Between Our Health & Our Food
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We are fortunate that, in modern industrialized societies, a great many health scourges of the past are now a distant memory. Public health engineering, by bringing clean water and safely disposing of sewage and garbage, eradicated many diseases like cholera, typhoid, and bubonic plague. Medical science with its hygiene, antiseptics, drugs, and vaccinations brought deadly infectious diseases like smallpox, polio, tuberculosis, syphilis, and diphtheria under control. Nutritional science discovered how to eliminate deficiency diseases like scurvy, rickets, and pellagra. Surgeons learned how to cut out appendixes, amputate gangrenous limbs, and reset broken bones without killing us.
We have dealt with just about all the afflictions that nature can throw at us, so what is left? The answer is the reason for this book: self-inflicted ones. These are the diseases that were virtually unknown in prehistoric times: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, senile dementia, and many more. Most, if not all, of these “diseases of civilization” are quite avoidable. Many that have become entrenched can be abated or even cured. In all of them, our eating patterns are the major factor, although often other lifestyle factors play a role.
In our travels through this book, we have encountered many instances of how our choice of “body fuel” makes the machine run well or run badly. We looked at the type of feeding pattern that operated during the formative time of the human race in east Africa. We called it the “Savanna Model” and saw how the San still lived like that in recent history. They enjoyed enviable health and well-being, in spite of their rudimentary lifestyle in which there is an absence of both medical support and of many food groups that we think of as normal. We witnessed the radical change in dietary habits when humans first took up farming and saw how mass-marketing techniques were used to change and manipulate our feeding habits. We hinted at the kinds of diseases that humans began to suffer as a result.
In chapter 3, we looked at the various food groups and spelled out some of the impacts on our health. Then, we reviewed the diets of various populations around the world and examined our biochemistry, digestive systems, and modern diet from a scientific point of view. We reached some conclusions about how
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dietary errors are making us sick. We drew up the “Owner’s Manual” for the ideal food supply and eating pattern. Chapter 8 painted a picture of how our social environment diverges from our savanna-bred natures. This discord stresses us in many ways, another factor leading to ill-health.
Now, we draw all these threads together and present the material from the other side: that of specific diseases and the factors that make us vulnerable to them. Not surprisingly, there are many common factors. This reinforces the notion that adopting a lifestyle that mirrors our anciently programmed minds and bodies is the sensible way to go.
The human species is remarkable for how little its members vary genetically from each other, no matter where they live around the globe. . Chimpanzee populations show ten times the genetic variation that humans do. In other words, we are all still built to the same body plan and the same basic message is good for all of us. Nevertheless, there is some variation in our genetic makeup. We all have slight differences in susceptibility to disease, and our bodies have differing abilities to circumvent deficiencies in the diet. That is why, even though eating and living the same way, different people will break out in different illnesses.
This chapter is devoted to setting out our current knowledge of what aspects of our lives are helpful and what aspects are harmful for specific illnesses and what we should do about it. With regard to food, we know that there are literally tens of thousands of active compounds in the foods we eat, particularly non-starchy plant food. We can’t define exactly how all these compounds work, but we know that they need to work together as a team.
We need to rid ourselves of the “magic bullet” mentality, the notion that there is a straight line from cause to effect, that for each disease there is one simple fix. On the contrary, most of our modern diseases are due to a complex interaction of many factors that are going wrong at the same time. We cannot micromanage or second-guess many of these processes. It is not good enough to cherry-pick from the menu of the Savanna Model. Ultimately, we have to nourish the body the way it was designed—with the complete package.
Finally, it is a fallacy to think that if you are sick with a modern degenerative disease, it is because it is “in the genes.” Cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other such diseases have been increasing alarmingly just in the last 50 years. But the genetic makeup of the population has not changed one bit in that time. The only thing that has changed is lifestyle! Some people will be genetically more vulnerable than others to certain diseases, but the vulnerability is only exposed—and expressed—when a discordant lifestyle pushes the body into failure. An extension of this fallacy is saying that a disease “runs in the family.” What runs in families, apart from genes? Bad habits!
Our fate is not written in our genes—it is in our own hands. We just have to take responsibility and accept the idea of changing our habits. Note that putting
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your lifestyle right is not necessarily a substitute for medical treatment once you have got a disorder. However, by doing so, you will ensure that the medical treatment has the best chance of success.
What causes cancer? Smoking? Sunlight? Radiation? Pesticides? Barbecued meat? Microwaves? These are some of the answers likely to be given by the average citizen, yet he or she would be wrong. All these have strong links to cancer, but they cannot be the root cause. Much of the population is exposed to these carcinogens, yet only a small minority actually suffers dangerous tumors as a consequence. .
You are probably aware that our bodies are made of trillions of cells. As a rule of thumb, a normal adult is considered to be made up of something like 30 trillion cells. They are the basic building units of living bodies. Some creatures, like bacteria, consist of just one cell. Cells are where a myriad of chemical reactions take place, where energy is generated, and, above all, where our genes are located. Just about every cell has a full copy of our genetic blueprint, the DNA.
Most cells either are damaged or wear out as time goes by. When this happens, they are programmed to die. Their life span depends on where they are in the body. It can be as little as a few days—the cells lining the colon are such a case. Red blood cells have a life span of four months; the tendon cells can live for as long as several years. To replace cells that die, living cells divide themselves into identical copies under instruction from nearby cells. That means carefully making a duplicate of every single piece of machinery in the cell, including the DNA and each strand of DNA is composed of over 10 million molecules. Ideally, all this copying takes place without a mistake.
Not surprisingly, something goes wrong from time to time: a cell does not self-destruct when it is supposed to and becomes immortal; a cell keeps dividing itself uncontrollably; or things go wrong with the copying process and rogue DNA is created. Sometimes these things happen all at once, and then we have the makings of a cancer cell. Such cells mean trouble, but there is worse to come. A small percentage of such cells have the diabolic ability to detach themselves from where they are, float around the body, and put down roots elsewhere. In this way, they spread seeds of cancer into every part of the body.
The 30 trillion cells must cooperate with each other to keep a human being healthy over the course of a lifetime. Because of the huge numbers involved, there are bound to be a few cells going cancerous every day; we are even born with precancerous cells. Why is it, then, that we don’t all die of cancer at an early age? The chief answer is that the evolutionary mechanism has evolved a battery of defenses that fight cancer cells at every turn. These defenses are collectively known as the immune system.
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The root cause of cancer is not, then, the various provocative factors (tobacco, radiation, pesticides, etc.), but rather a failure of the immune system. It is this lowering of the defenses that allows cancer to flourish and take hold. When that happens, conventional medicine takes over.
spite of the hundreds of billions of dollars thrown into the “war on
cancer” since the 1970s, progress has been slow. The chief tools are
still the same: cut it out, poison it with chemotherapy, or nuke it with
radiation. Certainly the techniques have become more targeted and
sophisticated and success rates have climbed. There is more focus on
detecting cancers early, so that these techniques have a better chance
of winning out. Unfortunately, the outlook is often grim for cancers
that have spread to other areas of the body (metastasized). In the
United States, by the time they are discovered, 72% of lung cancers, 57%
of colorectal cancers, and 34% of breast cancers have metastasized. .
recently, conventional medicine has not paid a lot of attention to
repairing the defenses, let alone mobilizing the body’s remarkable
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Often, cancer patients receive no nutritional or lifestyle advice. Such
patients should ask themselves the question: “If I got cancer doing
what I was doing before, what should I do differently now?” We would
all agree that it would be best if people lived their lives so that
their defenses against cancer are invasion-proof. If cancer has taken
hold, it is even more important to repair the defenses and keep them
There are three main weaknesses that can arise with the immune system. Two of them, depressed immune system and overloaded immune system, are particularly responsible for allowing cancers to flourish. The way we live often depresses and overloads our immune systems. By correcting these departures from the Savanna Model, we will give ourselves the best chance to avoid cancer and to recover from it.
Cancer Avoidance and Recovery
Strategy 1 Eat a Strictly Low-Glycemic Diet
way we eat today drives blood sugar and insulin to abnormal, unhealthy
levels. This is a common phenomenon: it is estimated that 90% of
Americans and 75% of Europeans suffer from it, even though they do not
feel it. However, those high insulin levels depress the immune system
and allow cancerous growths to flourish. This is the first way in which
the Western, high-glycemic diet is a culprit in the cancer epidemic.
second consequence of a high-glycemic diet is more direct. Let me
illustrate it with this example. When doctors want to highlight a cancer
on an x-ray, they inject you with glucose. The cancerous cells gorge
themselves on the sugar and they light up like a Christmas tree on the
x-ray negatives. Cancers need food to survive—and the best food is a
rich supply of blood sugar. In the West, we unwittingly oblige by
gorging ourselves, and all those pre-cancerous cells in us, on a
high-starch, high-sugar diet. By following the Savanna Model feeding
pattern, the diet is automatically low glycemic, one that naturally
starves cancers of nutrients and avoids undermining the immune system.
2 Maintain a Low Percentage of Body Fat
saw in chapter 1 that cancer is absent from the San Bushman. Moreover,
on the height-weight criterion, they have a low body-mass index (BMI),
which averages around 19. This is considered to be at the low end of the
“healthy” range in the West. In contrast, everything we know about
being overweight tells us that it increases dramatically the risk of
cancer. In fact, being slightly thinner than “normal” (like the San)
is even better. Body mass index is a rather crude rule of thumb, which
takes no account of stocky or slender build or degree of muscularity.
The really important criterion is the percentage of body fat. The San,
with their low BMI of 19, have a body fat percentage of around 10%.
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do not need to get that low, but they should aim for a maximum of 15%
for men and 20% for women. It is also important to keep up lean muscle
3 Eat a Diet Rich in Non-Starchy Plant Food
people’s bodies are starved for micronutrients. Non-starchy plant food
is where all those tens of thousands of essential immune
system–nourishing molecules come from. Thousands of studies confirm
the beneficial effect that consumption of various fruits, salads, and
vegetables has on cancer prevention and cure. Even the residues from
plant food that arrive in the colon have their part to play: the
“good” bacteria grow on them and feed the immune system with
compounds called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as butyrate and
propionic acid. These are absorbed through the colon into the
bloodstream, where they act to depress cancer cell proliferation. There
is a bonus—these SCFAs are also potent “bad” bacteria killers,
cleaning up the colon from infection.
4 Eat a Low-Fat Diet with Essential Fatty Acids in Balance
Japanese have the lowest incidence of cancer in the industrialized
world. This is due in part to their traditional, very low-fat
diet—less than 10% of calories. A low-fat diet is cancer fighting.
