tastes so much better than conventional produce it might as well be considered a completely different food.

Fewer chemicals
Another important benefit of organic produce, of course, is that it’s grown without pesticides, herbicides and other harmful chemicals that have been shown to cause health problems – especially in vulnerable populations like children. A study published in the journal Pediatrics concluded that children exposed to organophosphate pesticides at levels typically found in conventional produce are more likely to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

A panel of scientists convened by President Obama to study the effect of environmental toxins on cancer released a report in 2010 urging Americans to eat organic produce grown without pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals. The report states that the U.S. government has grossly underestimated the number of cancers caused by environmental toxins.

The report especially highlights the risk of toxins in conventionally grown foods to unborn children. Exposure to harmful chemicals during this critical period can set a child up for lifelong endocrine disruption, hormone imbalances and other problems.

Supporting local economies and preserving resources
Aside from having more nutrients and fewer chemicals, there are other non-nutritional reasons to eat local produce. These were summarized well in Cornell University’s Northeast Regional Food Guide:

Community food systems promote more food-related enterprises in proximity to food production, marketing, and consumption. Such systems enhance agricultural diversity, strengthen local economies (including farm-based businesses), protect farmland, and increase the viability of farming as a livelihood. Local food systems mean less long-distance shipment of the produce we enjoy, which means decreased use of nonrenewable fossil fuels for food distribution, lower emission of resulting pollutants, and less wear on transcontinental highways.

I’ve also found that forming relationships with the people that grow my food leads to a greater sense of community and connection. In an increasingly technophilic, hyperactive world, that is especially welcome.

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Mark G says

    What would you suggest for people who either cannot afford or source grass fed meat?

    Where I live in the UK, it’s incredibly difficult to get hold of.

  2. steve says

    this advise is really nothing new and exits all over the internet. As the previous question, what recommendations on a practical level do you make for those who cannot access grass fed, or pastured products either because of cost, or other reasons. Many of us work in urban environments, attend business lunch meetings or dinners and grass fed/pasture products are not available. A practical approach towards a healthy lifestyle would be more beneficial then the 10 commandments of nutrition

  3. Chris Kresser says

    Steve: does something need to be “new” to be worthwhile? That’s an interesting concept. I also work, live in an urban environment and don’t have unlimited supplies of money. Yet I eat mostly pasture-raised animal products.

    Certainly some people can’t afford to buy grass-fed meat; but for many others, it’s a question of priorities. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you choose not to make it a priority, that’s your prerogative. But don’t complain about the “practicality” of the advice. I’m simply telling you what the research shows: that pasture-raised animal products are more nutrient-dense than grain-fed products. It’s up to you what to do with that information.

    • Christopher says

      I realize that I’m coming to this article quite late but I need to respond to this because few people understand…

      I appreciate your articles but, sorry, I get a little perturbed with people who obviously make more money than I do (and no, I don’t have and can’t afford cable television or a new computer and the car I get to work in has 180,000 miles on it, up from the previous one that had a quarter million.) who make broad statements like, “I… don’t have unlimited supplies of money. Yet I eat mostly pasture-raised animal products.” It is not a matter of priorities for some people. And I don’t know of anyone who would claim to have ‘unlimited supplies of money’. As Steve is saying, GIVEN A VERY LOW INCOME, what are the best trade-offs, healthwise? We are simply trying our best to figure that out and you come across as being rather self-righteous with your statement, “But don’t complain about the “practicality” of the advice… It’s up to you what to do with that information.”

      We’re not stupid! We already know that. We’re simply trying to balance optimum health advise against having SOME of life’s pleasures when we can’t even expect to have a relaxing, recuperative vacation… EVER!

      Sorry for the rant but I had to make a point.

      • Molly says

        I struggle with this as I have a family of three hungry boys and an enormous husband to feed. Much as I would LOVE to buy organic meat – as much for the animal welfare perspective as for the health benefits, it is simply impossible for me to spend $34 a kilo for chicken ( which is what organic chicken costs here in Western Australia, wholesale !)

        I get around this by buying bulk Harvey Beef Rump at $5 a kilo – its not organic, but its grass fed. I also buy free range chicken – but the cheaper bits like drumsticks or whole chooks. I cannot afford organic eggs, but again I buy local, free range ones for @ $6 a carton.

        I make my own yoghurt with an EAsiyo maker – that’s half the price of buying yoghurt.

        I have friends who are in “Cow Clubs” where 8 or 10 of them get together and buy a whole cow’s worth of meat. Mind you, you need a freezer for this one.

        In the end, I suppose I compromise by not buying the very-bestest, but instead the best of what I can actually afford :)

        I think the other part of this equation is that veggies are MUCH cheaper than meat – that’s what I’m working on at the moment with, irony of ironies, vegan cookbooks :)) Vegans have so many interesting ways to prepare veggies, so I am working with Gluten free vegan cookbooks and also books like “Mostly Raw” which have tonnes of interesting ways to prepare vegetable meals. I just ignore the irrelevant bit ie: any grains such as quinoa or rice….

        The other thing that’s worth following up on are the Zero Carbers particularly Charles Washington (just Google his name and “Zero Carb” – you’ll find him :)

        Charles has a bit of a bee in his bonnet about the whole meat business, and eats “supermarket meat” as a point of principle. Whether or not you agree with Zero Carbing, on the whole I feel that it is better to eat what meat, and fermented dairy, and veggies you can afford, rather than eat the SAD in any way, shape or form.

        Its nice to know what the best stuff is, and why its the best – and by golly if I win the Lotto it will be free range, grass fed, organic animals all the way; but otherwise – no. Just what I can afford within the outlines of the diet; because that’s a 1000 times better than eating puffed-wheat-sugar-colour-deathbombs !

  4. says

    To the UK poster, Welsh or NZ lamb are good grass fed options. Buy frozen for cheaper options. My local butcher sources all his meat from free range sources. If you can find a butcher locally go and ask him/her if it is also grass fed. Also, I order meat from a butcher who delivers free range. Again, contact them to clarify the grass fed status. The company is called Farmer’s Choice and they have details on their website about the farms the animals come from and the living conditions. I note that the beef is grass fed in summer but silage and corn fed in winter.

  5. says

    You didn’t mention frozen vegetables. I steam frozen spinach, brocolli, brussel sprouts and leeks on a daily basis. The cost of frozen is about one third of fresh. I thought that frozen retained most of the nutrients. The steamed veg are briefly stir fried in copious amounts of pastured butter and EVOO. The only regular fresh veg I eat constantly are garlic, onions and chillie peppers.

    Also on the wild fish, I eat mainly imported frozen mussels, tinned sardines and mackerel in brine, 70% of the time, with lamb’s liver and lamb’s heart on a weekly basis. These are the most cost effective sources of omega 3 rich protein. I don’t buy canned tuna because in general the processing removes the omega 3.

    I’m also from England and grass fed beef, apart from offal is too expensive for me, excepting special occasions.

  6. Mark G says

    Thanks Jo. Farmer’s Choice looks like it could be just what I have been looking for! I am going to also look locally for some quality butchers.

    Chris is right, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

    Fantastic blog by the way…

  7. Jack Kronk says

    steve,

    it’s not chris’s fault you’re broke or unwilling to do what it takes to eat healthy foods. you can buy grass fed beef on multiple sites on the internet. just eat your bologna sandwich on white bread with vegetable oil dressing and a 32oz soda at your business lunch meeting. i can’t even imagine typing up a comment like the one you typed and clicking send. if you can’t hack it, stop whining. jeez.

  8. says

    Another way to stretch your food budget is to purchase bones and make bone broth. Excellent base for any kind of soup. Organ meats and eggs are pretty inexpensive, even when grass-fed / pastured.

    I enjoyed your presentation of the information Chris.

  9. DancinPete says

    re: “if it comes in a bag or a box, don’t eat it.”
    Hi Chris,

    I like to tell people that a good rule of thumb is that the list of ingedients should be no different than the name of the item you’re buying. ie: a bag of carrots’ ingredient list should be carrots. a carton of butter, contains only butter, a bag of doritos’ ingredient list has many things on it that are not naturally occuring.

  10. Chris Kresser says

    Bill: you’re right, frozen fruits and vegetables are a good alternative. In some cases, they have a higher nutrient content than conventional produce because they’ve been frozen soon after being picked, and the nutrient content is preserved.

    Patty: yes, bone broth is a great way to stretch the food budget. Also, using cheaper cuts of meat (like brisket, rump, offal, etc.) and braising or slow-cooking is another way of controlling costs.

  11. Glenn says

    Good guidance, DancinPete. By using the “list of ingredients” rule, it includes things in bottles, cans, and other packaging! It all may be avoided if the ingredients are listed and include other than what you really want. I say “may” here, because most of us can get fresh food year around, and many of us can get it locally grown year around. All of us can eat dried beans or produce sprouts.

    Also, I would add, if we avoid the packaged foods AND avoid eating in restaurants, and don’t consume vegetable oils, or don’t consume the ones that are the cheap commercial ones, the whole issue of omega-6 oils, and “omega balancing” just goes away. We’ve always done fine with the balance of omegas that nature gives us. Its the commercial processing of oils that ruins them.

