Plant toxin

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Plants Are Out to Poison You!

Plants have been on the planet for roughly 700 million years, and they have been successfully fighting off various fungi, insects, and other animals since well before humans arrived some 3 million years ago. Plants have developed all kinds of defense strategies to ensure the survival of their species, including a system of elaborate chemical defenses. If you and I (or perhaps our ancestor, good ol’ Urk) were to go walking in the wilderness, and we started eating random plants, we would very quickly find ourselves either very sick or dead.
Of the approximately 400,000 species of plants on Earth, only a tiny fraction are edible by humans. Among the edible plants, typically only a portion of the plant is safe to eat; the rest is often harmful to humans. Even today, plant poisonings are still relatively common events.
Most of the produce that we see in the supermarket has absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the plants that would have been available to our ancestors 50,000 years ago. Cruciferous vegetables basically didn’t exist, and our ancestors would have avoided leafy greens because of their extremely bitter taste. Tubers and other starchy “underground storage organs” were not particularly tasty and would have been primarily composed of fibrous, tough material. Nuts and seeds are well-protected physically by a tough outer shell or more subtly by toxic chemical defenses. Unprocessed nuts or beans can be among the most deadly plant-based foods around. Plants are especially protective of their offspring. The fruits we eat today have been manipulated to the point that prehistoric people wouldn’t recognize them.
We know that plants are full of chemicals, many of which serve as pesticides. If we had to introduce those same natural plant pesticides to the market today and subject them to rigorous toxicity testing, many of those chemicals would not be allowed on the market. However, because there is no real regulatory organization that examines “natural substances” in food, we tend not to worry about it.
I’m not saying that researchers have never studied these naturally occurring plant compounds in everyday fruits and vegetables. In fact, there are numerous studies on this topic. In 1990, famed toxicology researcher Professor Bruce Ames investigated the use of pesticides in food production and compared manufactured pesticides to naturally occurring plant-chemical pesticides. Shockingly, Ames found that 99.9 percent of pesticides we consume by volume comes from plants themselves. When he examined some of these compounds in more detail, a majority were shown to cause cancer in animal models. We shouldn’t run away from all fruits and vegetables because of a potential cancer risk. However, it does show us that there are plenty of chemicals in the plant foods we eat, and many of them have a potentially negative effect.

Plants Waging Chemical Warfare
The list of chemicals found in the plants we commonly consume is extensive, and I’m not going to list them all. However, I’m covering some of the more common ones so I can talk about the potential and documented effects. Remember, researchers have studied many of these compounds in limited capacities, and we likely will never know all the potential interactions and issues that may be related to them. It’s also important to note that although a particular compound may cause a major problem in one person, another person may not experience any obvious issues.

Commonly found in leafy green vegetables, some fruits, nuts, seeds, and even French fries, oxalates are a pretty common antinutrient. They can lead to medical problems—particularly when people ingest them in higher doses. One of the most common issues is kidney stones, which often are comprised of oxalates. Oxalate crystals in the body can become very needlelike, and some research has associated them with gastrointestinal irritation. The crystals may lead to leaky gut syndrome and potentially can lead to autoimmune issues.

Lectins, recently made popular by Dr. Steven Gundry’s book, The Plant Paradox, are a fairly ubiquitous plant compound, but they’re particularly concentrated in things like grains, nuts, corn, quinoa, fruits, nightshades, vegetable oils, legumes, beans, and squash. The trouble with lectins is that they can lead to a leaky gut situation and likely contribute to all the potential downstream effects of leaky gut.

Glycoalkaloids are in nightshade plants like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. Limited evidence suggests these compounds have a connection to leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune problems like psoriasis. The foods that contain glycoalkaloids—particularly the nightshade vegetables—have been reported to worsen symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Goitrogens are substances that can interfere with the function of the thyroid. Thyroid dysfunction is particularly common among women, and some researchers believe that high amounts of goitrogen-containing foods may play a role. Foods like soy and cruciferous vegetables tend to be high in these substances. Perhaps all those years of forcing ourselves to choke down broccoli and cauliflower were not kind to our thyroids.

Cyanogenic Glycosides
Cyanogenic glycosides are in common foods like almonds, flaxseed, linseed, lima beans, cassava, and certain stone fruits (such as cherries, peaches, and plums). Cyanide poisonings can and do occur, commonly with consumption of cassava root; sometimes death is the result of poisoning. Chronic exposure to cyanides is postulated to contribute to chronic diseases such as impaired thyroid function and neurological disturbances.

Phytic Acid
Phytic acid is in grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes. It can lead to mineral deficiencies, particularly deficiency of zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Deficiencies in these minerals can lead to a host of potential problems, including heart disease, depression, infertility, impotence, hair loss, and compromised immune function. On the beneficial side, phytic acid has been shown to lower blood glucose and potentially lessen the formation of kidney stones.