Furthermore, thanks to the absence of dairy products and animal meat in
their traditional diet, their intake of “bad” saturated fats is
minimal. Many studies have shown that saturated fats, particularly
hydrogenated and trans-fats, are powerful immune depressors, allowing
cancers to flourish. Finally, the traditional consumption of oily fish
provides them with the “good” omega-3 oils. We are unwittingly
depressing our immune system with a diet overloaded with omega-6 oils.
Drive these out of your diet and favor the omega-3 oils at every
opportunity. But don’t go too far. The ideal is a 1-to-1 balance, but
you don’t have to micromanage it—just follow the Savanna Model and
the ratio works out just fine.
5 Good Colon Health
In chapter 5, we emphasized how the colon, together with its contents of flora, should be functioning as a vital organ, contributing to the body’s healthy operation. The way we eat today does the opposite: it leaves us with rotten colon health. The residues of the food we have eaten are the wrong kind: they nourish “bad” bacteria, yeasts, and funguses. Some kinds of foods destroy the intestinal villi, the incredibly fine hairs that absorb vital nutrients into the bloodstream. Some irritate the stem cells in the colon lining to the point where they become cancerous. Poor combinations of foods (for example, hamburger and bun) deliver poorly digested particles to the colon, where more bad flora feed on them. The immune system is designed to receive nourishment from a well-functioning colon that produces the vital compounds it needs to combat cancer. When they are missing, its efficiency is undermined.
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coup de grace is given by bad bacteria and the antinutrients found in
cereals, pulses, and dairy that make the colon “leaky.” Bad
bacteria, yeasts, funguses, and even tiny food particles flood into the
bloodstream. This is a major challenge to the immune system, which has
enough to do fighting off infections and dealing with cancerous cells.
When it is overwhelmed, it releases its grip on cancer cells, allowing
them to slip through its defenses.
6 Physical Activity
activity plays an essential role in maintaining many kinds of body
functions. In our ancestral past, a certain level of exercise was, by
force of circumstances, occurring day in and day out. The human organism
came to depend on it. One of these activities is to pump the circulation
of the lymphatic system. Without physical activity, lymph does not
circulate, it stagnates. That is bad because the lymphatic system plays
an essential role in delivering the immune system’s heavy artillery to
the battle front (and carrying away the debris). This is one important,
often neglected, aspect of physical activity. Exercise every day, just
as happened quite naturally in the daily lives of our ancient ancestors.
7 Get Enough Sunshine
In the human homeland, our ancestors were naked and exposed all day to the tropical sun. The San still live that way. Of course, their skin tone (copper color) is particularly adapted to that way of living. Skin color is one of the most obvious ways in which humans vary around the world. As humans spread to less sunny areas, their skin color became lighter, even white. It was necessary to absorb sunlight more readily, particularly as a large percentage of the body had to be covered with clothes. Avoiding sunlight is another unsuspected way we undermine our immune system.
We have overcompensated for fears of skin cancer by staying indoors too much! In a recent study, women who lived in the sunniest parts of the United States had three times less risk of breast cancer compared to those who lived in gloomy, overcast regions. . In another study, men who had the most exposure to sunlight had the least risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer later in life. . Other research shows that adults with good levels of vitamin D have half the risk of colon cancer. . Recent studies reinforce the message: sunshine helps melanoma sufferers recover and it prevents people getting lymphatic cancer. . Dr. William Grant estimates the yearly toll at 100,000 cases and 40,000 deaths from lack-of-sunshine cancers. . This is four times the mortality from skin cancer.
One big reason is that people living in gloomy parts of the world are starved of the vital immune system food, vitamin D, sometimes called the sunshine vitamin. People living in sunny areas were producing much higher levels
Disease and the Bond Effect 233
vitamin D under the influence of sunlight. We don’t need much vitamin
D— just 10 to 20 micrograms per day. It is toxic in large quantities.
The body sorts this out just fine if the chief source is sunshine. The
trick is to get sunlight regularly but avoid burning. Asecond reason is
that sunlight regulates production of hormones such as melatonin and
cortisol. When they are not being secreted in the right patterns, the
immune system is depressed.
8 Reduce Chronic Stress
folkloric idea that major life stressors, such as divorce, death of a
child, or loss of a job, can trigger cancer has yet to be proved.
However, an unremitting level of background stress does depress the
immune system, making us vulnerable not only to cancer but a wide range
of diseases. .
another way, we have a stress response designed for the kinds of
problems that occurred in savanna life. Most of the time our ancestors
were living in harmony with their surroundings, so the stress response
was only triggered in short bursts at irregular intervals. Our lives now
are a continuous source of mental pressure. Stanford neuroscientist
Robert Sapolsky observes, “Stress-related disease emerges,
predominantly, out of the fact that we so often activate a physiological
system that has evolved for responding to acute physical emergencies,
but we turn it on for months on end, worrying about mortgages,
relationships, and promotions.” . It is certainly a challenge to
restructure our lives so as to limit this level of background or
“chronic” stress, but do it we must.
said about cancer in general applies to breast cancer in particular.
Nevertheless, there are some special considerations. “We are what we
eat” might be a cliché, but it is particularly apt for women’s
breasts. A woman who eats a lot of saturated fats and trans-fatty acids
(hydrogenated fats) has more of those bad fats stored in her breasts.
Such women are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.  Those
who have good levels of the omega-3 oils, whether fish oils or alpha-linolenic
acid (ALA), have a lower risk. .
cancers mostly develop from milk-producing cells in the breasts that are
stimulated to divide by estrogen. This stimulation occurs through a
molecule on their surface called an “estrogen receptor.” The purpose
is to multiply milk cells every month in preparation for a possible
pregnancy. However, the more estrogen receptors there are, the more
likely something will go wrong in a cell and it will multiply out of
control. What agent might do this? A major one is the powerful hormone
insulin. Abnormally high insulin levels increase the number of estrogen
receptors in the breast by a factor of 12 . With 12 times the number of
receptors, there are 12 times as many chances that one of the
milk-producing cells will become cancerous. This is another way in which
the high-glycemic Western diet particularly encourages breast cancer.
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second factor is the lifetime exposure of a woman’s breasts to
estrogen. Today, girls are arriving at puberty much earlier than nature
intended. Their breasts are exposed to estrogen for a longer period, so
they are more likely to develop breast cancer later in life. A girl who
starts menstruating at age 10 has three times the risk of breast cancer
compared to starting at 15 . On the other hand, menopause around 50 is
quite normal. Nevertheless, the same mechanism is at work: menopause at
55 doubles the risk of cancer compared to menopause at 45 and triples it
compared to menopause at 35.
is it that girls’ periods start earlier these days? Obesity, a
high-fat diet, a high-glycemic diet, and a diet rich in dairy and soy
products are all factors driving their bodies in this unhealthy
direction. Soy products can also promote breast cancer directly .
another twist, women who have children, who have children early and/or
have many children, and who breastfeed all have a reduced risk of breast
cancer  There are many complex hormonal operations that science has
yet to unravel and understand, but it all comes back to estrogen,
progesterone, and other sex hormones. In our ancestral past, women were
breastfeeding almost continuously for some 30 years while they were
fertile. We might suppose that the body depends on this format to
function properly. It is tough to emulate this pattern in today’s
world. Nevertheless, it is one more strong argument for breastfeeding
and doing it for as long as possible.
breast cancer is practically unknown outside the West. You don’t even
have to clamber over the Himalayas or the Andes to find peoples who live
free of breast cancer. Take a comfortable plane to Tokyo, Singapore, or
Hong Kong and you will immediately be among peoples who live longer than
Westerners do and whose women do not suffer from breast cancer. Their
secret? Traditionally, they have very low-fat, low-glycemic diets. That
might not last for much longer: the Japanese diet is becoming
Westernized, and the rates of breast cancer are rising.
cancer is entirely due to smoking, right? Wrong—many people who have
never smoked get lung cancer, and many smokers never get it. The
Japanese are one of the heaviest smoking populations in the world—and
yet one of the longest lived. Japanese longevity is not due to smoking
but in spite of it. But they get away with smoking because their diet,
while not perfect, is a lot better than the one that is common in the
West. In other words, the Japanese diet, turns out to be closer to the
ideal diet for the human species than what is eaten elsewhere. Their
focus on fish (which contains omega-3 oils) instead of meat is
beneficial. . In general, researchers find that the micronutrient
connection is critical. . People who have a high consumption of
non-starchy plant food are much less likely to get lung cancer, whether
or not they are smokers.
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approximately 135,000 new cases reported each year, colon cancer is the
third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, and it is one
of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths. Studies have shown that
a variety of diet and behavioral modifications reduce colon cancer risk
in the general population.
is hardly surprising that what you put into your mouth can have dramatic
effects on what happens at the far end of the digestive tract. You
don’t even have to eat like a primitive tribesman to avoid colon
cancer. It is virtually unknown among many societies such as the
Japanese and Chinese. Some of the causes are really surprising—who
would have thought that high insulin levels might be a factor? But they
are . So, too, are high-fat diets, the consumption of saturated fats
and trans-fats, and diets that are dominant in omega-6 oils .
course, the remarks about colon health (Strategy 5) have a direct
bearing on colon cancer. Not only does poor colon health contribute to
cancers developing in other parts of the body, it contributes directly
to cancer developing in the colon itself.
Asian men have much lower rates of prostate cancer than Western men . The same factors that are good for suppressing cancer in general, work well on the prostate too. The Asian diet, low in animal fat and dairy, high in omega-3 oils, and rich in non-starchy plant food is good . In contrast, a high intake of omega-6 oils encourages prostate cancer .