    And a bit of clarification. Chris mentions how “rich” chicken is in omega-6. This is quite misleading. Chicken is the only meat he mentions where we eat the skin. Skin is well known to have hardly any omega-3 content but loads of omega-6. Don’t be afraid of chicken. If you have become obsessed with reducing omega-6 intake though, thanks to the pervasive fish-oil propaganda, just remove the skin. Human skin has 1000 times as much parent omega-6 as it has omega-3. If you want healthy skin, you better make sure you don’t reduce your omega-6 intake too much! Just cutting the boxed, bagged, bottled foods, and staying away from restaurant food, especially the fried foods, will take care of your health and you can, in my mind, forget about balancing. That’s just a thing the sellers of omega-3 supplements try to get you to do. Unnecessary complexity!

    • Tree says

      What do you chicken is the only animal that we eat the skin? I am from Bulgaria (Eastern Europe) and we do eat pork skin. It is one of my favourite dishes! There are many other countries where people eat pig’s skin, ears, etc.
      Chris, what do you think of eating pig’s skin and fat? Are they ok to eat on a regular basis?

  12. Chris Kresser says

    Glenn: you continue to miss a very important point. The chicken that most people are eating is not remotely “what nature gives us”. It’s raised in confinement on feed full of corn and soy, which raises its n-6 content significantly. As I’ve pointed out, dark meat chicken has 18x the amount of n-6 than even grain-fed beef. That’s a fact. You can ignore that if you’d like, but don’t advise others to based on the misguided notion that “since chicken is natural, it must be okay.”

  13. Jack Kronk says

    and regarding the whole ingredient lists thingy… i don’t really figure it to be that cut and dry. when i peek at the ingredients, if i wouldn’t eat each item in there, then that means i have now identified a certain ingredient that doesn’t qualify. then i have to determine how badly it doesn’t qualify and how far down it rests in on my list of no-nos.

    save for a situation where i would literally die if i didn’t eat something (haven’t quite run across that type of situation just yet), here is a short list of ingredient list ‘no-nos’ (in no real order):

    hydrogenation, partial or full
    high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup
    agave syrup, agave nectar
    any vegetable (seed) oil
    monosodium glutamate (msg)
    BHA/BHT/TBHQ (preservatives)
    soy (regardless of form)
    grain, especially wheat
    artificial sweetners like aspartame and saccharine
    cornstarch (GMO)

    that doesn’t contain everything, but staying away from those items would at least give most folk a running start toward better health. then just follow the other things chris is teaching in this series and you will definitely be on the right track.

  14. Jay says

    Haven’t studies shown that frequent red meat consumption increases cancer risk? All you hear is eat more fruit and veggies and cut back on red meat.

  15. Glenn says

    Chris, if you want to guide people to eat free-range chicken, and not typical commercial chicken, that’s up to you to give that specific advice. You didn’t do that. You only compared “chicken” with two differently raised “beefs”.

    I pointed out that chicken is always delivered with the skin and that’s how people usually eat it, so that’s how the omega-6 content is measured.

    You are continually skewing things in a very dangerous direction. Notice how, in your earlier article you admitted that a 2 to 1 n-6 to n-3 ratio was normal, but now you are PUSHING people to TRY for a 1 to 1 ratio. Can you give us any example of an animal, raised in a natural environment, such as a squirrel, black bird, etc. that has a 1 to 1 ratio in its meat (muscle)? If not, why are you pushing humans to have such an abnormal goal. Right here in this article you are admitting that bison and elk are over 2 to 1. And we are talking muscle when we are talking the meat that is measured. Organs and fat tissue always have higher n-6 to n-3 ratios, and nerve and skin tissue have WAY higher. Human muscle has 6.5 times as much n-6 as n-3. Human organs have about a 4 to 1 ratio. We are talking about an essential fatty acid here. The body can’t manufacture it. It must eat it and successfully distribute it to the cells. How in the world, either logically or by scientific evidence can you expect people to believe that magically they are going to maintain the proper proportions of omega-6 in their bodies if they don’t eat it, either as food or as supplements?

    I would say that you, with the instrument of this “Healthy Skeptic” newsletter at your disposal, are the one is extremely out on a limb with respect to misinforming the population, and who should heed the advice: “You can ignore that if you’d like, but don’t advise others….” as you counseled me above.

    I am always welcoming your replies. I think you have a great idea with this newsletter, and I would like to see it continue. However, I will not stand aside and let people be guided in the wrong direction. As long as you allow me to post on this forum, I will continue to point out where I think you are misleading. And you should be happy you have skeptics in your audience as well as in your office. Its what allows people finally be content with issues: hearing a full discussion.

    I agree with everything else in this article. I’m not trying to take you apart for some vicious reason. I only take issue when you talk about omega-6 as though its something to be avoided, when there has never been any proof that omega-6 in its natural state (arriving in our stomachs from fresh meat, eggs, vegetables, nuts, etc.) is bad for the human body in ANY quantity. All studies done using omega-6 have used commercial vegetable oils as far as I know. And that is an item that we both agree should be avoided like the plague. Right? So please don’t prejudice people against omega-6. Or else show proof that, say, eating free-range chicken will produce poorer health than range-fed beef. If you can’t do that, please don’t slam healthy sources of omega-6. Humans have been eating whatever meats and vegetables and dairy they so desired for thousands of years. Only in the last 70 years have humans had the modern diseases. It can’t be the omega-6. Its the processing.

  16. says

    chris,

    have you ever seen any data on pastured chickens n-6 vs. conventional?

    and even further…what are chickens supposed to eat anyway? i have looked for this info before and we’ve entertained keeping chickens (laying). i’ve just often wondered what a “natural” diet for chickens actually is. you see your organic eggs labeled “vegetarian diet” which can include grain and soy. but, if birds can actually eat and digest grains…is it alright if the chickens laying your eggs eat grains? i know joel salatin let’s them scratch around after the cows and eat bugs and worms etc…but i’m sure their feed is supplemented (we’ve been to his farm and still don’t know for sure). i’m assuming most pastured chickens are still fed some supplemental feed (we buy local local pastured eggs). let me wrap this up…what should chickens eat and have you seen any data comparing pastured and conventional?

    great post. great series. pay the farmer or pay the pharmaceutical company?

  17. Chris Kresser says

    “there has never been any proof that omega-6 in its natural state (arriving in our stomachs from fresh meat, eggs, vegetables, nuts, etc.) is bad for the human body in ANY quantity.”

    The burden of proof is upon you to show that omega-6 from chicken has a different action in the body than omega-6 from vegetable oil. Why should we think it does? The same argument is made by people who say you can eat as much fruit as you want, because the fructose in fruit doesn’t have the same effect on the body as fructose in HFCS. That’s not true. The effect is the same; the only difference is the amount. Fructose is fructose, and n-6 is n-6.

    It is well-known that the biological availability of n-3 fatty acids is inversely proportional to the concentration of n-6 fatty acids in the tissue. It *does not matter* whether those n-6 FAs come from chicken or seed oil.

    As Kurt Harris said to you in the last thread, “If you are skeptical of Chris’ advice, then eat all the tasteless factory chicken you want. It’s your body, but I am pretty sure we did not evolve eating grain-fed albino fryers from Tyson.”

    Nor did we evolve to eat huge handfuls of nuts every day. You continually ignore these points in your claims that n-6 in whole foods isn’t harmful.

    I will absolutely prejudice people against n-6 because the evidence – both anthropological and clinical – supports that prejudice. So far you have not provided a single reference to support your claims. I’ve provided 30+ in my series on EFAs. Show us your proof that n-6 in nuts and chicken behaves in a different way in the body than n-6 from vegetable oil.

    We’ll wait here for it.

    • mrsshalalala says

      Just in reference to the comment “The same argument is made by people who say you can eat as much fruit as you want, because the fructose in fruit doesn’t have the same effect on the body as fructose in HFCS. That’s not true.”

      You quoted the YouTube video “sugar: the bitter truth” in one of your articles and in that video the doctor says that it is ok to have fructose in fruit because it comes with fiber. That’s one of his practical recommendations at the end, that if you do have sugar you consume it with fiber.

      I have so far appreciated your articles, just wondering if that comment I quoted above was you saying you don’t think it’s good to have fruit because it contains fructose.

  18. Glenn says

    Jack,

    I love your list of “no-nos”. I agree that if one is caught reading a list of ingredients, the “no-no” list is indispensable. And there are times that we all want something that is packaged and we check to see if we can “survive” in spite of the ingredients.

    I still prefer Chris’ general rule to avoid anything packaged, if possible. Partly because its a simple way to avoid toxic substances, but also heavily because it saves so much time.

    So I agree, we shouldn’t take it as cut and dried: never buy a package. But for me, every package I never pick up to read, is a savings of time. I’d hate to have to count the times and measure the time wasted, that I have gone down a grocer’s shelf reading label after label, trying to chose the least of all the “evils” there. I’ve done a lot of that. Your list is great for those exceptional times.

  19. Honora says

    Great post and comments. I’m sure most towns will have a mail delivery service of organic/pastured meats. Here in Christchurch, New Zealand we do (justorganic.co.nz). I note the parent organisation for this delivery is located in the UK.

    I get my pork wild from a rabid pig-hunter who sometimes can’t find enough grateful friends to accept his gamey gifts. The free-range eggs come from a work colleague who has a farmlet where she breeds show poultry for her daughter to show. She never kills the males so that’s sits OK with my conscience. I guess they don’t eat that much anyway if they’re not producing eggs. She feeds them organic wheat and that’s all.

    It will probably be worthwhile scooping up roadkill if practicable as they would be a great source of maggots for the chooks. In fact one vegetarian couple I know used to eat the roadkill as they went the same roads every day and knew what was fresh roadkill. Presumably they could spot TB if that was an issue.