Protease Inhibitors
Protease inhibitors are in most legumes, particularly soy; cereals; fruits such as kiwi, pineapple, papaya, bananas, figs, and apples; and vegetables such as cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers. The protease inhibitors interfere with the activity of enzymes involved with protein digestion, such as trypsin, and in animal studies, they have been shown to lead to poor growth in subjects. Conversely, there is some evidence to show these compounds may have a positive role in limiting cancer.

Flavonoids, which are responsible for some of the pigment found in plants, are commonly found in citrus fruit, cocoa, blueberries, parsley, onions, and bananas. They’re potentially beneficial at low levels, but in higher doses, they’ve been noted to cause genetic mutations, oxidation that leads to free radical production, and inhibition of hormones.

Saponins are in legumes, beans, garlic, alfalfa sprouts, peas, yucca, and asparagus. They have been shown to cause digestive disturbances, thyroid problems, and damage to red blood cells. Fun stuff indeed!

Salicylates are in many fruits and vegetables and some spices. They’re often responsible for sensitivity reactions that can trigger asthma, gut inflammation, and diarrhea.
Humans survived an Ice Age, which means our ancestors’ habitat was like Iceland, not Costa Rica. If we’re willing to set aside our arrogance about how much we think we know and apply some commonsense observations, we can see how impractical a diet full of indigestible fiber and nonessential phytonutrients is. We need fat, protein, and some vitamins and minerals. We require no other nutrients to live or—I’ll argue—to thrive. We require zero carbohydrates, zero phytochemicals, and zero fiber.

Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

Plant Epidemiology is hard to Swallow

In studies of plant chemicals regarding nutrition, we often see a confirmation bias to support the epidemiology (and what our parents have always told us) about the benefits of vegetables and fruits. I’ve read countless studies on this stuff, and it’s almost comical to see that nearly every paper starts with, “We all know that people who eat fruits and vegetables are healthy.” Then the author goes on to describe a study on some isolated plant compound that shows why fruits and vegetables are good for us.
These researchers aren’t testing a hypothesis; they’re merely trying to confirm it. Hence, we have reports that cruciferous vegetables prevent cancer, even though we have data to show that it can either increase or decrease the occurrence of cancer. However, because the existing epidemiology says cruciferous vegetables prevent cancer, we favor the positive data and tend to ignore the negative data.
If I believed that drinking gasoline was a good thing, perhaps because my grandfather told me it was a good thing, and we also conducted a small epidemiologic study that showed that people who’ve ingested gasoline had less incidence of cancer-related death, I’m sure I could design another study to support that conclusion. For example, I could easily take cultured cancer cells and then expose them to various doses of gasoline until I found one that inhibited the growth of cancer cells. Voilà—we now have a mechanistic method by which to show gasoline drinking is healthy and may lower rates of cancer. These situations abound in the literature. Someone looks at an isolated compound in an isolated scenario, which is then extrapolated to the whole of human physiology to support an epidemiologic claim.
Nutrition science continues to make the same mistakes over and over again; we rely heavily on epidemiology and then merely try to use further study to confirm the findings rather than refute them. If you look at an epidemiologic study that shows people who eat more fruits and vegetables appear healthy, you easily could conclude that eating plant-based foods is a healthy thing to do. That’s a very logical conclusion, and no one would fault you for making it. However, if you ask some different questions, things get more interesting. Let’s say that people who eat fruits and vegetables avoid eating snack cakes, donuts, and sodas.
Perhaps they smoke less, drink less alcohol, wear their seat belt, exercise more, have more wealth, and can live in a nicer area. All these things, and likely dozens of other things, contribute to what is known as the “healthy user bias.” In other words, if your overall lifestyle tends to be healthful, how much of the observed improvements in health outcome is attributable to the other factors versus the one particular food being studied. The epidemiologist will attempt to control for these other factors, but really she’s just guessing how much each factor contributes.
I’ve already mentioned some glaring examples of situations where the epidemiology suggests one thing, but real life suggests another. For example, meat is supposedly bad for us and will shorten our lives, yet the population of Hong Kong eats more meat than any other population in the world, and they also live the longest. This observation sets off the immediate cries of, “But they don’t smoke as much; they’re wealthy; they exercise,” and so on, and it’s fine that people make those arguments.
However, when we make the same argument that fruits and vegetables are bad for us, we tend to hear silence from those same people. Nutrition is like politics, and people fight hard for their team. Results that don’t confirm a particular bias are quickly ignored or dismissed. Questioning the current dogma often is met with anger and an almost religious deference to authority and the “consensus”; however, those questions that challenge the status quo should be embraced in a true scientific community.
It’s heretical to suggest that fruits and vegetables are anything but goodness, rainbows, and unicorns. Yeah, we acknowledge that they may have chemicals in them that can cause issues, but, by golly, we still say you need to eat your five (no wait, it’s now ten) servings per day.
Quick, tell me which fruit, vegetable, or other plant is an absolutely essential requirement for human life? If you can think of one, then I’d like to know whether it grows all year round and in all parts of the world. If we have essential requirements for them—and we don’t—we would have had limited access to them for roughly 99 percent of our time on Earth as a species. Given that, why does it make sense to recommend we eat copious amounts of fruits and vegetables every day?

Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

Debunking “Proper” Nutrition

The end goal of nutrition has a simple two-pronged explanation: It provides us with energy, and it gives us structural components to build and maintain our animal-based cells. We don’t need anything from a plant to accomplish either of those goals. Anything your animal cells need is found in other animal cells. It’s as simple as that. You don’t need a bunch of indigestible plant fiber or chlorophyll. Plant antioxidants, which we can barely absorb, aren’t necessary, either. You only need animal cells—that’s it!

The nutrients that your animal cells use are also in the cells of other animals that use those same nutrients. How much you need varies only by amount, not by quality. Shockingly, you can get the correct amount of the nutrients because you have something called an appetite that lets you know when you need to eat more. It’s as simple as that, and every other animal on the planet uses the same feedback system.

But we humans have developed things like the Recommended Daily Allowances, and an army of dietitians teaches us how to meet those magic numbers even though they were formulated from what was just a guess. I will keep reiterating one point: Nutrition science is based around fundamental assumptions that have never been thoroughly tested. The carnivore diet is directly challenging some of those untested assumptions, so we’re getting new evidence about those theories all the time.
For example, let’s look at how the carnivore diet is challenging the assumptions about antioxidants. We’re always being encouraged to eat foods that are high in antioxidants, but did you know that they’re formed endogenously by the human body. The antioxidants that our bodies produce work extremely well for humans. Plants also produce antioxidants, which work well for plants. You may be surprised to learn that plant antioxidants are basically worthless in terms of the function of the human body.

That’s right. All the money we’ve spent over the years to pay for the latest super berry–infused wonder food has been a big waste of money! In fact, some studies indicate that plant antioxidants are potentially harmful to humans. Other studies have shown that we upregulate our endogenous production of antioxidants as we adopt low-carbohydrate diets, so if we want more antioxidants, all we have to do is eat fewer carbs or even exercise.

One of the most disturbing bits of propaganda about eating meat is that it results in a shortened life span. This fallacy is widely pushed by vegan advocates who have a strong penchant for distorting science or cherry-picking studies to support their ethically based beliefs. They almost invariably quote some epidemiologic study that clearly cannot prove anything beyond a weak association. Among their favorites are the studies that come from Loma Linda University and the Adventist health system, whose foundations are linked inextricably to a religious philosophy that promotes vegetarianism. Possible bias or conflict of interest? I say, “Heck, yeah!” We can easily find several recent studies that show no difference in life span between people who avoid meat and people who enjoy it.

We can look at two populations and find two very different outcomes. The two groups include the historical Inuit, who were largely free of disease but had a life span shorter than their nonindigenous neighbors and the citizens of the city-state of Hong Kong, who eat (by far) the most meat of any major population center in the world and are among the longest-lived people on the planet. The Inuit live in abject poverty and crowded conditions, and they have high smoking rates, which are two contributors to shorter life spans. Conversely, citizens of Hong Kong live in an area of tremendous wealth and security. The long life spans of Hong Kong residents don’t prove that meat makes people have longevity, but it definitely makes it hard to say that meat shortens one’s life span. The lesson here is that wealth leads to a long life; poverty, not meat, shortens it.

Could it be that a meat-based diet results in greater longevity or better health span regardless of other factors? Well, we could certainly make that hypothesis based on several observations. We know that carnosine, which is a molecule in plentiful supply in meat, is perhaps the most powerful substance for reducing oxidative stress and preventing the formation of something called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are associated with aging.

An interesting study published in Nutrition Journal in 2016 looked at telomere length and found that red meat was the only food that had a favorable effect on the telomeres. Telomeres are a portion of the ends of our DNA strands that some researchers think are a measure of cellular aging. Also, researchers have identified a relationship between strength and health span and life span. A diet high in animal protein supports maintaining and building strength. In terms of general metabolic health, we again see the effect of insulin on numerous diseases of lifestyle, and through laboratory studies into the regression of disease states, it’s becoming clear that all-meat diets are improving insulin function dramatically.

One of the more comical and desperate attempts to dissuade people from eating animals is a recent campaign launched by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that claimed that eating meat leads to impotence and the ruination of one’s sex life. This idea is particularly humorous because, if anything, the exact opposite happens. We can look to the Kellogg brothers at the end of the nineteenth century, who attempted to ban people from eating meat because it was known to lead to lustful behavior.

What was true back then remains so today; I see a continuous stream of men and women who report having supercharged libido and sexual function after adopting a carnivore diet. This fallacy once again ties to the worthless epidemiology in which the “burger, shakes, and fries” crowd is conflated to a healthy meat eater. When we look at the junk food eaters who consume the standard American diet, we see vascular problems. And many meat eaters also tend to eat the junk as well as the meat. It’s just as simple as that. Eat meat and no junk (like a true carnivore), and things are great. Eat meat plus junk (or, worse, eat only the junk), and things are bad.

Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, by Dr. Shawn Baker.

Learn more HERE

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