Abnormal testosterone production is a major risk factor for prostate cancer. Some compounds, such as lignans, lock up testosterone and stop it from creating damage. Lignans are a kind of plant fiber. The highest concentrations of lignans are found in flaxseed, followed by squash, broccoli, carrots, and asparagus. Studies on flaxseed, which also contain high levels of omega-3 oils and fiber, show that they are indeed great cancer fighters .
is also protective. Dr. Esther John found that men who had received the
most sunshine during a lifetime were 50% less likely to develop prostate
cancer than those who received the least . Ejaculation is good,
according to research by Dr. Graham Giles. The more often men ejaculate,
between the ages of 20 and 50, the less likely they are to develop
prostate cancer; the greatest protective effect is for a man in his
twenties . Dr. Giles speculates that frequent ejaculation keeps
carcinogens from accumulating in the prostate gland.
disease, atherosclerosis, thrombosis, strokes, and high blood
pressure—this cluster of diseases has only become common in recent
times, and chiefly in Western, industrial societies . They were
unknown among primitive tribes, such as the Australian Aborigines, the
Tarahumara hill tribe of Mexico, the Eskimos, and
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San Bushman  Studies on tribes such as the Vilcabamba of the Andes
and the Tarahumara of Mexico show that they have low blood pressure and
an extremely low incidence of cardiovascular disease. Rarely does their
blood pressure exceed 130/75, even among centenarians, and they have 13
times the rate of centenarians as America . As recently as the 1930s,
heart disease was rare in America . Even today, Okinawans and
Cretans do not suffer these diseases. As far as we can tell, they were
unknown amongst our Pleistocene forebears.
is at the root of these illnesses? Heart disease is any disorder that
affects the heart’s ability to function normally. The most common
cause of heart disease is narrowing or blockage of the coronary
arteries, which supply blood to the heart itself. This happens slowly
over time. Arteries start to block when they are inflamed. This process,
known as atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”) can happen
anywhere in the body, including the brain. Special white blood cells
called macrophages respond to this inflammation by rushing in to help
“clean up” the damage. However, in doing so they also damage the
artery walls, which in turn become ideal sites for fatty plaque to
accumulate. Repetition of this cycle narrows arteries and raises the
potential for clots, heart attack, and stroke.
under abnormal conditions, blood coagulates and forms a clot in a blood
vessel. This is not supposed to happen, but when it does it is called a
thrombosis. The consequences are serious: the clot blocks the blood
supply to the affected part and can cause it to die. When a thrombosis
occurs in the brain, it is called a stroke; in the lung, it is a
pulmonary embolism; in an artery supplying the heart, it is a heart
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blood pressure can occur for several reasons. When arteries become
blocked, the heart has to pump harder. For example, kidneys, to filter
blood properly, need to have a decent pressure across the filters. Loss
of pressure can occur if the arteries in the kidney are partly blocked
by atherosclerosis; it then sends signals to the heart to pump harder.
In another example, the body can secrete hormones that cause blood
vessels to constrict, which causes the heart to pump harder to maintain
flow. Similar hormones may cause the blood to be thicker than normal and
again the heart has to pump harder. The result is that the heart has to
step up the pressure to force the blood to flow where it is needed—
hence, high blood pressure.
What causes blood to thicken and clot abnormally, for blood vessels to constrict, and for arteries to become inflamed? There are several factors, almost all of them dietary. Overconsumption of omega-6 oils such as sunflower oil, peanut oil, and corn oil produce “bad” prostaglandins that increase blood clotting, blood pressure, and inflammation, clogging arteries with plaque. These hormones also encourage the liver to overproduce cholesterol and stimulate the pancreas to overproduce insulin. Right here we have one reason why heart disease only became common since the 1930s: these vegetable oils only became abundant after World War II. In contrast, the omega-3 oils produce “good” prostaglandins that do the opposite: decrease blood pressure, decrease coagulation, decrease inflammation, and reduce plaque .
second powerful effect is provided by the hormone insulin, which is
produced in abnormal quantities by a high-glycemic diet. Insulin acts in
ways that provoke the overproduction of similar blood clotting and blood
pressure factors . Insulin itself inflames the artery walls directly.
In other words, foods that are glycemic and/or insulinemic—and
combinations of such foods—are part of the problem. This means that
the principle culprits are starches like grains and potatoes, sugars,
and insulinemic foods like yogurt and potato.
saturated fats also inflame arteries. The chief perpetrators are
myristic acid and palmitic acid, which are the kinds of fats found in
dairy products, tropical oils (like palm oil), and red meats (beef, pork
and lamb). That is why all nutritional professionals say we should avoid
them. But there are worse: the artificial saturated fats called
hydrogenated and trans-fats are even more harmful to the arteries. The
American Institute of Medicine states that the only safe level of
trans-fat is zero . Trans-fats and hydrogenated fats are found in
vegetable shortening, margarine, potato chips, crackers, doughnuts,
cookies, fried foods, cakes, pies, and pizzas.
A high-salt diet is not helpful. Salt, just by being in the bloodstream in abnormal amounts, damages arteries  For a high percentage of the population, salt also raises blood pressure. It is significant that strokes are the biggest killer in Japan. Japanese smoking and high salt intake (from soy sauce) have something to do with it. In contrast, high blood pressure yields well to a high plant-food diet 
The story on artery damage is not yet finished: where proteins come from is also significant. Animal protein is potentially atherogenic (artery damaging) and milk proteins, notably the casein in cheese, particularly so  How can this be? After all, we are naturally adapted to consuming animal proteins, albeit in modest proportions. The answer lies with a waste product from animal protein digestion called homocysteine. Homocysteine, if it is not swept up quickly by the body, does a lot of damage to arteries. The naturally adapted “sweepers” are micronutrients readily found in non-starchy plant food. Fruits, salads, and vegetables are the natural—and essential—companions to the consumption of animal matter .
also shows that blood pressure, on average, increases the further one
lives from the equator. The evidence suggests that it is the lack of
sunshine that causes the problem. More precisely, it is the absence of
the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D . Get enough sunshine, you make
enough vitamin D and reduce your blood pressure.
How reversible are these diseases? That depends. The main objective has to be to stop the rot. The risk of strokes and thrombosis can be quickly reduced by changing dietary habits. Thromboxane, the prostaglandin chiefly responsible for abnormal blood clotting, is reduced almost overnight by cutting bad fats. High blood pressure is brought down to a greater or lesser degree over a few months. It is even possible to reverse atherosclerosis both by eating plenty of plant food and by losing any excess weight .
Role of Cholesterol
levels of hunter-gatherers are low. Stuart Truswell and John Hansen
found that the San Bushmen have one of the lowest cholesterol levels in
the world . Total cholesterol levels for all age groups (including
old people) are around 120 mg/dl. Other researchers found that African
Pygmies (110 mg/dl),
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Australian Aborigines (140 mg/dl), and Tanzanian Hadza (110 mg/dl) all have total cholesterol levels in the same ballpark .
comes in several varieties. Two of them, low-density lipoproteins (LDL)
and very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) are dubbed “bad”
cholesterol and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) are dubbed “good”
cholesterol. Bad cholesterol has been portrayed as the Darth Vader to
our arteries and our heart, but what does it do? It fell under suspicion
because inflammatory particles of oxidized cholesterol build up in the
arteries to create the dreaded plaque. However, the real question should
be: “Why is the body causing cholesterol to oxidize, and why is it
allowing it to settle in arteries?”
internal plumbing is not like boiler pipes that passively fur up.
Rather, our arteries are made of living tissue that inflames, scars,
produces hormones, and sends signals to other parts of the body. Why do
the cells that line our arteries decide to capture cholesterol
molecules, allow them to oxidize, and allow them to build into plaque?
answer seems to be that immune system cells, the macrophages, which have
been summoned to repair artery damage, latch on to the cholesterol
particles and try to pull them through the artery wall where they get
stuck. With the passage of time, the cholesterol particles oxidize and
create inflammation, and so the inflammation and the cycle starts all
over again. So, the problem is not the cholesterol as such, it is the
problem of previous damage to the artery wall. Even so, all need not be
lost if the cholesterol does not oxidize. This is the case for those who
consume sufficient quantities of oxidation fighters, antioxidants, which
are found almost entirely in non-starchy vegetation.
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conventional view is that heart disease would be reduced if people had
lower levels of cholesterol circulating in the blood. In a crude way,
this is true: with less of the stuff to be trapped and oxidized, the
slower the buildup of inflamed plaque. But lowering cholesterol by
itself does not deal with the fundamental problem: inflammation. In
fact, the links between cholesterol levels and heart disease are rather
weak, but they are much stronger with homocysteine. This is not
surprising, since homocysteine is a strong provoker of inflammation.
we might ask ourselves why modern Western populations have such high
levels of cholesterol. The basic answer is that our bodies make it in
abnormal amounts as a reaction to dietary errors. The chief one is the
abnormally high level of insulin, which provokes the liver into making
abnormal amounts of cholesterol—yet another wickedness perpetrated by
a highglycemic, high-insulinemic diet.
contrast, bad cholesterol is reduced by a diet rich in soluble fiber
. This is something that most Westerners do not have, yet which our
bodies expect to receive. Other studies show that exercise reduces
cholesterol levels. And stress, by provoking hormones like cortisol and
adrenaline, has the side effect of raising cholesterol levels. In
complex biological organisms, everything is interconnected in ways that
we cannot imagine.
to the prevalent myth, consuming high-cholesterol foods like eggs has
little effect on cholesterol levels, if the diet conforms to the Savanna
Model . As Paleolithic expert Boyd Eaton observes, the San Bushmen
consumed just as much cholesterol as the average American, yet they
maintained very low levels of cholesterol in the blood . The message
is the same: give the body the right tools and signals, and it sorts out
these matters just fine.
high cholesterol levels are simply a pointer to possible cardiovascular
disease. Reducing them with medication, in spite of the promotional
hype, has little effect on your chances of dying of a heart attack .
Worse, medications increase your chances of getting depression, suicidal
tendencies, cancer, and stroke. Pfizer, the maker of Lipitor, the most
common cholesterol drug, states: “The patient should be put on a
cholesterol lowering diet before receiving Lipitor” . These
medications work by blocking the liver from making cholesterol. So, what
they are really doing is papering over the cracks caused by
dysfunctional, insulin-producing diets.
Ways to Combat Cardiovascular Disease
Adopt a low-glycemic diet.
Consume a diet rich in non-starchy plant foods.
Consume animal protein only modestly.
Avoid dairy products.
Consume a diet low in animal fat and palm oil.
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Disease and the Bond Effect 242
Adopt a diet that eliminates hydrogenated and trans-fats.
Consume a diet that severely limits omega-6 oils.
Consume a diet rich in omega-3 oils.
Reduce salt intake to a minimum.
Practice at least the minimum amount of physical activity.
Change the way you lead your life to make it less stressful.
have seen that cardiovascular disease is a phenomenon that has hit us
just in living memory. The causes are easily identifiable and easily put
right. Take control of your life in the way nature intended and put
behind you concerns of ever developing heart disease. If you already
have it, you can bring it under control—it is reversible! Regarding
the “noble savage,” who has perfect cardiovascular signs, how does
he live? A lifestyle conforming to the Savanna Model in terms of diet,
social environment, and physical activity. He eats plenty of non-starchy
plant food and little bad protein, no bad fat, no bad carbohydrates, no
sugars or grains, no potatoes, and no dairy products.
used to be a TV commercial in which a New York cab driver suddenly
hunches over and clutches his stomach in pain. “Aw, gee!” he gasps,
“It must have been that pastrami sandwich.” So, what does he do? He
reaches over to the glove compartment where he keeps a bottle of pills.