    NZ mussels are my toher source for Vit B12 and iron which are supplied in high amounts. I’m afraid to say the trend in NZ for the farmed animals is for corporatisation. As you all know, this means supplementing or surplanting our pasture feeding with environmental evils such as palm kernel.

    Greenpeace are trying to pressure the dairy farmers into using fodder from growing maize instead but there is an incestuous hook-up between Fonterra and the palm kernal plantations which are being created in Indonesia from burnt virgin forest displacing indigenous communities by force and orangutans etc.

  20. Chris Kresser says

    Brandon: every chicken farmer I know, including Joel Salatin, supplements with grain. Salatin uses soy and corn, I believe. We have chickens in our backyard, and we found a soy- and corn-free feed that has wheat, oats, barley, field peas, fishmeal, alfalfa, flax seed, kelp, live yeast culture (brewers’ yeast), natural amino acids, vitamins and minerals. They also forage in our yard for worms, grubs, etc. and get kitchen scraps every day, including meat (most people don’t know that chickens are omnivores, and are crazy for meat – ours will nearly kill each other for the meat scraps.)

    I have not seen any data comparing the n-6 content of chickens fed this type of feed vs. chickens fed conventional mash. I have seen data (which I linked to in this article) indicating that pastured chicken eggs have 3x more n-3 than conventional chicken eggs, so it probably stands to reason that pastured chickens fed a corn/soy-free ration will have a better n-6:n-3 ratio than commercial birds.

    I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting no one should eat chicken, ever. I’m just saying: be aware of the higher n-6 ratio, and don’t make it a staple meat.

  21. Glenn says

    Gosh Chris, you are making statements for the whole readership to view. I would try to use a bit of fairness and good logic if I were you. That is all that I am doing.

    Your argument: “fructose is fructose, omega-6 is omega-6″. Do you really want to stick with that argument? I’ll wait for you to reply before I go to work on it, because I’m not going to waste the time pointing out how both those statements are totally wrong unless you say you want to stick with that statement. Your readership has probably read plenty already about the difference between fructose in fruits and fructose introduced as HFCS and so realizes the different effects these cause. But I will be happy to re-explain it for you, as well as the difference, physiologically, between adulterated omega fats and unadulterated omega’s.

    And no, the burden of proof is not on me. You are the one with all the articles about n-6 / n-3 balance. I am saying to you, of all the studies you use for showing the damage caused by n-6, and therefore a NEED for balance, show me ONE that used, say, range-fed, organic chicken (or walnuts, etc.), and definitely NO commercial vegetable oil, as the source of the n-6. You are going to come up empty handed. Probably because the fish-oil or the drug companies paid for the studies, but regardless, you are not going to find that they were trying to use natural sources for the n-6, which is what we will all be eating if we follow your good advice on staying “fresh, local and natural”.

    Here is an example of what you need to provide. Its the closest I can come up as to a research team trying to preserve oils in a natural state. It shows the oils used, and that they were maintained refrigerated until actually used in the test. This is the full study, not an abstract.

    http://www.jlr.org/content/44/10/1984.full?sid=bc2c8227-10c2-465b-97d6-3260b5abf28d

    However, unfortunately, what was tested here were derivative oils (pure ethyl-EPA, ethyl-GLA, and AA), not the parent omega-6. I’m asking you to show a study that proves that parent omega-6 oils, taken into the human body in a fresh state, (as you want us to eat anyway per this article) have any damaging effect, even in a ratio of 10 to 1 over omega-3 oils.

    So your whole argument against n-6 is really an argument against eating commercial vegetable oils and foods made with them, because that is what is causing the sickness in the studies. That is fine. I like that argument. I agree that its the adulterated oils that are causing the heart disease and cancer these days. All I’m saying is, put the blame on the adulterated oils, and explain carefully that n-6 oils have been just fine until the last century when the whole “salad oil” industry began. That’s what you seem to imply anyway when you recommend against ingesting vegetable oils and packaged foods containing those oils. The whole, sad result, if you carelessly imply that omega-6 oils are unhealthy in any proportion greater than 1:1 with omega-3 oils, is that you are causing undue label reading, and possibly driving people to a worse state of health than if you had never mentioned the word “omega-6″ and had just stuck with your comment above: “Food refining has brought us all four of the food toxins destroying our health: white flour, white sugar & HFCS, industrial seed oils and processed soy products.” Notice you were careful to modify the “seed oils” with “industrial”. Good work.

    The crux of the matter is this: You have already said we should stop eating commercial vegetable oils. You have already said we should stop eating packaged food and junk food. So if people do that and just eat whole, fresh, and occasionally lightly cooked foods, how are they going to get too much omega-6? To say that each and every item we eat must, in itself contain a acceptable ratio of n-6 to n-3 is ludicrous. But that is what you are saying. You aren’t saying that we must get all the fats and protein we need from a carrot. You aren’t saying that we must get all the vitamins we need if we eat beef. But you ARE saying that the omega’s must be in balance for each and every food we eat. I immediately question that approach. I feel like you seem to be generating just one more “food scare” that we don’t need. Where is the logic that every food that a human eats must contain a balance of necessary nutrients? Where is the logic that even ONE food that we eat must contain a balance of even two nutrients?

  22. Harald says

    Here is the answer to omega-6 vs. omega-3.
    Omega-6 supports inflammation – omega-3 counteracts inflammation.
    Both are required by the body to function optimally in all its complexity.
    If you feel chronic aching all over, you likely have too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3.
    Since both are called ‘essential fatty acids’ it follows, that they, in fact, are.
    They are also quasy harmless to consume, therefore if one feels the above mentioned imbalance, eat some more omega-3 for a while and see, whether you feel any better. It’s that simple!

  23. says

    Chris, great article and wonderful redesign of your blog.

    I was wondering, do you have the average absolute values of PUFA’s in those various types of meat? The ratios are certainly alarming, but I feel they don’t tell the whole story.

    If one feeding type produced a extremely high n-6/n-3 ratio like I dunno how about 18:1, but the absolute amount of PUFA per pound is only 1 gram, then the problem seems much less dire to me. That’s not really a lot of PUFA considering the portion size.

  24. says

    @Glenn

    Actually, fructose is fructose regardless of where it comes from. The amount of time it takes to break the fructose out from it’s molecular bond to other sugars, or to break down the fiber from the fruit, may lead to a different digestion period, but in the end it will go through the hepatic portal vein like every other molecule of fructose.

    Monosaccharides are quite atomic in nature, they are the smallest form of a sugar. If fructose were to exist in another form, it wouldn’t be fructose – it would be glucose.

  25. Jack Kronk says

    Awesome new site design! I like how there are several articles stacked on top of each other like ‘previews’ versus the entire newest article, and then the entire 2nd newest article… etc. Well done Chris. Seems fresh and more up to date.

  26. Chris Kresser says

    I don’t see where I’m not being fair, or logical. It is illogical, on the other hand, to assume that a chemical compound with an identical molecular configuration (i.e. omega-6 linoleic acid, or fructose) would have a different effect on the body when it comes from chicken or nuts than it does when it comes from seed oils.

    “I’m asking you to show a study that proves that parent omega-6 oils, taken into the human body in a fresh state, (as you want us to eat anyway per this article) have any damaging effect, even in a ratio of 10 to 1 over omega-3 oils.”

    I just did show you that study, but apparently you didn’t read it. The study I linked to in the previous comment looked at n-3 and n-6 content in the food supply of 38 different countries. They weren’t only looking at refined seed oils, as you suggest. From the study:

    “FAO-STAT categories included poultry meats, pig meats, eggs, bovine meats, goat and mutton, crustaceans, demersal fish, freshwater fish, marine fish, pelagic fish, mollusks, coconut oil, cottonseed oil, groundnut, maize germ oil, olive oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, rape or mustard oil, rice bran oil, sesame oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil.”

    That list contains a wide range of “natural” foods and oils, including the ones you want people to continue to eat liberally. And what did that study find?

    “The biological availability and activity of n–6 LCFAs, in particular AA, are inversely related to n–3 fatty acids in tissue LCFAs. Greater compositions of EPA, DPA, and DHA in membranes competitively lower the availability of AA for the production of eicosanoids (17, 47, 48). The prevention of the formation of n–6 eicosanoids derived from AA with medications, including cox-2 inhibitors, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin, constitutes a substantial proportion of pharmaceutical industry activity. The available tissue composition of AA can be lowered by reducing dietary intakes of the 18-carbon precursor, LA. Conversely, it has been known since the early 1960s that greater dietary intakes of LA increase tissue concentrations of AA, while reducing tissue concentrations of EPA and DHA (20, 49-51).”

    Did they mention anything about where the n-6 came from? Did they say that it had a different effect when it came from meat than it did when it came from oils? No. Because that argument makes no sense.

    As the authors point out, the suppression of n-6 eicosanoids with ibuprofen, aspirin and other drugs is a big-time industry. Those eicosanoids are produced when n-6 is in excess of n-3 in the tissue – regardless of the source of the n-6. My point in writing these articles is right in line with the author’s suggestion: instead of taking Advil every day, why not reduce dietary intakes of LA to decrease tissue concentrations of AA?

    Please show us some studies that suggest that n-6 in chicken or any other food behaves differently in the body than n-6 for seed oil. And while you’re at it, show us a study indicating that fructose from HFCS behaves differently than from fruit. They are the same molecules. The only difference is that it’s much easier to get large amounts of n-6 from seed oils and fructose from HFCS. Of course there are many other reasons to avoid HFCS and industrial seed oils, but it’s not because they have a “different” type of n-6 or fructose. That’s just basic biochemistry, Glenn.