This little sketch neatly encapsulates many things that are wrong with
us today. Indigestion is a huge problem in the West, particularly
America. Indigestion remedies are the biggest selling class of
over-the-counter medications. As illustrated in the commercial, people
have become so accustomed to indigestion that they keep bottles of pills
available for every occasion. However, like the cab driver, no one stops
to think about what they must be doing wrong. It didn’t even occur to
the cab driver to stop eating pastrami sandwiches!
of the major causes of indigestion is bad food combining. The cab
driver, with his pastrami sandwich, had just eaten a bad food
combination, protein with starch. Other bad combinations are dairy all
by itself or with anything else, and fruit with anything. In the Savanna
Model, bad food combining cannot really happen, because we are not
consuming the food groups that give us problems: starches, dairy, and
sugary fruit. Most people find they get immediate relief when they cease
bad food combining. Other causes of indigestion are more obvious ones:
eating too much, eating too late at night, eating on the run, alcohol
abuse, and stress.
constipation remedies follow closely after indigestion tablets in
popularity, yet constipation is not a normal thing to be happening.
Primitive societies consume up to 100 grams (g) of fiber a day from
vegetation and fruits. Their intestines were healthy and they never
suffered from intestinal diseases. The average American consumes only 11g of fiber per day. Don’t be sidetracked into eating bran products.
Bran is abrasive and not at all what the intestinal tract is designed
for. On the contrary, our Pleistocene past designed it for the
“soft” soluble fibers like pectin and guar that are found in
non-starchy plant food.
the solution is extraordinarily simple. Follow the Savanna Model and
consume high volumes of non-starchy plant food, up to 15 servings a day.
This is not only best way to get regularity back to normal, but it is
also best for colon health. No one will develop diverticulosis doing
that either. If you already have it, this is the best remedy to get it
under control and into remission.
cautionary note: most people’s digestive tracts have been hardened
into working only when whipped into action by harsh, insoluble fibers,
so shift the emphasis to the soft fibers over a period of several weeks.
Give the intestinal muscles time to respond to the subtler signals and
time to find their natural tone again.
Bowel, Crohn’s Disease, Colitis, Celiac Disease)
science struggles with “syndromes” like inflammatory bowel disease
because it is missing an essential piece of the puzzle, a proper
knowledge of nutrition. That is where other branches of science (like
ours) come in. We know how the modern diet puts immense stress on the
digestive tract and why the large bowel (colon) often gives way.
The main error is the consumption of grains, dairy products, and pulses.
The human digestive tract cannot handle their content of allergens (such
as gluten and lactose) and plant poisons (such as lectins). They inflame
the gut, strip the delicate lining raw, and encourage bad bacteria,
their toxins, and funguses.
Food Combining Connection.
Bad combinations of foods add to the misery. Starch and protein
combinations are particularly harmful: not only do they feed
inflammatory bacteria, the insulin reaction provokes wrenching gut
spasms (digestive neuromuscular disease). The modern diet is also loaded
with sulfides, often used as a preservative. Sulfides encourage
overgrowth of “bad” sulfate-eating bacteria in the colon, which in
turn provoke inflammatory bowel diseases. Not surprisingly, hot spices
irritate the colon, so you should avoid chili, paprika, and cayenne
Celiac disease is a clear case of an allergic reaction to gluten. Humans
should not be putting gluten into their bodies because, whether
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Disease and the Bond Effect 244
not they notice any reaction, damage is being done anyway. The remedy is
straightforward: eliminate grains and all their derivatives, just as in
the Savanna Model.
Sunshine Connection. The incidence of inflammatory bowel is rare near the equator, where ultraviolet light from the sun is intense and people produce abundant vitamin D. Dr. Margherita Cantorna of Pennsylvania State University tested the effect of vitamin D on inflammatory bowel disease and found that symptoms diminish or disappear with an adequate supply of vitamin D .
A diet rich in the soluble fiber found in plant food is soothing and
beneficial for inflammatory bowel. This is the kind of material that
nature designed our colons to work on.
Reflux Disease (Heartburn, Acid Reflux)
occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus and, quite
literally, burns it. Heartburn affects a quarter of the population,
representing a terrible burden of suffering, particularly because
eliminating the cause is so easy. When put on the Savanna Model, I have
seen some heartburn sufferers experience relief overnight. When
gastroenterologists have tried it in their own practice, they too have
found excellent results . The chief decisive factors are good food
combining and the absence of dairy products.
have identified other risk factors for heartburn, such as the
consumption of hot spices like chili, cayenne, and paprika. Another
study found higher risks of heartburn in obese people. The same study
found that those who drank one or more carbonated soft drinks a day
increased their risk of developing heartburn at night by almost a third,
compared to patients who stayed away from them .
the immune system goes berserk and actually causes disease. This happens
when the immune system launches an attack when it should not. There are
two types of target for such “rogue” attacks: foreign particles
originating from outside the body and internal body tissues.
immune system has a subtle job to do in deciding quickly whether or not
to attack a foreign particle. A healthy immune system is extraordinarily
good at this and rarely makes a mistake. However, a poorly tuned immune
system often fails to recognize which particles are friendly (like many
food proteins) and which are “enemy” (like viruses and bacteria).
When it makes a mistake like this, the response is called an allergy and
the foreign material is referred to as an allergen. Instead of ignoring
the harmless foreign particles, the immune system unleashes its
counterattack of inflammation, swelling, and mucus secretion. We
perceive this inappropriate response as various ailments such as
allergies and asthma (or “allergen diseases”).
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attacks on the body’s own tissues occur when the immune system fails
to recognize its own body cells as “self” and launches an attack on
various parts of the body. Killer T-cells, when they forget who hired
them, attack innocent cells with friendly fire. We perceive the
destruction as various ailments such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis
(or “autoimmune diseases”).
causes an allergen disease? Pollen? Cat dander? Shellfish? Peanuts?
These are some of the answers likely to be given by the average person,
yet he or she would be wrong. All of these substances certainly have
strong links to allergic reaction. Indeed, allergy counselors would add
milk, soy, and wheat to the list . However these cannot be root
causes. If so, everyone would suffer from allergen disease. The root
problem is not the triggers (pollen, peanuts, etc.), but a failure of
the body’s defenses, the immune system.
course, you need to pay attention to the triggers, but you should not be
sidetracked into thinking they are all-important. The chief priority is
to restore sanity to the deranged immune system. Allergen disease is a
disease of modern industrial societies for similar reasons that cancer
has become much more common.
the sufferer is sensitive to quite a few allergens and the allergy only
breaks out when several of them have accumulated. Then, it is the last
one that gets the blame. Even worse, often the reaction can be delayed
up to 24 hours after exposure. The average sufferer has no way of making
the link between the trigger and the onset of the allergic reaction.
That is why it is difficult to isolate the culprit: there are many of
them and the exposure from day to day will be in a different order. Many
of these complications are removed when we eat in conformity with the
Savanna Model. As soon as we stop eating grains, dairy, and legumes, we
remove a massive burden of allergy triggers.
of our dietary errors aggravate allergy symptoms such as inflammation,
swelling, and mucus production. The first error is an overconsumption of
omega-6 oils, which produce “bad” prostaglandins that instruct cells
to inflame, swell, and secrete mucus. They also increase histamine
production. In contrast, omega-3 oils produce “good” prostaglandins
that suppress histamine, inflammation, and swelling. That is another
reason why it is vital in fighting allergen diseases to have the
essential fatty acid ratio in balance. The second error is abnormally
high insulin levels, which also generate abnormal levels of histamine
and other allergic reaction chemicals. That is why it is important to
consume a low-glycemic diet.
major reason why allergens have their effect is that their molecules
closely resemble a genuine enemy molecule, such as a virus. A sweetly
tuned immune system has no difficulty distinguishing them, but a crazed
immune system just lashes out indiscriminately. It sets in motion an
unstoppable chain reaction and sometimes sets up the sufferer for a
lifetime of allergic reactions.
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is how it happens: the immune system labels bad guys with a criminal
record. That way, if it comes across them again, it knows straight away
to give them a hard time. It does this all the time with virus
infections and other foreign invaders. For example, when you have a
disease like measles, the body remembers it for a very long time and you
are unlikely to suffer it again. This works fine as long as the
“criminal” label is correctly applied. But this is not always the
case: the confused immune system sometimes labels harmless molecules as
“criminal.” When that happens, the immune system launches an attack
that is even more rapid and violent when it meets that falsely labeled
“criminal” on subsequent occasions. This condition is known as
hypersensitivity and is why allergies can take a long time to shake off.
We have to give the immune system time to “forget” the falsely
applied “criminal” label, which can take many months or even years.
symptoms range from the mild response of sneezing and a runny nose to
the sometimes life-threatening reaction called anaphylactic shock.
During an anaphylactic reaction, the airways in the lungs constrict
intensely, making it impossible to breathe, and the blood pressure falls
A deranged immune system is capable of taking exception to foreign
particles from almost any source. However, the biggest sources of
allergens are the following:
All grains (wheat, rye, barley, corn, rice, oats, etc.) are allergenic.
and Dairy Products.
A number of constituents of milk are highly allergenic: lactose, casein,
and lactalbumin are the main examples. All milks and their products are
concerned—milk itself, yogurt, and cheese. And it doesn’t matters if
they are low fat. Dairy products from other creatures (such as sheep and
goats) are just as bad.
Lentils and beans contain many allergenic substances. Soy, however, is
the biggest problem. It has the most powerful allergens, and soy in
various forms is an all-pervading, ingredient in a huge range of
processed foods. A Swedish study found that in four out of five fatal
reactions to food the deaths
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due to soy . The amount of soy needed to kill was small: between
Essential Fatty Acid Connection. Many studies have demonstrated that a high intake of omega-6 oils is harmful. The ideal is to have a rich omega-3 intake in balance with omega-6 .
Colon Health Connection. Hot spices encourage allergic reactions. Hot spices such as paprika, cayenne pepper, and chili pepper interact with the lining of the digestive tract and allow allergens to invade the body .
There are many non-dietary triggers of allergies and one of the most
common is stress. Stress hormones deregulate powerful immune system
chemicals called cytokines, causing them to unleash allergic
If you are bringing up young children, you have a chance to ensure they start life with a properly developed immune system. In order to mature properly, a child’s immune system needs to be constantly challenged by naturally occurring foreign particles. That way, the immune system is properly programmed with the right responses. One study found that children growing up in a large family, sharing bedrooms with siblings, and having a dog reduces the risk of developing allergies in adulthood .
is an inflammatory process with abnormal spasm of the bronchial tubes,
mucus production, fluid in the lungs, and inflammatory cell migration.
The prevalence of asthma has increased dramatically in recent years .
What has changed so much to cause this?
Fatty Acid Connection.
Spasms, mucus, fluid, and inflammation are all conditions driven by
powerful “bad” prostaglandins. Once again, the culprit is
overconsumption of omega-6 oils . The increase in asthma in the last
half century is directly linked to the increased consumption of corn
oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, and other omega-6 vegetable oils.
A leaky colon increases the risk of asthma . Allergen Connection. The
consumption of dairy products increases the risk of getting asthma 
Plant Food Connection.