    So if people do that and just eat whole, fresh, and occasionally lightly cooked foods, how are they going to get too much omega-6?

    By eating too many nuts and too much chicken. Which is exactly my point.

  27. Chris Kresser says

    David: one pound of dark-meat chicken with skin has 13.6g of n-6, which is quite significant, IMO. Even 1/2 pound of chicken, which many people could eat quite easily in one day, has 6.8g. On a 2,000 calorie diet, limiting n-6 to 2% of calories means eating no more than 4.5g of n-6 a day. That half-pound of chicken just used up your whole allowance, and a little bit more. See Don Matesz’s article for a good breakdown.

    Again, I’m not saying we should never eat chicken. I’m just saying it shouldn’t be a staple meat.

  28. says

    it really makes sense that chicken would contain more n-6 when you think about what they eat then…grains and plant foods containing n-6.

    and that when they get to eat insects and meat too…their n-3 content will be increased.

    similar to the data showing n-3/n-6 content in cattle eating corn vs. grass.

    and since conventional chickens ONLY get to eat grain and soy…naturally…less n-3, more n-6. seems logical.

    and though, of course, humans aren’t chickens, or cows, or rats…BUT…this same logic probably does apply to us. we eat more n-6…we ARE more n-6. and if we believe that n-6 is inflammatory in humans, as shown in chris’ explanation of eicosanoids and anti-inflammatory drugs (for example)…then how are we to believe that chicken could be an optimal food. it seems that glenn is arguing that you’ll be healthier if your n-6 comes from chicken and nuts. and he’s probably right, i don’t think anyone is denying him that…but it’s because now it’s going to be extremely difficult to reach the quantities you would with the seed oils. so it’s more tolerable but still not optimal. it’s similar to an ornish diet where he swears his patients are healthier because of the “low fat”…BUT he also cuts out all refined products…and when you look at the net effect…he’s actually reduced the carbohydrate intake of his subjects more (by percentage) than fat. yet it’s the fat that’s unhealthy?

    it’s going to be much harder for glenn to convince us that our bodies internal workings are smart enough to decipher the difference between a molecule when it comes from chicken or when it comes from seed oil.

    i mean does the chicken n-6 make it to your “gut bouncer” for him to say…”hey, this n-6 isn’t on the guest list, he’ll cause a scene in the place”…and the rest of the chicken particles say “he’s cool, he’s with us”…”oh well in that case he won’t be harmful.”

    it almost seems like by this logic…if we always ate seed oils with a whole food we could fool our bodies into thinking it was from chicken…and therefore it would consider it healthy. come on!

    i never saw chris make any unique and specific claims for any individual here. he simply offers his best interpretation of the data thus far. i didn’t really find any “skewing” or “specific advice”…so i always find it amusing when someone accuses another of this…only to spend a paragraph or two doing exactly what they say they are supposedly against.

    i just wonder why anyone would spend time on this site reading the work someone has done based on their best interpretation of the data thus far…and then argue for a more tolerable diet vs. an optimal one.

  29. says

    @Chris

    Thanks for the numbers. Trust me I totally get what you are saying about the chicken. I was mainly curious about the numbers for beef though, as I tend to eat more of that, and from what I know, the amounts of n6 in beef stay relatively constant regardless of feeding type.

  30. Mia says

    David,
    I can’t vouch that the below information is correct, but I’ve seen it quoted often. Yes, It would be great to see Chris’s take on this.
    “A recent analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists found that grass-fed steak has about twice as many omega-3s as a typical grain-fed steak. Another study published in March in Nutrition Journal backed up those numbers.
    Still, with 35 milligrams of heart-healthy fats per serving, grass-fed steak can’t compete with a salmon dinner, which has about 1,100 milligrams.”
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125722082

  31. Glenn says

    Chris and Brandon, thank you so much for putting so much into this discussion. We are now getting somewhere.

    Chris, you are picking at my comment “show me ONE that used, say, range-fed, organic chicken (or walnuts, etc.), and definitely NO commercial vegetable oil, as the source of the n-6″ as though I insist that certain oil sources must be used. I used the word “say” to imply that the walnuts, etc. were examples, not that they were required.

    What you are missing is this: omega-6 is not omega-6. When ingested, it better not be oxidized (rancid, pre-heated, whatever may cause it, even chemical additives) or it doesn’t function as it should. The very reason that omega-3 oils are not even used commercially for cooking is that they oxidize even faster than omega-6 oils. They would be turning rancid before they could be used. But omega-6 oils still are ruined when poured into a deep fryer, or even heated in baked goods. That is why it is so important how the oils are cared for if they are used in a study. And that is why most studies are worthless when the subject is something about the effect of the oils in our bodies. The researchers are being careless about the oxidation of the oils. But if, as I suggested, they had used raw foods to supply the oils, most probably the results would have been different, and more important, might have had some use to help healthy people be healthier. But, as the study you cited shows, the intent is just to prove the usefulness of a drug; the researchers use whatever form of oil makes the study prove what they want. And yes, oxidized omega-6 is going to create havoc in an organism and their drugs are going to have some effect. Oxidized omega-6 is not a substance that any health oriented person wants to put in their system. Oxidized omega-6 is not functionally the same as omega-6 ingested from fresh food or even lightly cooked meat.

    Chris, this is an aside, but I’ll throw it in here anyway. Your quoted article states “Greater compositions of EPA, DPA, and DHA in membranes competitively lower the availability of AA for the production of eicosanoids (17, 47, 48)” and implies that there is a problem with too much AA. But notice it says “availability”. Not “existence”. The drug companies, as admitted in the article, has a huge vested interest in certain drugs. One of the things they are claiming is important is to reduce the availabilility of AA because it is obviously tied to “inflammatory” derivative acids. If you would only read Brian Peskin’s article on this, you would see that the body only takes the “available” AA and processes it to begin inflammation when it is needed. Lenoleic Acid is sitting in all our 100 trillion cell walls all the time, able to be broken down into the medium chain fatty acids when needed. Nothing is forcing it to automatically change into AA beyond what is needed, or to be broken down into any of the other necessary substance for cell life. The whole assumption of the study you quote is flawed by this very fact. Its like saying that because we know that gasoline causes fire, we therefore need to keep an absolute minimum in the gas tanks of all motor vehicles. Its ignoring the fact that there is a system in place that transports the gas and meters out the gas in the engine. We are not going to end up with excessive AA because we overdose on omega-6. Even oxidized omega-6! That is not one of the many significant problems with eating industrial vegetable oils that are oxidized. And its not a problem with healthy omega-6 oils. The first article mentioned below, which I can send you, has a lot more on this: 30 pages worth.

    Brian Peskin articles:

    I cannot find the article on line at this time that explains how AA is not going to be in excess just because there is plentiful Lenoleic Acid, but here is a tiny excerpt and I will gladly send you the full PDF from my computer if you specify an email address to receive it:

    ‘In fact, a very high dietary LA will reduce membrane AA [the
    opposite effect!]…. Note: This is why it was reported in the article….that “AA in the phospholipids of Eskimos [consuming
    lots of parent omega-6] is approximately one-third of that in
    Danes.” ‘ (21 reference included)

    http://www.brianpeskin.com/BP.com/publications/2011-anti-aging-therapeutics,pdf.pdf (44 references included)

    To conclude, but to make sure you know I’m trying to cover all the issues you have raised with my last post, I’ll handle your repetition of what you explain as the problem with my logic. You said:

    “Did they mention anything about where the n-6 came from? Did they say that it had a different effect when it came from meat than it did when it came from oils? No. Because that argument makes no sense.”

    Did I answer this well enough above? I hope I explained that I’m not specifying that the source of the omega-6 matters, but the condition matters a lot. I was trying to address that when I talked about oxidation.

    And then you said:

    “Please show us some studies that suggest that n-6 in chicken or any other food behaves differently in the body than n-6 for seed oil.”

    Do we agree that this is not what I was saying? If not, please respond.

    As to fructose is fructose, here’s a couple of quotes:

    “Additionally, there’s hard empirical evidence showing that refined man-made fructose like HFCS metabolizes to triglycerides and adipose tissue, not blood glucose.”

    “Chemical tests among 11 different carbonated soft drinks containing HFCS were found to have ‘astonishingly high’ levels of reactive carbonyls. Reactive carbonyls are undesirable and highly-reactive compounds associated with “unbound” fructose and glucose molecules, and are believed to cause tissue damage.”

    I should mention that most naturally occurring fructose, as in fruits, but even in table sugar, is “bound”, meaning tied to glucose, and chemically stable. Therefore, as for omega-6: fructose is NOT fructose. There are differences. Here’s the complete article:

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/03/24/Why-HighFructose-Corn-Syrup-Causes-Insulin-Resistance.aspx

    References are highlighted

    You closed by saying:

    “So if people do that and just eat whole, fresh, and occasionally lightly cooked foods, how are they going to get too much omega-6?

    “By eating too many nuts and too much chicken. Which is exactly my point.”

    I think, at one place in your article, your point might have been “don’t eat too much chicken”. But it was based on omega-6 content, which I still have not seen proof of as being a bad thing. But I will certainly concede that a balanced diet is important and eating one thing to the exclusion of too much else is going to cause problems.