Studies show that lung performance is better in those who eat fresh
fruit at least once a day, . those who eat at least five apples a
week,  and those who have a high intake of fruit and vegetables .
In other words, poor lung function, including asthma, is in large part
due to a deficiency of plant food micronutrients.
Dr. Peter Black of Auckland University, in New Zealand, found that the
sunshine vitamin, vitamin D, improved lung function, even in ex-smokers.
and the Bond Effect Page 247
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A number of allergens may play a role in migraines:
Grains. Gluten has a particularly strong connection. Sufferers of full-blown gluten allergy (celiac disease) are also much more likely to suffer migraines .
Dairy, in particular dairy protein . Pain-killers. Sometimes the
medication that one takes to relieve pain actually makes it worse, a
phenomenon called “rebound.” The only solution is to grit your teeth
and cut out your usual pain relievers.
Histamine. This powerful chemical is contained in many fish, many cheeses, and some vegetables .
Plant Food Connection.
A low plant food diet, deficient in micronutrients, notably magnesium
 and riboflavin (vitamin B2), sharply increases the likelihood of
developing a migraine.
Sugar Control Connection.
High abnormal insulin levels have the effect of manufacturing abnormal
levels of histamine. Diabetics are much more vulnerable to migraine . The low glycemic diet is how nature intended.
autoimmune diseases, the immune system turns against the body’s own
organs and tissues. Many of the same processes are at work as for
arthritis is more common in women than in men and usually strikes
between the ages of 20 and 40. It is due to an abnormal immune reaction
in which the immune system attacks and destroys the lining of the
joints. The consequences are pain, inflammation, swelling, and
eventually deformity of the joints and disability. Not content with
producing these unpleasant symptoms, the immune system then launches a
second wave of attack. Its killer T-cells swarm to the area where it has
previously created inflammation. In the process, the T-cells produce a
substance called OPGL, which cannibalizes and attacks cartilage tissue
 Studies over the years point to three main factors causing
The production of inflammatory chemicals caused by the overconsumption
of omega-6 oils is one factor. Omega-6 oils are transformed into
chemical messengers that instruct cells to inflame, swell, and secrete
This is the perfect recipe for encouraging rheumatoid arthritis. In
contrast, omega-3 oil consumption calms inflammation and swelling.
Cutting down on omega-6 oils and boosting omega-3 oil intake is helpful.
 Asecond culprit is saturated fat in all of its forms: animal origin,
plant origin, and man-made (margarine, trans-fatty acids, and
hydrogenated fats). Saturated fats block and interrupt the work of
helpful chemical messengers from omega-3 oils, encouraging inflammation.
 It is essential to eliminate saturated fat.
Non-starchy Plant Food Connection. The body needs antioxidants to quench the aggressive action of free radicals on joint tissue. Studies have found that people with rheumatoid arthritis are much more likely to have lower blood levels of antioxidants such as vitamin A, vitamin E, and beta-carotene in the years before the disorder is diagnosed. . There is only one source of the cocktail of antioxidants that works: non-starchy plant food. .
Arthritis is often triggered by an allergic reaction. Some of the most
common suspected allergens are grains, especially gluten,  and milk
and dairy [78 ].
(degenerative joint disease) is a disorder of the joints in which the
cartilage disintegrates and bone rubs on bone. It is the most common
joint disease, affecting more than 80% of those who reach the age of 70. Osteoarthritis is, in part, due to poor bone and cartilage
building. As soon as humans took up farming grains, they started to
suffer osteoarthritis. . Two factors were at work. First, the presence
of wheat antinutrients irritated joint lubrication. Second, the drudgery
of grinding the wheat, day in and day out, between two large slabs of
stone put an unnatural strain on joints that were not designed for it.
Grain antinutrients, notably lectins, depress cartilage building.
Unusual mechanical wear-and-tear on the joints can lead to
osteoarthritis. Today, osteoarthritis is most common in the loadbearing
joints of the body, the hips and knees. Hip and knee replacement surgery
is growing astronomically. Just in the 13 years from 1990 to 2002, hip
replacements increased by 50% and knee replacements by 200%. . The
main problem? Overweight and obese bodies. Nature never designed the
hips and knees to support that kind of weight. This is one factor which
is easy to understand and remedy.
Fatty Acid Connection.
Omega-6 oils depress the hormones that build bone and cartilage, while
omega-3 oils encourage bone and cartilage building. . Once again, we
need to cut down sharply on omega-6 oil intake and boost omega-3 oil
intake to the point where the two are in balance.
sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune-induced inflammation that destroys
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fatty insulation (myelin sheath) surrounding the nerves. Surprisingly,
there are strong links between MS and lifestyle.
Allergen Connection. Wheat gluten is the strongest allergen that we know of. It tricks the immune system’s killer T-cells into attacking myelin molecules because of their similarity to virus proteins. [82 There are many reports of complete remission of MS on gluten-free diets. [83 Milk is the second most powerful allergen and studies show that it also causes the immune system to attack myelin. .
A leaky colon allows vast quantities of milk and gluten allergens to
invade the bloodstream and create their mischief throughout the body. In
a double whammy, the colon is made leaky, in part, by the allergens
For a long time, scientists have suspected that omega-3 essential fatty
acids play a vital role in the maintenance of the myelin sheath. . The
suspicion hardened when studies on Greenland Eskimos (who have a high
omega-3 diet) found that they had a complete absence of multiple
sclerosis. . Surprisingly, no one has done a high-quality clinical
trial to answer the question once and for all. . Nevertheless, many
studies are suggestive of the importance of having a good omega-3 oil
intake and avoiding overloading on omega-6 oils. . In other words, get
the essential fatty acids in balance.
Multiple sclerosis is less common in sunny climates than in gloomy ones.
Kassandra L. Munger, of the Harvard School of Public Health, found that
the sunshine vitamin (vitamin D) has a protective effect against MS. In
two ongoing studies of 187,500 U.S. nurses, women getting at least 400
IU of vitamin D per day showed only a 60% risk of developing MS compared
with women getting less of the vitamin. . In confirmation, researchers
at Pennsylvania State University found that vitamin D puts a restraining
order on the killer T-cells. .
to Alleviate Immune System Dysfunction
and autoimmune disorders are primarily a failure of the immune system.
Repairing immune function will fix the root of the problem. We looked at
the factors that make the immune system have a nervous breakdown. The
remedial measures are simply stated: adopt a lifestyle that is close to
the way nature intended, the Savanna Model.
Eat a strictly low-glycemic diet: eliminate starches and sugars.
2. Have a low-insulinemic diet: eliminate starches, sugars, and certain proteins like yogurt.
3. Eat a diet rich in non-starchy plant food: load up on salads, fruits, and vegetables.
250 Deadly Harvest Above
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4. Have a conforming fatty acid profile: eliminate saturated fats, sharply reduce or eliminate omega-6 oils, and load up on omega-3 oils.
5. Consume a high amount of plant food micronutrients: load up on salads, fruits, and vegetables.
6. Have a low plant poison intake: avoid grains, legumes, and potato.
7. Have a low antigen (allergen) intake: avoid grains, legumes, and dairy.
8. Be hungry some of the time and have a low percentage of body fat.
9. Maintain good colon health.
10. Get the right amount of physical activity.
11. Get sufficient exposure to sunshine.
Two other points from the Owner’s Manual are relevant: acid/alkali ratio in balance and a low salt to high potassium ratio. In terms of immune function, we do not know if getting those right will make a difference, because no one has done the studies. But in our view, it is only wise to get your lifestyle in tune with the Savanna Model and give yourself the best chance to straighten out the rogue immune system.
The brain is an organ of the body just like the heart or liver. It was built from food, is repaired with food, and its fuel is food. The way we nourish the brain deeply affects its health—yet, amazingly, few people think of it like that. Most people readily consume alcohol or coffee to alter their mood, accepting, without acknowledging it, that what we put in our mouths changes something in the brain.
For most of the 20th century, the psychiatric teachings of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung dominated problems of mental malfunctioning. They found that mental problems had grown quickly during the years that they were formulating their ideas. For example, the incidence of schizophrenia increased dramatically during the Industrial Revolution. Researchers are now realizing that our mental state is affected not only by psychological stress but also by nutritional and other lifestyle errors. This insight has opened up an extraordinary revolution in the treatment of mental illness.
The scale of the challenge is enormous. Disorders affecting mental health are very common and affect all societies and all ages. These conditions include depressive disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s disease. Mental health problems affect more than 25% of all people at some point in their lives. At any one time, about 10% of the adult population is suffering from a mental or behavioral disorder. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that mental or behavioral problems affect one family in four. .
Disease and the Bond Effect 251
Presently, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. At current rates, WHO predicts that depression will become the second highest cause of the global disease burden within the next 15 years. . Five other mental health conditions figure in the top 20 causes of disability in the world. The San Bushmen did not suffer mental disease in this way, nor did any other forager tribes that we know of. So, what is going wrong? Let us look first at how the brain works.
The brain is partially constructed from billions of nerve cells (neurons). When the brain is “working,” these neurons communicate with each other in highly complex ways, just like a parallel-processing supercomputer. This communication takes the form of electrical or chemical signals shuttling between the billions of neurons. There are over 100 types of chemical signaler or neurotransmitter. Some of them have become household names, such as serotonin and dopamine; other examples are norepinephrine and acetylcholine. The brain makes most of these chemicals from the food we eat. If we don’t eat the right foods, the brain cannot function properly.
The brain is mostly composed of various types of fat and water. About 60% of the brain’s “dry weight” is fat, mostly composed of highly unsaturated fatty acids. . Neurons, and especially their outer skin (membrane), are composed mostly of special polyunsaturated fats. The neuron’s membrane plays a vital role in absorbing nutrients and it is also very supple, allowing rapid changes in the membrane’s shape. These qualities (suppleness and nutrient absorption) are vital to the successful communication between the billions of cells in the brain. If the neuron membrane is not supplied with these special fats, it will not work.
What are these special, highly unsaturated fatty acids? None other than the essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6. Furthermore, for good brain health, these fatty acids must be present in equal amounts, just like in the Savanna Model. . In particular, omega-3 is critical to the growth of brain cell membranes. That is where the all-important neurotransmitters bounce between cells communicating messages, including those related to feelings of well-being.
The brain makes neurotransmitters mostly from amino acids (proteins). A number of amino acids are considered “essential,” meaning the body (and brain) must obtain them from the diet. If the diet is deficient, the brain lacks the neurotransmitters it needs. On the other hand, the brain does make a few neurotransmitters from essential fatty acids. In fact, the brain converts omega-3 and omega-6 fats into a wide range of compounds to regulate many vital brain functions. Copper and vitamin C play a role in the creation of neurotransmitters, and zinc and magnesium stimulate certain neurotransmitters. . Antioxidants play a role in protecting brain tissue from oxidation, . which occurs when free radicals batten onto and destroy the good molecules. Vitamins C and E come to the rescue and extinguish free radicals, and vitamin E also prevents oxidation of polyunsaturated fats. .