    When I think about what our “points” are though Chris, I would rather think that your original point was to get people to eat healthy by focusing on raw, fresh, whole, and probably organic foods. I can’t agree more. And I think my original point was that if we do exactly what you are focusing on, (with the extra stipulation that we eat a well balanced diet, which neither of us mentioned to start with), then counting omega’s or balancing omega’s will be no more important than counting calories, measuring vitamin content, or mineral and enzyme content. If you wish to focus on balancing omega’s in the future, I think I will ignore that. I haven’t been convinced that its necessary, but I’ll let you talk about it all you want. Please visit Brian Peskin occasionally though. You can ask him questions. He will answer your email. His writings are a valuable resource, just as are yours.

  32. Glenn says

    Brandon,

    I hope you read my reply to Chris. If not, I’ll address your comment:

    I believe you are correct in assuming that ANY animal that eats more grain will have lower omega-3 intake. In fact, Chris’s study which had details on beef, stated in the beginning that it was true of ALL animals. They just used beef in the proof. Chris’s summary was: “Studies have shown that grain-feeding animals depletes their omega-3 levels, thus raising the n-6:n-3 ratio.”

    This is the best argument I can see for people to either: 1) reduce their intake of carbs; or 2) increase their intake of omega-3, as in supplements; or 3)BOTH. I’m not saying this because I worry about the n-6:n-3 ratio. I’ve obviously declared my feelings there in favor of eating healthy foods (and now I must add “in a balanced diet” to appease Chris who points out that one can get too much omega-6 if they sit and eat only nuts) and that will take care of any balance issues. I’m saying it because omega-3 is an essential oil, and if we aren’t supplementing, we may be not getting enough because the typical American diet is excessively grains. Maybe not as imbalanced as what a feed-lot beef or chicken gets, but still unbalanced.

    I think the important thing to remember, as Chris’ beef study points out, is that it is the omega-3 that varies. Eating more grain lowers the omega-3. This raises the n-6:n-3 ratio, but it does not give your body more omega-6. And the other REALLY important thing to remember is that regardless of what anyone considers an ideal ratio for these oils, we all should be serious about stopping our consumption of commercial oils and boxed/bagged/canned packages containing them. Yes, they are omega-6 oils originally, but they will be ruined for use in the human body by the time you ingest them. They will have no oxygen transport capability and yet they will be in your cell walls and once they are plentiful enough there, they will cause your cells to starve for oxygen. Any cell starving for oxygen will fall back on fermentation for its energy, and once it does that, it never again will use oxygen, but only sugar for metabolism. This is what a cancer cell is.

    You said: “it’s going to be much harder for glenn to convince us that our bodies internal workings are smart enough to decipher the difference between a molecule when it comes from chicken or when it comes from seed oil.”

    I think you got this from Chris, who is paraphrasing my statement: “show me ONE [study] that used, say, range-fed, organic chicken (or walnuts, etc.), and definitely NO commercial vegetable oil, as the source of the n-6.” What MY statement was trying to show was that almost all studies use commercial vegetable oil, and that no pains are taken to make sure it isn’t oxidized. This is very important and will totally change the results of the study. As I explained above at length in my answer to Chris’ last comment, the adulteration of the vegetable oil is what we are trying to avoid when we follow Chris’ guidelines as stated in this and his prior article of this series. We want to stop eating that kind of damaging oil. It is what causes cancer and heart disease. I was trying to point out that its the condition of the oil that can make the omega-6 in the study do bad things to the human (or mouse) body. I was not trying to say that healthy omega-6 can come only from nuts or seeds or fresh meat. It is just known to be better preserved as to its oxygen bearing properties when in a natural state.

    I am really not trying to differ with Chris on what people should be eating, but am much more interested in increasing peoples ability to discriminate between healthy fats and oxidized fats (as in rancid or overheated), which the popular press and even Chris, up to this point, seem content to just label “omega-6″.

    And as to the “skewing” you mentioned. The issue was that Chris, in this article, has taken as an objective, to reduce the n-6:n-3 ratio to 1:1, even though every example he has come up with (notice the elk, for example, in his quoted study) has over a 2:1 ratio. Also, as I pointed out in an earlier post, he was comparing chicken with beef, and the chicken is eaten with the skin included, whereas beef never is. This was not an intentional misrepresentation by Chris, just an oversight, but it likely skewed the reader’s impression of the relative merits of eating chicken.

    Along these lines, you might like to read this article, which probably explains why the wild animals mentioned in Chris’ study have n-6:n-3 ratios much closer to 2:1 than do humans and our livestock:

    http://www.brianpeskin.com/BP.com/publications/2011-anti-aging-therapeutics,pdf.pdf

    In it you will find the statement: “Extremely fit individuals require less
    omega-6 because their oxygen-transferring efficiency, including an increased number of cell
    mitochondria, is greater than in non-exercising individuals.” I would suggest that “extremely fit individuals” live and exercise more like wild animals, and thus across the whole animal spectrum, the most active will have lower ratio’s than the more sedentary. For those interested in this ratio, it might be interesting to consider eating not just “grass fed” animals, but also more active animals, or even wild game. Human muscle has an average n-6:n-3 ratio of 6.1:1. So we are more sedentary than the elk. Our muscles are less efficient at using oxygen, and so we need more n-6 in our cells than do active, wild animals. I find this interesting.

  33. Jesse says

    Chris,

    Do you think the environment can really sustain production of grass-fed or wild-caught meat and organic vegetables enough to feed more than six billion people?

    As for chemicals, as I understand it, organic farmers are allowed to use certain pesticides and fungicides, as long as they’re natural enough or something. Have these been studied adequately to show they lack short-term or long-term harmful effects on people or the environment? Because natural does not mean harmless, of course.

    Also, I’m not sure I have a good idea of what proportions of foods you think are ideal. How much meat, dairy, eggs, fruits, and vegetables, relative to each other? Or does it depend on the person?

    Thanks.

  34. says

    First, the new site design looks great, Chris. I looked at it and thought, “this is what professional site design should look like.”

    Since things are getting a bit heated with Glenn’s lengthy comments, I want to say that I’m appreciating the information being exchanged Chris and Glenn, and I feel that Glenn is raising some valid points and not just trolling to get a reaction. A 1:1 ratio of O6 to O3 might be optimal, but considering it takes some conscious manipulation of diet to get (O6 is everywhere, O3 not as common, plus the whole issue of overfishing affecting wild fish populations), I want to know without a doubt that this is what I need to be doing with my diet. Chris is without a doubt, but I’ve read some contradictory evidence on whether inflammation automatically occurs when the ratio of O6 of O3 goes above 2:1 (and on up to 6:1, although I agree that the national average of 18:1 is ridiculous). O6 seed oils are famous for being extremely processed (rapeseed, for instance, is so stinky that it has to be bleached and deodorized even after being cold pressed).

    I’m not making claims for or against anything being said here; I’ll wait for all of the evidence to shake out. I’m just feeling skeptical of whole paleo/low carb diet movement starting with Taubes because the goalposts keep moving based on new evidence, so anymore I tend not to believe anything I read, even from intelligent sources like this blog, until I’ve seen it debated to death. I discovered this way of eating in September 2010 and I like what it’s done for me, but in the six months I’ve been at it, I’ve seen the conventional paleo wisdom go from “ketosis good” to ketosis not optimal,” I’ve seen dietary advice go from “starch gives you diabetes” to “you can’t live without safe starch,” and I’ve seen Kurt Harris tell us he eats generic rice krispies – and that’s just the beginning.

    I’m not blaming Chris for what other people do (he’s not even officially paleo), but when I see so much shifting of approaches in the short six months I’ve been at this, I tend to be skeptical.

  35. Chris Kresser says

    Lacey: thanks for your feedback on the design. Glad you like it.

    Glenn: quoting Peskin isn’t going to convince me, since I don’t subscribe to his theories. I’d like to see actual peer-reviewed studies suggesting that fructose from fruit behaves differently than fructose from HFCS, or that n-6 from chicken & nuts behaves differently than n-6 from seed oil. Period. Otherwise, you’re just barking at the moon.

    I acknowledged that HFCS has many other undesirable qualities aside from fructose content alone, so let’s not belabor that point. And n-6 seed oils are far worse than chicken or nuts because their n-6 content is so much higher. But this isn’t the issue. The issue is whether eating too much chicken and nuts can potentially raise n-6 levels in the tissue, and whether increased tissue levels of n-6 can cause inflammation. The answer to both of those questions – according to peer-reviewed research – is yes.

    So here’s what we know. Our ancestors had pretty close to a 1:1 n-6 ratio, and they were mostly free of inflammatory, degenerative disease. We know from modern clinical studies (including the one I linked to above, but also many more) that maintaining a tissue concentration of 60% n-3 LCFA (EPA & DHA) would protect 98.6% of the worldwide risk of cardiovascular mortality potentially attributable to n-3 deficiency. So how much n-3 do we need to attain 60% tissue concentration? That depends, of course, on n-6 intake. From my article How Much Omega-3 in Enough? That Depends on Omega-6:

    …the amount of n-3 needed to attain 60% tissue concentration is dependent upon the amount of n-6 in the diet. In the Phillipines, where n-6 intake is less than 1% of total calories, only 278mg/d of EPA & DHA (0.125% of calories) is needed to achieve 60% tissue concentration.

    In the U.S., where n-6 intake is 9% of calories, a whopping 3.67g/d of EPA & DHA would be needed to achieve 60% tissue concentration. To put that in perspective, you’d have to eat 11 ounces of salmon or take 1 tablespoon (yuk!) of a high-potency fish oil every day to get that much EPA & DHA.

    This amount could be reduced 10 times if intake of n-6 were limited to 2% of calories. At n-6 intake of 4% of calories, roughly 2g/d of EPA and DHA would be needed to achieve 60% tissue concentration.

    This is simply another way of looking at it, but I believe it’s the most specific because it’s based on human studies of actual tissue concentration of n-3 and n-6, which is what determines eicosanoid production and subsequent inflammation. It is impossible to maintain 60% tissue concentration of n-3 LCFA (and 40% n-6 LCFA) while consuming seed oils, without ridiculously large doses of fish oil, which are harmful in their own right. But as I pointed out in this article and in the previous one linked to above, it’s not hard to get too much n-6 even when completely avoiding seed oils. Just 50g of walnuts and 1/4 pound of dark meat chicken would give you 23g of n-6. Assuming an intake of 0.65g/d of EPA & DHA (or about 3 6 oz. servings of fatty fish/week) and an ALA intake of 2.35g/d (which is average), you’d have to limit n-6 to 7g/d even to obtain a 2.3:1 n-6 ratio, and the desired 60% tissue concentration of n-3 LCFA. If you’re eating those walnuts and chicken every day, your ratio is going to be closer to 7 or 8.

    Which brings us back to my point. I have never said “don’t eat chicken” or “don’t eat nuts”. What I’ve said is that, if you’re trying for optimal or “perfect” health (which is the name of this series after all), you should not make chicken a staple meat, and you should limit nut intake, because eating both ever day in significant quantities is going to elevate your n-6 ratio above evolutionary norms and the levels shown in clinical studies to prevent inflammatory disease.

    I’ve also written about the 80/20 rule, which I still firmly believe in. If you haven’t read that post, read it now. Here’s the relevant part:

    80% of the time we should follow the guidelines very closely, and 20% of the time we’re free to loosen up and just eat what we want to eat. There’s a lot more to life than food, and in fact I believe (as did the ancient Chinese) that in some cases it’s better to eat the wrong food with the right attitude than the other way around.

    If you want to absolutely maximize your health, try to keep your n-6 ratio between 1 and 2.5. Otherwise, forget about it and just live your life! You’re under no obligation to follow any of this advice. I’m done here. I’ve said my piece, and now I have to get back to work!

  36. says

    Chris: very good answer. Tissue concentrations would seem to be the best measurement, to the degree there is one.

    Reading your answer gives me confidence that my 2:1 ratio of 6 to 3 and supplementing with a moderate amount of fish oil leaves me in a pretty good place. I eat chicken twice a week, leave the nuts alone, and avoid seed oils like the plague. If I start having inflammation problems (symptoms of which are depressingly familiar from my high-carb/low fat days), I’ll reconsider.

    Thanks for taking the time to address this. It’s helped me.

  37. Danny says

    If you don’t have access to pastured dairy, eggs and meat do you think it will be better to reduce the fat intake and replace it with starchy vegetables?

  38. Chris Kresser says

    Danny: even grain-fed beef, pork and lamb are relatively low in n-6. Grain-finished pork shoulder has only 1.7g of n-6, and grain-finished ground beef (25% fat) has only 1g of n-6. So you could eat a pound of beef and a pound of pork a day and still be under your 4.5g/d allowance (assuming a 2,000 calorie diet and limiting n-6 to 2% of calories).

  39. says

    One should know that there is plenty of free fructose found in fruit. Apples contain quite a bit actually. So all the quibbling about free fructose in soft drinks vs fruit is really pointless. I suspect the fiber in fruit merely makes it impossible to eat enough fruit a day to contract liver disease, by the act of appetite suppression.

  40. says

    @Chris

    Right, that lower amount of total n6 in grain fed beef is what I was getting at earlier. It may have 3x or more the amount of n6 than grass-fed beef, but that ratio is misleading. It makes it seem more harmful than it really is, since the absolute amounts of n6 are so minuscule (for most breeds at least).

    Now, the amount of n6 in chicken meat however is quite shocking, and certainly (IMHO) a reason to adjust one’s diet.

  41. Chris Kresser says

    That’s exactly right, David. I meant to mention that in my previous reply to Glenn, but it got too long. Studies have shown that fructose is well absorbed in the presence of equimolar glucose in the proximal small intestine. (Translation for non-science geeks: when glucose and fructose are present in a food in a roughly similar amount, fructose is well-absorbed.) But when the fructose content of a food – natural or unnatural – is higher than its glucose content, the free fructose (amount of fructose that is greater than glucose) is what causes problems. This is the reason why HFCS, which if 55% fructose, is more toxic than sucrose, which is 50% fructose.

    You’re exactly right about why fruit is generally benign compared to fruit juice and HFCS: the fiber in whole fruit makes it difficult to overeat it to the point where free fructose would be a problem, for someone with a normal metabolism. But the fruitarians try pretty hard to get to that point!

    Re: meat. My point wasn’t that we shouldn’t eat grain-fed meat (for nutritional reasons, anyways; I think there are many other reasons not to eat it), but instead that the fatty acid profile and nutrient composition of pasture-raised meat is superior.

  42. says

    glenn,

    i do see your points and they have evolved as you’ve continued to post. at first it seemed to be that an n-6 molecule from chicken or nuts will behave differently or produce a different outcome in our bodies than seed oil that’s processed and it seems that’s not what you meant. now you’re saying that it’s the state the n-6 is in that’s the problem (oxidized). i get that too and you’ll no doubt find much information on that on this very site…so that’s not really in question…but this brings up a few questions for me.

    unless you eat your chicken raw…isn’t it likely that it will be baked or pan cooked at a temperature high enough to oxidize the n-6? (and don’t say we should buy a sous vide and cook at 120 degrees) i would think this is almost certainly true with chicken…maybe to a lesser extent with nuts as you can soak and dehydrate them. but then even if that were the case…someone like chris would have to make a statement that perhaps nuts should be dehydrated not roasted…and that might make for unnecessary complication in your book…as it goes above and beyond just eating what is natural as the only non burdensome prescript. so it seems that in one shape or another we have to go beyond that in good conscience and yet you’ve argued against complicating things this far. where would we draw the line?

    even further to your point about how much n-6 really is too much…i see this one too. even if we are cooking the daylights out of our chicken and it’s oxidized…or if it’s not…if that’s the only source…is it too much? could it be that some ratio between 1:1 and 20:1 is still OK for us? but i look at it differently. you’re right…it’s hard to be certain…which, to me, is exactly why chris would err on the side of caution if anything. he’s looked at the data available to him and has made recommendations accordingly. so if he “thinks” it is worth being aware of and you “think” it’s not a big deal…but no-one can be 100% certain…to me, it makes much more sense to be conservative. and yeah, this might make it a little harder for folks. why would we worry that its relative inconvenience be more important than it being thorough? in this sense it almost seems patronizing to imply that it’s too much for people to handle or if it will complicate things too much for them. i believe it is up to that individual to decide the complication level for them.

    i feel someone has to try to look at what might be optimal to give us a goal to shoot for. when you factor in chris’ 80/20 approach etc…this makes it possible for and individual to “shoot for perfection” and knowing this is impossible (and doesn’t have to be attained) “hit excellence”. he’s reiterated that he’s not saying chicken should be entirely off the menu or that nuts should. but how is it harmful to say that there might be evidence to be mindful of this? personally, i appreciate it.

    your inquiry about a study showing all n-6 from natural foods makes me think of a scenario like this:
    to my knowledge there has never been a study showing smoking just 1 cigarette a day. there are many studies on the effects of smoking of course, but likely not one of this nature. and since one can’t be produced…does that mean that we should believe we won’t have any negative effects if we choose to just smoke 1 a day? it’s possible we won’t and we’ll live to be 100, but again…if we can’t be for certain…and the evidence about smoking in general is stacked up against it…it only stands to reason (to me) that even one cigarette a day wouldn’t be the greatest idea. even if it isn’t as bad as a pack a day. hell, even if it was shown that one smoke a day was only very slightly more harmful than none…wouldn’t that at least be worth someone stating in a blog…and being mindful of as health conscious individuals? or should that person say…just smoke less than a pack a day…in the interest of keeping it simple?

  43. Glenn says

    Brandon,

    Thanks for the thoughtful look at what I actually said, and the well thought out questions!

    I was busy hiking yesterday, and have a full slate of things to do today, so I have only so much time to converse now, but I will try to respond to at least part of your issues, as you have an open mind. Chris will have to wait, even though he replied earlier, as he continues to evade issues and put words in my mouth to discredit me instead of tackling the issues. I’ll pick up with repeating my words to him that he needs to address later.

    As to your restatement of my idea “at first it seemed to be that an n-6 molecule from chicken or nuts will behave differently or produce a different outcome in our bodies than seed oil that’s processed “, yes, I was saying that the investigators never use food in its raw state, and gave examples of nuts to indicate raw, not to indicate that they were a better source as a species. Notice that Chris still has not acknowledged my clarification as you have, and continues to use is original misrepresentation of my words as a basis to debunk me.