252 Deadly Harvest
Micronutrient deficiency ought to have given us the hint long ago that diet had profound effects on mental state. Often, mental disturbances are the first sign of deficiency. . For example, irritability and a general malaise often precede scurvy, caused by vitamin C deficiency. However, remember that no nutrient works alone. Since they have to work together as a team, the tens of thousands of micronutrients essential to human health can only be obtained from plant food.
Many other substances actively undermine brain health. Plant poisons (antinutrients) in beans and grains, and allergens in dairy products, beans, and grains all affect mental health for the worse. Saturated fats obstruct essential fatty acids from being absorbed into the brain. .
The brain must receive a nourishing diet of essential fatty acids in the right ratio, proteins of the right kind, and a complex cocktail of micronutrients in order to remain healthy. Furthermore, we must not allow antinutrients and other compounds to disrupt its delicate circuitry. Let us look at how these factors, and other lifestyle factors, come together to generate a range of common brain disorders.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
Dementia is any chronic deterioration of intellectual function that is severe enough to interfere with the activities of daily living. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It is a progressive, physical disease of the brain, in which plaque builds up and causes inflammation of the neurons. . Studies show that chemicals called cytokines create the plaques and then inflammation directly damages neurons. Symptoms include loss of memory, confusion, mood swings, and withdrawal.
Alzheimer’s disease has become much more common in the past 50 years. Since our genes have not changed, it must be lifestyle factors that are causing the increase. Indeed, immigrants to industrialized countries become just as vulnerable once they take up a Western lifestyle. . Evidence linking Alzheimer’s disease and diet, either from population studies or from studies on large groups of people over many years, shows that Alzheimer’s disease is very much a result of modern lifestyle.
What Increases the Chances of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Too Much Fat and the Wrong Fats and Oils. A high fat intake, including saturated and hydrogenated fats, is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. . Deficient omega-3 and omega-6 intake is another problem. Alzheimer’s patients have lower levels in their blood when compared to healthy people of the same age. Furthermore, autopsies of Alzheimer brains show low omega levels compared to healthy brains. .
High-Glycemic Diet. High insulin levels stimulate a protein called tau,
Disease and the Bond Effect 253
which tangles brain cells into Alzheimer knots. . High blood sugar levels shrivel the hippocampus, the region of the brain where short-term memory is stored. The higher the blood sugar levels, the more it fogs memory. . Long-term obesity by itself predicts an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. [107 In addition, obesity is connected with damaging high insulin and high glucose levels.
High Consumption of Plant Toxins (Antinutrients). Soybean antinutrients in the form of tofu consumption can double the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. .
Low Consumption of Plant Micronutrients. High levels of homocysteine increase brain inflammation and are a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. . A high intake of plant food micronutrients is required to clear homocysteine from the blood.
Your Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease
A life lived out of harmony with the Savanna Model sharply increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A common thread has to do with inflammation—the same problems mentioned in regard to cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. It is not a surprise, therefore, that many of the factors that prevent inflammation also help you avoid Alzheimer’s disease.
The Right Fatty Acid Profile. Our ancient ancestors had high intakes of omega-3 fatty acids from sources that included fish and shellfish from lakes and rivers. . Both a high consumption of omega-3 oils, including fish and fish oils, . and the absence of saturated fats help lower your risk. .
Low Energy Intake. Fasting gives the body’s cells a “workout” similar to how physical exercise limbers up muscle cells. Brain neurons are strengthened, leading to reduced rates of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases. . A low-calorie diet is also protective  and it is important to avoid a high-glycemic diet.
Plant Micronutrient Intake.
A high intake of plant nutrients is critical, because the micronutrients
quench brain-destroying molecules like homocysteine and free radicals.
Plant food micronutrients include folate, vitamin B12, and antioxidant
flavonoids such as resveratrol, quercetin, catechins, and anthocyanins.
. Alzheimer’s patients have lower antioxidant levels in their
blood than healthy people; . they also have correspondingly higher
levels of oxidized fats. Another study reported low levels of folate and
vitamin B12 in the blood of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and
found elevated levels of homocysteine. . A vegetarian diet is less
risky than a high-meat diet for Alzheimer’s disease. .
Old people who walked two miles or more a day had only half the risk of
Alzheimer’s as those who walked only 0.25 miles per day. .
Exercise reduces brain levels of amyloid, a sticky protein that clogs
the brain in Alzheimer’s patients. It also boosts levels of hormones
necessary for nerve cell
and increases blood flow to the brain. Our ancestors walked and ran
several miles a day. We know that our bodies depend on it, and the brain
”Use it or lose it.” Brain scans show that when people use their
brains in unusual ways, more blood flows into different neural regions
and new connections form. To exercise the brain, do a new type of
puzzle, learn to play chess, take a foreign language class, or solve a
vexing problem at work.
Alzheimer’s be reversed? No one knows, but it can certainly be slowed
down by adopting these helpful measures. There is even evidence that
brain cells can regenerate. . The fundamental lesson is that we have
to live our lives in such a way as to avoid driving our brains into
Alzheimer’s in the first place. Remember (while you can!) the maxim,
“an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”
is a brain disorder marked by impulsivity, hyperactivity, and an
inability to sustain attention. It is most common in children and often,
but not always, fades away in adulthood. There is a strong overlap with
autism and dyslexia. Around 5% of children today are considered to
suffer from ADHD, which means that a classroom of 25 to 30 children will
have at least one who has ADHD. The “disorder” was first described
at the beginning of the 20th century, but it only became routinely
diagnosed in the 1980s. Since then, the number of children considered to
suffer this condition is increasing sharply. What can be causing this
sudden increase in cases?
of the usual culprits are suspected. Plant antinutrients such as gluten
have been found guilty. Youngsters with full-blown gluten allergy
(celiac disease) are at greater risk of ADHD. . So, too, are those
who consume a lot of sugar. . Additives have also been linked to
ADHD.  A double-blind, placebo controlled study in the United Kingdom
found that additives put in sweets, biscuits, and carbonated drinks
trigger behavioral changes in up to 25% of toddlers. A group of 1,873
three-year-olds were given juice containing artificial colorings and
preservatives each day for a fortnight. (The additives in question were
Tartrazine E102, Sunset Yellow E110, Carmoisine E122, Ponceau 4R E124,
and Sodium Benzoate E211.) The scientists found that the artificial
additives had a “substantial effect” on children’s tempers,
concentration, sleeplessness and irritating interruptions. .
the Appleton Alternative High School, in Wisconsin, the kids used to be
out of control until 1997. Then, fast-food burgers, fries, and burritos
in the cafeteria gave way to fresh fruit, fresh salad, and meats
“prepared with old-fashioned recipes.” Good drinking water replaced
carbonated beverages. “Grades are up, truancy is no longer a problem,
arguments are rare, and teachers are able to spend their time
teaching,” pronounced Principal LuAnn Coenen. .
studies find that ADHD sufferers have low essential fatty acids, .
and the Bond Effect 255
a poor omega-3 intake, . and an imbalance of omega-6 oils. .
They have micronutrient deficiencies in minerals such as zinc, iron, and
is also a fascinating insight concerning the mismatch with our natural
inclinations. Children who spent the most time in “green” settings
had reduced ADHD symptoms in a study by Frances Kuo on 400 children. In
the study, activities were done inside, outside in areas without much
greenery (such as parking lots), and in “greener” spots like parks,
back gardens, and tree-lined streets. The kids showed fewer ADHD
symptoms after spending time in nature. Rural or urban, coastal or
inland, the findings held true for all regions of the country. .
is clearly a disorder of modern industrial societies. The science is
clear on some points and quite incomplete on many others, but the
message is clear: adapt your child’s life as closely as possible to
the Savanna Model. Make sure that he or she avoids grains and dairy,
remove sugar from the diet (be particularly ruthless about sugary soft
drinks), and avoid processed foods with its artificial additives. Ensure
that your child gets essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3 rich
seafood, eliminate saturated fat and trans-fats, and keep omega-6 intake
under tight control. Make sure he eats plentiful salads, fruits, and
vegetables with their valuable cargo of micronutrients. Finally, get him
away from the TV, computer console, and video games and into natural,
green (savannalike) surroundings.
the past century, the prevalence of severe depression has increased
dramatically, as much as 20-fold since 1945. . Not only have the
numbers risen, sufferers are getting younger, with more cases reported
in adolescents and young adults. . These increases are not due to
better diagnosis—rather, there has been a genuine rise in the numbers
of individuals suffering from depression. . Explanations for the
rise have included increased life stress and changing social networks.
However, the weight of evidence points to changes in nutrition that have
Fatty Acid Connection.
There is a massive body of evidence that links low omega-3 oil intakes
to manic depression, suicide, and post-natal depression. The incidence
of major depression is nearly 60 times greater in New Zealand than in
Japan. The New Zealanders’ average seafood consumption is 40 pounds
per person per year; the Japanese average is nearly four times that
depression is 50 times more common in countries with low levels of
seafood consumption. . Eskimos, when they abandon their traditional,
omega-3-rich fish diet for industrial foods, suffer more depression.
. Another study on Finns, which compared high fish consumers with
those who were not, had a similar result. .
about tests under laboratory conditions? Researchers have not been slow
to try omega-3 therapy in controlled trials. In one celebrated study,
Harvard researchers gave two groups of hospitalized depressed patients
diets that were high in omega-3 oils and omega-6 oils, respectively. The
omega-3 group had such dramatic improvement that, after three months,
the scientists stopped the experiment and allowed the omega-6 group to
benefit from the therapy. . Many other studies have confirmed the
importance of boosting omega-3 consumption and driving omega-6 down.
Micronutrient Connection. Researchers have carried out many studies to find some “magic bullet” vitamin pill for depression. They did not find the magic bullet, but their labors did establish the vital role that micronutrients play in brain health. They found that people who had low micronutrient intakes were more likely to be depressed. The closest associations were with folate and vitamins B1, B2, C, and B12..
Sugar Control Connection.
A high-glycemic diet provokes a switchback of blood sugar, leading to
abnormal lows of sugar in the blood. This state of hypoglycemia gives
rise to the so-called “sugar blues.”
Lack of sunshine affects mood. For example, the depressive condition
known as SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is most common in areas with
long winter nights, like Alaska, Finland, and Sweden. . Sunlight
even helps the body clock stay synchronized. Exercise, particularly with
depressed people, helps lift them out of their moodiness. . The way
we live today drives more and more people into depression. Undoubtedly,
the dysfunctional structure of society has a great deal to answer for.