    As to your question about the cooking of chicken (or any meat) possibly ruining the delicate omega’s oxygen carrying properties, I happen to have a great answer for your very astute question. I was just responding on a different forum this morning and for some details, searched and found this article, which, among other great information, happens to have the test results to show that “Although PUFA
    are the most sensitive FA to oxidation, it seems that they have a high durability and low susceptibility to thermal oxidative processes at mild temperatures.” Please read this article for a lot more on the omega content of chicken meat, and how it can vary widely depending on the feed used:

    http://ps.fass.org/cgi/reprint/83/7/1155.pdf

    As to your similar question about the effect of heat on nuts, I don’t really feel it necessary to seek out those answers, as most people are much happier eating just raw nuts, whereas they have an aversion to raw meat. I would always push for “the fresher and rawer the better” as I think the Healthy Skeptic advocates, so I don’t want to recommend eating roasted nuts, even though they may maintain most of their nutrients at the time of heating. I think that the heating will definitely shorten their shelf life, and that in itself is a complicating issue, as it makes one have to eat the nuts closer to the roasting time. Just my belief on this. I don’t have a study to prove that.

    As to keeping the “must we watch our intake ratio’s of n-6:n3″ issue open: I admit that it was only in a followup attempt to explain my position to Chris that I realized and pointed out that seeking to eat only “balanced within themselves (as to omega’s)” foods is ludicrous. But I stick with that point. All living matter has omega-6 and omega-3 content. As you see if you read the study I referenced in the link above, Chicken can range, depending on the feed, from a n-6:n-3 ratio of 7:1 to an amazing 1:1.65. Yes, more omega-3 than omega-6. The change is mostly in the omega-3 content, as the physiology requires a certain omega-6 content of cells to process the oxygen. In this study though, the omega-3 content went from only 2% of total fat, to over 26% of total fat! So, just as Chris’s quoted beef study shows, only more extremely in my study, you would have to really know a lot about the growing conditions of the meat you buy than is possible to determine JUST WHAT YOU WERE GETTING FROM THE MEAT in the way of omega. Then you would have to get the measurements of all the veggies, nuts, etc. and then weigh everything, and then near the end of the day, if you didn’t like the ratio you were coming up with after sitting at your calculator for an hour and a half, you would have to run to the kitchen and start eating some compensating food, being careful of course, to measure it in grams as you had every other food you had eaten all day. Just to make sure your omega’s were in balance. And this assumes that you have no other diet balancing concerns that others have, like balancing fats/proteins/carbs, getting enough vitamins, and total calories. And on and on.

    So you can maybe now see why I push for, as Chris originally did before getting off onto a discussion of omegas, just KISS. Keep it simple, and eat unprocessed, unrefined foods, mostly uncooked, mostly organic foods. The results will be, not just better health, but less worry (because the decisions are easier — no more reading every label of every box you pick up), less supplement needs, and less time spent making food decisions. One route through the grocery, hit the produce, hit dairy and meat, and never even enter the catacombs of those packaged food aisles. This is really what I am in favor of when I try to get the attention OFF omega’s. And its why I originally asked Chris, several newsletters ago, to just emphasize the dangers of processed oils (which he does beautifully), but not start calling for counting or restricting omega-6, as that is wasteful of time if one doesn’t do processed oils and the foods containing them! That alone (avoiding all processed oils and containing foods) will take the adulterated oils out of the diet, and at the same time take your omega-6/omega-3 balance way down to some normal level. It might be 4:1, it might be 1:1. The important thing is that the dangers of the adulterated oil diet will have been eliminated. That is all I ever wanted to emphasize.

    So you are right, its not right to say what is right for other people, as to how much complication can be handled in looking at the details and making health decisions. That is a very good point. Some people may be able to compute, not just calories, but carbs, and omega’s as they eat through the day, and I’ll leave that up to them. It is totally my lack of time and ability than makes me want to simplify the food choices as to content. I’d much rather go into the produce section, because I know its safe, especially if all organic and fresh, and then chose what looks tasty and juicy. And so on, through the meat section. That happens to be my personal, ideal limit, on “measurements”. But I won’t decide for others. But as a result, if there are those who eat chicken, for example, I do recommend the above link, so that you can see what you are up against in determining omega content. To me it demonstrates that there’s no way to know what you’re getting in the chicken. Its all up to the feed being used, or the range being grazed, etc.

    I hear what you say on shooting for excellence and not trying for perfection. And of course I agree with Chris when he clarified that he’s not asking people to avoid chicken. And its probably good that he even raised the issue of omega content of beef and chicken. I only hope that some people can see that the best reason though for looking at fatty acid intake is to realize the dangers of commercial seed oils, to realize that omitting them from the diet will take care of the “unnatural” n-6:n-3 balance that we have (as high as 20:1), compared to all other animals eating normal diets, and that once we return to a much more Paleo type diet, or even a diet of the 19th century, we will be fine and can forget about omega content. The ladies at the Weston Price foundation talk about fats all the time. They are mostly interested in insuring that we understand that saturated fats are needed in our diets. That’s understandable, as that foundation is funded in large part by the dairy and cattle associations. They never put any emphasis on omega balancing at all. But if you read about omega’s from what is offered by the fish oil industry, its all about balance. They don’t guide to reduce your consumption of ugly commercial vegetable oils though, they try to sell you omega-3 to “balance” the omega-6. That is unscrupulous. No matter how “balanced” you get by taking extra omega-3, you are not going to get ride of the damaging effects of adulterated oils. So it pays to be skeptical. It pays to read different opinions, and it pays to read and contribute to “The Healthy Skeptic” and other forums.

    I’m not sure I follow your analogy regarding the cigarette-test example. If its that you shouldn’t disregard studies on polyunsaturated fats just because they never do it “right” by my standards, then no, that is not exactly something I am saying. What I was trying to say about the studies never using natural foods was that either: 1) they, the testers don’t realize there is such a thing as adulterated fats and the damages they cause and so indiscriminately use those fats in the studies, or 2) they, the testers, are intentionally using the adulterated fats because they want a certain outcome. Just the fact that no-one is using naturally derived, and still healthy input is a great “warning shot” for me. I am so used to reading, and reading about thousands of (most of, really) scientific studies that are performed for, and at the direction of drug companies, that I read every study with tremendous skepticism (as should all professionals in the field of study). So I am not against studies. Nor citing them on this forum. I am saying that it is devilishly strange, statistically, to find that there are no studies using what we on this forum know is a healthy source of omega’s, as a feed or food given to the study animals. There are a lot of more interesting studies that remain to be conducted.

  44. donat says

    Chris, I am a novice here and seriously confused. Look at this argument in (1) which we doubless agree is wrong, in fact *the* wrong argument in this corner of the woods:

    (1) (a) Reduce SaFATs in diet to reduce LDL, because (b) lower LDL lowers CVD risk

    now look at your argument:

    (2) (a) Reduce omega 6(or better: PUFA in general) in diet to ensure optimal omega 6/3 ratio because (b) lower tissue omega 6/3 ratio (better: lower tissue PUFA with good 6/3 ratio) lowers CVD risk

    Please believe me, in making the parallel I’m not at all trying to be combative. I’m just trying to be clear as to where I seriously need clarification.

    So a problem with (a) is that harm with hard end points has not been demonstrated except for a subset of relevant items ( trans-fats in (1a), extracted seed oils in (2a) –I know it’s a different molecule in the former case, but whether that is indeed going to be a crucial difference here needs to be properly demonstrated, while quite possible, it is really very far from being a priori necessary; –after all molecules, like atoms, act in a context-sensitive fashion). Secondly, also the long term correlation is similarly uncertain for both general statements (see eg. Stephan’s blog for (1a), and similarly for (2a): no studies on long term high PUFA vs low PUFA diet with correct 6/3 ratio from natural sources).

    The problem with both (1b) and (2b) is epidemological data, ie. correlation does not entail causation. We do not want to address a signal instead of the cause of the problem.

    I do not mean to imply in the least that I think the current status of the two arguments is the same. There appears to be a reasonable hypothetical causal mechanism underpinning (2) unlike for (1). Perhaps even more importantly, for many years great effort and energy has been invested to demonstrate (1), but to no avail; while (2) is a highly sensible hypothesis avaiting (perhaps some combination of partial ) confirmation and/or refutation.

    Having come from a different field I spent quite some time educating myself in these matters, but I am painfully aware of the lacunae in my erudition. So let me know where I misunderstand, or if that requires unjustifiable investment of effort, just point me to relevant references. Oh, and thanks for your excellent blog (not just being polite or trying to humour you (well ok, partly that)) .

  45. Chris Kresser says

    Donat: the main problem is with your #1. Lowering LDL does not reduce CVD risk. That has never been proven. I’ve written about that extensively in my special report on heart disease. Please start by watching these videos, and then read this. Lowering triglycerides, lowering small, dense LDL (a sub-class of LDL) and raising HDL are all associated with a reduction in CVD risk. But more than 40 trials have been performed to see if lowering TC and LDL reduces heart disease risk, and when all the results were taken together, there was no difference between the control groups or the groups that had their TC/LDL lowered.

  46. says

    and one last clarification to glenn. i don’t weigh and measure anything…especially n-3 and n-6…as i agree with you…how would you even begin to do such a thing when you look at all the variables (where did you get your meat, what did it eat? how much of the skin is on it? etc). but i do enjoy knowing what the total content of each could be in a certain food and what the ratio is (and which foods might make it easier to get our ratio in line and which will make it harder). i’ve never seen where chris has recommended measuring, or searching for foods with a 1:1 ratio…he just advocates awareness. from his fish oil series…he pretty much just said keep your 6 low if you can…and that bringing your 3 up isn’t going to get it done. so i don’ think that makes him in any way like the fish oil “you must balance” folks. i still believe it’s prudent to be mindful of it…i don’t count but i pay attention. that’s all.

  47. donat says

    Chris, I appreciate the fact that you reacted and immediately to boot. But please do read my message before you answer. Many thanks.