Reappraise your personal situation and see if you can restructure your
life to relieve unnecessary subconscious (and conscious) distress.
are still many areas where we can take control for ourselves. In
particular, follow the Savanna Model in matters of nutrition and
lifestyle. The most important factor is to get omega fatty acids in
balance, especially by stoking up on omega-3 oils and eliminating
omega-6 oils. Also, increase your consumption of plant food, which is
rich in micronutrients. Finally, follow a low-glycemic diet. Remember
our tropical ancestry: we are creatures who need sunlight. If you cannot
obtain it naturally, use a sun-bed or a light box. Think about the
greater degree of social connectedness of our forager band—people who
have this in their modern lives are much less likely to suffer
depression. Finally, the savanna life designed our bodies on the
assumption that physical activity is a constant factor in our daily
lives and this helps too.
principal signs of schizophrenia are delusions, hallucinations,
incoherent thought processes, deficient feelings, and a withdrawal from
reality. The incidence of this disease rose sharply during the
Industrial Revolution in the 19th
and the Bond Effect 257
We have no evidence that forager societies suffered the disease at all,
although this is possible. Nevertheless, there is mounting evidence that
a lifestyle mismatch with our naturally adapted origins is greatly
responsible. Generally, people in poorer countries fare better. For
example, remission rates in India after two years of treatment were 54%,
while they were only 3% in United States. . According to the World
Health Organization, “This undoubtedly means that environment plays a
crucial role as an outcome determinant in schizophrenia.” .
Fatty Acid Connection.
Many studies and trials show that when patients consume a normalized
intake of essential fatty acids, their schizophrenia is improved. That
is, consumption of omega-3 oils is increased and omega-6 oils are
sharply reduced to bring them into balance. . One of the fish oils,
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), seems to play a crucial role. .
Normally, the body can make EPA from an omega-3 oil of vegetable origin,
but it is possible that some schizophrenic bodies have difficulty doing
so. Other studies suggest that a high consumption of animal fats (which
block essential fatty acids from working properly) worsen symptoms. .
An analysis found links between sugar intake and schizophrenia. It found
that “a higher national intake of refined sugar and dairy products
predicted a worse two-year outcome of schizophrenia.” .
and Allergen Connection.
A number of studies suggest a link between schizophrenia and the
consumption of grains. . Furthermore, the incidence of schizophrenia
is 30 times greater in patients with celiac disease (gluten allergy).
. The same analysis that found links with sugar intake also found
connections with dairy intake. . Similarly, a milk-free diet yields
much quicker remission. .
World Health Organization thinks that environment plays a “crucial
role” in the remission of schizophrenia, but there is a great deal
more to be studied on just what factors make a difference. Certainly
social factors, especially those arrangements of work, family, and
society that conform to the Savanna Model, are helpful. In dietary
terms, paying attention to the essential fatty acid profile is the most
important. Keeping to the low-glycemic diet, which automatically keeps
sugar at bay, is also a sensible thing to do. Food allergens, like those
from grain and dairy, also play a role, but more research is needed. Of
course, grains and dairy are best omitted from the diet anyway.
was first described in 1817 by the British physician James Parkinson. He
was the first to categorize a particular variety of palsy called
“shaking palsy,” a condition brought about by neuron degeneration in
a brain region called the substantia nigra. When this happens, they stop
producing the neurotransmitter dopamine. The adjacent region of the
brain, responsible for masterminding
cannot function properly without dopamine. The result is a variety of
symptoms of which uncontrollable tremors are the earliest and most
visible. Although the conventional treatment uses drugs such as L-dopa,
many studies show that there are strong lifestyle risk factors linked to
A number of studies point to dairy consumption as a major risk factor.
. The Honolulu Heart Program found that those who consumed more than
16 ounces of milk each day were 2.3 times more likely to develop
Parkinson’s disease than those who didn’t drink any milk. .
Plant Food Connection.
Low intakes of folate and other micronutrients allow homocysteine to
cause damage in the brain. High homocysteine levels are a strong risk
factor for developing Parkinson’s. . Findings from the Honolulu
Heart Program found that infrequent bowel movements lead to increased
risk of Parkinson’s. Those with fewer than one bowel movement per day
had 2.7 times the risk of those with one bowel movement per day and four
times the risk of those who had two bowel movements per day. . What
do we make of this? Earlier, we highlighted the hundreds of subtle ways
in which the bowel, and its contents, have a powerful influence on the
body’s health. Here we have another, quite unintuitive example. Who
would have thought that a mucky bowel could affect dopamine levels in
Many studies conclude that diets high in animal fat are associated with
a substantial increase in risk for Parkinson’s disease. .
disease is a degenerative disease, and lifestyle certainly has something
to do with it. All the evidence points to departures from the Savanna
Model as being risk factors. So, be sure you have a voluminous
non-starchy plant food intake and avoid dairy and saturated fat. You do
not have to give up all pleasures, though—studies suggest that
caffeine is all right, even beneficial. . Parkinson’s is a
progressive disease, so if you already have it, then you have no time to
lose—go on the Savanna Model program straight away.
term autism was first used by the psychiatrist Leo Kanner in the 1940s
to describe children who appeared to be excessively withdrawn and
self-preoccupied. The incidence of autism has risen from about 1 in
10,000 individuals in the 1970s to 1 in 200 now. . It is four times
more common in boys. Media scares have condemned vaccinations and
mercury poisoning, but the evidence for this connection is slight. On
the other hand, many studies show strong connections with more everyday
lifestyle factors. Dairy products, particularly the protein casein, are
a high risk factor. . Grains, notably the allergen gluten, are
another. . “Bad” bacteria in an unhealthy colon release toxins
that favor autism. .
is also evidence of a phenomenon that it is difficult to do anything
about. Male fetuses receive strong doses of testosterone in the womb,
which has the purpose of turning the fetus into a boy. Among other
things, it wires the
and the Bond Effect 259
with male circuitry. Heavier doses of testosterone increase the risk of
autism to the point where some researchers suggest that some autistic
brains are simply “extreme” male brains. . Even if this is true
for some autistic boys, it cannot be true for girls at all. So, an
autistic child will always do better on the Savanna Model and, in
particular, by eliminating dairy and grains.
brain is a living organ, throbbing with life, just like any other vital
organ in the body. Moreover, it is a fantastically complex,
three-dimensional network of microcircuits carrying out billions of
operations per second. It is continuously processing information from
the outside world and, using this data, calculating and directing our
bodies to function in a challenging environment. Our instincts,
reflexes, emotions, and moods are the puppet strings by which it directs
the brain is under enormous strain. Our homeland environment hardwired
it for and installed the software for optimum functionality on the
savannas of east Africa. We now live lives that are strongly at variance
with this environment. The brain has to cope with the conflicts between
hardwired reflexes and the restraining calculations necessary for
today’s world. One example is when the male aggression reflex has to
be subordinated to the restraining influence of “civilized”
behavior. It does not always succeed when we consider how phenomena like
road rage can overtake the most mild-mannered driver. Freud began his
career by analyzing hysterical bourgeois women. He put their hysteria
down to the subconscious conflict between hardwired sexual feelings and
the repression imposed by their “respectable” middle-class culture.
Hysteria and road rage are just extreme examples of the conflicts that
the brain is resolving many times a second. As Freud observed, the vast
majority of these conflicts are taking place in our subconscious. Only
occasionally does the fallout surface as a psychiatric problem.
is what happens when the brain is functioning normally. It is already a
bleak picture. But we add to the difficulty by throwing a screwdriver
into the workings of the brain. In industrial societies, we feed the
brain badly, deprive it of vital nutrients, encourage sickening
inflammation, poison it with natural toxins, and irritate it with
allergens. It is not surprising that some brains have a “brainstorm”
and fail to function properly.
lesson is that we must attempt to align our lifestyles again with the
Savanna Model. We need the sunshine and the physical activity. We need
to nourish the brain with the correct fatty acid profile and an
abundance of micronutrients from plants. We need to avoid sabotaging
brain health by consuming plant poisons, notably those in grains and
legumes. We should avoid the allergens contained in grains, legumes, and
dairy products. We must avoid inflaming the brain (and also giving
ourselves wild mood swings) with a high-glycemic diet. In other words,
follow the Owner’s Manual for optimum brain health.
and diabetes, as we will see, are really two sides of the same coin.
Everything we know about our prehistoric ancestors is that they were
lean and did not suffer from diabetes. Most of the time, they were
slightly hungry and we can imagine why: getting food required work. They
were constantly balancing the inconvenience of obtaining food with the
satisfaction of consuming it. If they finished lunch hungry, they had a
choice. Go off for an hour or two and find more food or have a siesta
during the heat of the day. Thus, there was an automatic mechanism
controlling the intake of food. You had to really want the food to go to
the effort of getting it.
some creatures (gorillas, for example), humans were not living
surrounded by their food. We do not have a well-developed “satiety
reflex”—our bodies do not have strong signals telling us when to
stop eating. For our ancestors, food bonanzas were rare, so we have a
little voice inside us urging us to keep eating while the going is good.
of course, in the affluent countries, we are surrounded by food. We can,
with no effort, satisfy our desire to eat. As one wag observed: “When
you hunt animals, you might succeed or you might not. But when you open
and the Bond Effect 261
door, you will succeed 100% of the time.” Instead of the discipline
being exerted on us by our environment, we have to exercise
self-discipline. Prosperous times do have drawbacks! A second factor is
the free-for-all in the supply of food. Supermarkets are modern-day
Horns of Plenty, overflowing with substances, most of which are not
proper human food at all. So, we have a double challenge: to exercise
self-discipline in regulating both the quantity and the nature of what
extra fat is not just a cosmetic issue. Everything we know about our
biology is that it is unhealthy to have too much body fat—it is not
how nature intended. Fat in your abdomen (a potbelly) is not just
sitting there as dead weight—it produces all kinds of inflammatory
chemicals called cytokines. By eliminating fat, you also get rid of a
very dangerous inflammation-producing organ. Inflammation is linked to
many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, syndrome X, dementia,
depression, cancer, osteoporosis, and autoimmune diseases. .
chapter 1, we saw how San and Aborigine foragers had low body fat. So,
why do our bodies make it so easy to put on weight? On the savanna, our
bodies had to be good at storing excess food in times of abundance to
see them through the times of scarcity. This storage mechanism has no
upper limit: there was never a need to have one in the Pleistocene past,
because scarcity was as common as abundance. Today, times are always
abundant and our waistbands expand indefinitely to store the available
are two major ways that food gets turned into fat. The body works to
keep the level of blood sugar just right, neither too little nor too
much. To do this, it uses the body’s fat cells like a bank. Sugar is
not actually stored as sugar, it is stored as fat. Fat is a
concentrated, space-saving form of sugar. When there is too little blood
sugar, the pancreas sends out the hormone glucagon to the fatcell bank
to draw out some sugar. When there is too much blood sugar, the pancreas
sends out the hormone insulin to deposit surplus sugar in the bank. In a
body that is living like nature intended, these banking transactions are
going on all the time. Half the transactions are credits and half are
debits. In the long run, our bank balance stays modestly in credit.
the case of obesity, far more sugar is being deposited than is being
drawn out. Where does this excess blood sugar come from? By far the
biggest source is “bad” carbohydrates, chiefly grains, starchy
vegetables, most sugars, some drinks, and some fruits. A secondary
source of blood sugar is the liver: it converts some excess protein into
sugar and puts it into the bloodstream. If there is too much sugar in
the blood already, it gets deposited in the fat-cell bank.
second major way in which we get fatter is more straightforward: the
fat-cell bank also accepts deposits of fat directly. However, to do
this, the bank requires special instructions or the deposit will not be
accepted. These instruc-
are given, once again, by the hormone insulin—no insulin, no deposit.