  48. Chris Kresser says

    I think that combining strong epidemiological data from multiple populations (i.e. lower CVD risk with higher n-3 LCFA tissue concentration and better n-6 ratio) with well-established physiological mechanisms (i.e. higher tissue concentration of n-6 PUFA = inflammation, and inflammation = increased risk of CVD) is quite a potent argument in this case. It’s enough for me at this point. It may not be enough for you – that’s fine.

    Getting to 100% certainty with any of these questions is a lofty goal, and unlikely to happen anytime soon. The operative question is, how certain do you need to be of the data before changing your behavior? 70%? 90%? 99%? It comes down to a cost-benefit analysis for me. The potential cost of eating too much chicken and too many nuts is higher (in the form of increased risk for all chronic, degenerative diseases caused by inflammation) than the benefit I’d get from eating a lot of chicken and nuts. Likewise, the trade-off is relatively minor. Your mileage may vary.

  49. Jack Kronk says

    Man you guys are ruthless. As Lacey noted so eloquently, if you want to write full essays on these topics, start your own blog. Glenn, you bring up fantastic points, with a very intelligent twang to your writings, but I must agree with Lacey. You are bordering on the ‘out of line’ in your comments here. Chris has answered your questions and concerns multiple times. You know where he stands. If you’re not settled with that because you still think trying for a balance is so dangerous that you need to warn everyone here in these forum comments, then you may do well to start your own site. Argue these points in your own format, and then let Chris come back and dialogue with you. If he continued to disagree with your stance on a particular subject, I doubt very much that he would write these novel length commentaries on your site. I’d wager a fair sum that he’d just say his piece and use his forum to express whatever viewpoints he has. Insight from readers is very valuable, and we all appreciate it, but only to an extent. But I’m sorry mate. I must say that your tone and combative approach has gotten a bit disrespectful, regardless of the validity or possible lack thereof behind your points.

  50. Glenn says

    Lacy, Chris, Brandon and finally, Jack (with the thorough statement of good advice to Glenn):

    I agree. I have confronted Chris, to an extreme degree on a minor issue. To me the issue is important, but the only way I am content with the result is that some few people may have dived in and learned a little more. I’m afraid though that for the most part, people may have become more confused, and almost certainly, many people are stressed – probably way more than those of you who happened enter the discussion or suggest that it be ended. I am definitely sorry for that result.

    Chris has a wonderful idea here to present his ideas and allow discussion. I am definitely grateful for that. I’m also grateful that all of those responses I’ve read here are attempts at opening up the doors to truth. This is a health forum and I’m thankful for being allowed to be a part of it. In the future, if I have something that I think might be disruptive to the forum, but needs to go to Chris’ attention, I’ll take it to him directly, and not through the forum. On the forum I’ll try only to be making additions, not divisions.

    Chris, thanks for the discussion. I’ve decided not to continue it regarding omega’s, etc., to save the “family”, but I appreciate your replies, as well as those of all the others. Enjoy. You do great work and you will be far more productive not being pestered with conflict. If I had known there was going to be a conflict as opposed to a sharing of ideas, I would not have spoken. The others are so right, that I should bow out of anything resembling a conflict, as it is your site to administer, and you deserve the time and respect to do just that. Total peace to you and here’s to harmony for the family of your audience.

  51. donat says

    “I think that combining strong epidemiological data from multiple populations …with well-established physiological mechanisms … is quite a potent argument in this case. It’s enough for me at this point. It may not be enough for you – that’s fine.” No, no that’s precisely why I ask, because I want to isolate matters of judgement from matters of relative certainty and fact. So that if i know we agree on the classification (fact vs attitude/educated guess), then I can trust your much more experienced judgement with confidence.
    I think this satisfactorily takes care of the issue of the second parallel under (1b) and (2b) in my earlier message, we seem to agree on what the facts of the matter are and I am more than happy to rely on your call for the rest.

    I wonder if you would have any comments to make or references for the issues I raise in connection with the apparent partial parallel in (1a)/(2a) though, if you can bear to look at that message again. Anyway, the relevant claim to make our previous agreement operative in defining diet behavior, is that long term raw nut consumption (forget chicken) has demonstrable hard end point risk and/or will demonstrably raise tissue omega6/3 ratio or oxidative PUFA levels. It is clearly your view that it will, all I’m asking is whether there is further argument/evidence/support. Again I am happy to trust your judgement and act accordingly once I am confident that I see things well enough to take the same things to be established and the same ones as open as you would. Thanks again.

  52. says

    Thanks for another article jam-packed with lots of advice that can be applied right away. I’m surprised that the difference in omega-3 between eggs laid by hens raised on pasture, and those raised in confinement can be so drastic. Looking forward to the next one in the series!

  53. says

    Chris,
    The problem isn’t just “white flour” buddy, it’s any grain at all. Grains (grass seeds) are the natural food of insects, rodents, and birds. Not fit food for mammals in general. So unless you are a bug, a rat or a bird you should avoid them like the plague they are.

  54. Lola says

    Thank you so much for this series. I’ve been on a WAP diet for five years. My husband and three girls and I just moved to the east coast of Canada but he’s now out of a job and we are on a really really tight budget and are trying our hardest to not go on food assistance. In order to eat well on a tight budget we’ve been on a GAPS diet and are focusing on feeding our girls grassfed liver, dairy, meat ,eggs, butter and bone broths and rationed weekly cod liver oil. The problem is…after we do that we have very little money for other foods and I’m worried that my little ones (all under five) aren’t getting enough vitamin C. How much vitamin C is necessary? I have access to some frozen local blueberries sometimes. Would that be adequate? Oh I can’t wait to start harvesting from our first garden this summer.

  55. Lola says

    Oh I also forgot to mention that we all eat a lot of unpasteurized sauerkraut that is made locally and I’ve heard that has Vitamin C but I’m worried it’s not enough. Really I guess what I’m freaked out about is the fact that my kids aren’t eating all of the fruit and vegetable servings that they are “supposed” to be eating and I’m wondering if that’s ok.

  56. Chris Kresser says

    Kale (130 mg per 100g) and sweet red peppers (160 mg per 100g) are a good source if you can get them. The RDA for kids under 5 is only 25 mg/d, so if you can get some kale and red peppers into them a few times a week, together with some lemon they’ll get plenty.

  57. Chris Kresser says

    Lola: remember, traditional cultures like the Masai, Inuit and Loetschental Swiss thrived with almost no plant foods in their diet at all. Liver is higher in most micronutrients than fruits and veggies. It sounds like you’re doing great.

  58. Dana says

    “A study published in the journal Pediatrics concluded that children exposed to organophosphate pesticides at levels typically found in conventional produce are more likely to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”

    Add to this the tendency of modern parents who are trying to be “healthy” to cut as much animal fat and cholesterol out of their children’s diets as possible and it’s no wonder there are so many articles about ADHD in magazines with high vegetarian readership, and so many ads in same for natural remedies for that condition, right next to the ones for soymilk. (I’m a former Mothering subscriber. *grin*)

    Lola, if your kids can’t stand kale or bell peppers, is it possible to lay in a supply of frozen strawberries? That’s another excellent source and, because they were frozen at peak condition (supposedly), they haven’t had time to lie around and lose vitamins.

    Mind you, reducing your sugar intake also seems to reduce the need for vitamin C. You’ll never eliminate that need because our bodies can’t make it, but C and glucose compete for the same cell receptors, so someone eating a high-sugar, high-starch diet has to eat a lot more C to compensate.

  59. Lola says

    we do have some frozen strawberries in the freezer. The kids don’t know about them or else I’m sure they would be asking constantly :) But I’ll use some of those and add that to the occasional lemon and kale.

    In a few months, the garden will go in and we’ll be up to our elbows in Vitamin C. We have bushes and bushes of wild blackberries too. I shouldn’t worry so much, they are so healthy and robust. My five year old told me her favorite foods are liver and sauerkraut! I definitely get some weird looks though when people ask what my baby has started eating and I say liver :)

    Thanks for the advice and encouragement.

  60. says

    Hi Chris, great post.

    I’m putting together a “get started guide” that will be available for free on my website. Can I use your fat and carb pyramids in the guide?

    Thanks,

    Tyler

  61. Kate says

    Thanks to all on this site for providing me with so much interesting reading that I’m now in danger of missing the train I was going to catch! I’d be grateful for info for people like me who don’t eat meat (including chicken, which I’m quite pleased about!). I used to eat meat, but haven’t for the past 25 years. I gave it up because I didn’t think the animals were properly looked after or fed the right diet, didn’t like battery chickens, and didn’t like the use of antibiotics. Now I can’t face the idea of eating it, so please don’t advise me to start! As grains are on theno-no list, any ideas about breakfast wold be much appreciated, too.

  62. Audrey says

    Chris,

    You mention to focus on beef, lamb/goat, and pork in the diet and minimize chicken due to the poor n6-n3 ratio*. However, I was just checking out your meal plans, and the one for Week 2 has chicken on there about 4-5 times across 7 days, definitely more than any of the pastured animals. Am I missing something?

    *This was actually great news to me since I’ve had an aversion to chicken since my first pregnancy 5 years ago and all my life have eaten beef, pork and shrimp as my favorites, recently adding goat.

    Thanks!

  63. bashar says

    Hi Chris;

    I take one multivitamin tablet and I buy the fiber from the pharmacy, can I eliminate the fruits and vegetables

    busy life and I don’t like them :D

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