This explains why Eskimos, who eat a high-fat diet, are skinny under
their voluminous furs. Their diet contains no carbohydrates whatsoever
to trigger insulin release. Neither Eskimos nor San Bushmen make much
starch is stored as fat, sugar is stored as fat, protein is stored as
fat, and fat is stored as fat. With all these alternatives, it is not
surprising that the way we eat today is fattening. Insulin is the common
factor in these activities. Nevertheless, in natural circumstances,
neither protein nor good carbohydrates cause it to be secreted in large
let us look at one more factor working to make us fat. Although protein
on its own does not provoke much insulin, when we eat protein together
with bad carbohydrates, the effect is multiplied. . Insulin levels
skyrocket, meaning that certain combinations of foodstuffs are
exceptionally fattening. Popular foods combine bad carbohydrates,
protein, and fat all the time. Examples are hamburger (bun and meat
patty), hot dog (roll and sausage), french fries (potato and cooking
oil), pizza (pastry and cheese), pasta (spaghetti and meat Bolognese),
BLT sandwich (bacon and bread), deep-fried breaded chicken, and so on.
We do not have to look far to see why Americans, and industrialized
populations generally, are becoming obese.
diet, high in bad carbohydrates and fats, is making us fat. We put too
much blood sugar and fat into storage and do not withdraw it often
enough. We need to feel hungry on a regular basis, a signal that the
“slimming down” hormone glucagon is operational and drawing down
fat. We also need to consume fat frugally and bad carbohydrates not at
Ways to Reduce Obesity
steps for reducing obesity are all in accordance with the Savanna Model.
Consume a strictly low-glycemic diet (no starches or sugars).
Adopt a low-fat diet.
Consume protein-rich foods modestly.
Keep a check on alcohol intake and avoid “empty calories.” Alcohol
gets in the way of glucagon working properly, so that withdrawals are
harder to make from the fat-cell bank. Also, alcohol loads the body with
calories that serve no useful nutritional purpose. The body uses these
up first, putting calories from other sources in the fat cells. Plus,
many alcoholic beverages are glycemic. Beer, with its malt sugars, is a
common example. Heavy beer drinkers are much more likely to develop a
“beer belly” and suffer from the diseases of a high-glycemic diet.
Practice the recommended amount of physical activity every day. Physical
activity performs an essential role in making our body function
properly. This applies just as much to weight control. The more active
we are physically, the
and the Bond Effect 263
likely we are to burn off a high intake of calories. Physical activity,
at levels which conform to our naturally adapted pattern, makes wondrous
improvements to blood sugar control and fat burning. . In
particular, glucagon is encouraged to withdraw fat from the fat-cell
bank. Physical activity also suppresses appetite, especially in obese
Feel hungry several times a day.
Get proper sleep.
is the condition in which the body either does not produce enough
insulin or the fat cells do not react to insulin’s signal. In other
words, diabetes results when the blood sugar control mechanism goes
haywire. There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and
gestational diabetes. Here, we feature type 2 diabetes, which is by far
the most common (90% of all cases) and it is also a purely lifestyle
2 diabetes can occur for either or both of the reasons cited above: not
enough insulin is made by the pancreas or the fat cells do not listen to
insulin’s instructions. The latter scenario is called “insulin
resistance.” In insulin resistance, the pancreas (under instructions
from the brain) senses the danger and churns out yet higher amounts of
insulin. The fat cells sense this flood of insulin and become yet more
resistant, a vicious cycle of high glucose levels and often high insulin
levels. The result is that dangerously high levels of sugar remain in
the bloodstream. Over time, this leads to gangrene, limb amputations,
blindness, kidney failure, and nerve death. High insulin levels increase
the risk of stroke, clots, heart disease, cancer, and other serious
wreaks havoc on the body. Half of all amputations of hands and feet in
the United States are due to diabetes. Similarly, it is a leading cause
blindness. People who are diabetic are much more likely to be obese and have heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, thromboses, strokes, and Alzheimer’s disease . The U.S. Centers for Disease Control predicts that the number of Americans with diabetes will double from 12 million to 24 million in the 25 years from the year 2000 .
was unknown among hunter-gatherers like the San Bushman and the
Australian Aborigines. . It used to be a rare disease even in
industrialized societies, until recent times. When it did occur, this
form of diabetes used to be called “adult onset” because it happened
later in life, often around middle age. This name has been dropped
because it is now happening at much younger ages. In fact, it is
increasing out of control among the young. A study of 10- to 19-year-old
diabetics in Cincinnati, Ohio, found that doctors were diagnosing ten
times the number of adolescents suffering from diabetes in 1994 compared
to 1982. .
Aborigines, Polynesians, and American Indians develop high rates of
diabetes as soon as they adopt a Western diet. . We can take just
one example, the Pima tribe of Gila, Arizona: 45% of people over 55 were
already suffering diabetes in 1965. Yet, that number could soar even
higher—to 80%—by 1996. . These peoples have blood sugar control
systems that cannot cope with a high-glycemic diet. This is an
interesting and rare example of how the bodies of farming peoples, over
the millennia, have become slightly better than hunter-gatherer bodies
at handling glycemic food, but only to a point. No body on the planet
can cope with the extreme high-glycemic diet now commonplace in Western
why do our blood sugar control systems go haywire? Because they have
caved in to the onslaught of foods that provoke an explosive blood sugar
rush. The most important thing a diabetic and pre-diabetic can do is to
stop presenting unreasonable demands for insulin. Avoid requiring the
body to deal with foods that it was never designed to process, and
insulin levels will be kept low all the time. This is how our ancestors
operated, and when Aborigines and Polynesians return to their ancestral
eating patterns, their diabetic symptoms improve dramatically. .
Everyone on this planet could avoid type 2 diabetes if they adopted a
essential points about the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and diabetes are
that their food supply was low glycemic, they had low body fat levels,
and they got regular exercise. Studies demonstrate that these are vital
conditions for fighting diabetes. There are further factors of secondary
importance: a low omega-6 to high omega-3 ratio, a low-fat diet, the
absence of smoking, suitable exposure to sunshine, and a rich intake of
plant-food micronutrients are all helpful for diabetes.
to Beat Back Diabetes
Consume a low-glycemic diet. This is by far the most important action
and the Bond Effect page 265
take. The Savanna Model is not only right for diabetics in this regard,
it is right for every human on the planet.
Exercise has a restorative effect on glucose tolerance. Read chapter 8
and make sure that you exercise at least to the minimum shown there.
Lose weight! Diabetics find that their blood sugar is much better
controlled when their body fat percentage is down to hunter-gatherer
Studies on Eskimos demonstrate that a high consumption of omega-3 fatty
acids (in their case, mainly from fish oils) improve insulin sensitivity
and glucose tolerance. . These confirm other studies suggesting that
insulin sensitivity is improved when omega-3 intake is increased. .
Follow the Savanna Model and make sure you have the omega-6 to omega-3
intakes in balance.
Reduce total consumption of fat and saturated fat. Studies show high
levels of fat and of saturated fat are risk factors. .
Have a good consumption of soluble plant fiber and antioxidants from
plant food. .
Avoid smoking. Studies on smokers show that they have double the risk of
developing diabetes compared to non-smokers and former smokers. .
Get enough sunshine. Studies show that diabetes is aggravated by a
deficiency of the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D. . We have seen that
obesity and diabetes are closely linked by one major dietary error: a
high-glycemic diet. Other common factors are a lack of exercise and
consumption of unsuitable fats. Diabetics are often obese and obesity
often drives one into diabetes, so it can be a vicious cycle. The
Savanna Model can help you control both these conditions.
has many functions, but the chief one is to serve as a structural frame
to support the body. Bones are not solid—they are constructed in a
dense “lattice” structure something like the Eiffel Tower. This
arrangement is light, yet very strong and resistant to forces from all
directions. Bones are made of two main materials: the rigid stuff making
up the girders of the lattice and the connecting material that glues the
girders together. The “rigid stuff” is made from the minerals
calcium and phosphorus, while the “glue” is a protein called
persons afflicted with osteoporosis, the tiny, rigid girders gradually
become thinner and rodlike, and the spaces between them grow larger. The
bone thus becomes more porous, less dense, and less strong. These
lighter and more fragile bones tend to fracture from even minor knocks
and falls. In the spine, tiny fractures accumulate resulting in a
stooped posture (“dowager’s hump”). The bones of the hip and
forearm are especially vulnerable to fractures. To
why this girder-thinning happens, let’s look at how the bone
latticework is supposed to be maintained.
is not lifeless matter—it is active living tissue. Special cells are
constantly at work crawling all over the lattice, removing and replacing
bone in a process called bone remodeling. It is rather like workmen
repainting the Eiffel Tower. As fast as one team strips the old paint
off, they are followed by a second team that puts on a fresh coat.
Bone-building cells are called osteoblasts and bone-dissolving cells are
called osteoclasts. In a lifetime, the osteoblasts and osteoclasts will
have completely rebuilt the whole skeleton some three times over.
and osteoclasts are operating according to instructions and signals from
all over the body. The cells speed up or slow down in response to
instructions delivered by hormones. The kidneys, thyroid gland, and
parathyroid gland communicate with each other and to the bone-remodeling
cells. The bone-remodeling cells talk to each other and to other parts
of the body. In a process called cross-talk, the osteoblasts might call
up osteoclasts to where a demolition job needs doing. Both kinds of
cell, just like any other, live and die: they multiply themselves at the
right times and die off at the right times.
of the other functions of bones is to act as a “bank” for calcium.
Calcium is a vital ingredient in a whole range of biochemical operations
and the body has to keep the level of calcium in the blood within tight
limits. When there is too much calcium in the blood, it asks the
osteoblasts to work harder and deposit calcium in the bone bank; when
there is too little, the osteoclasts go to the bone bank and draw some
now know a lot more about these processes, but they are so intricate
that the details are still being worked out. However, it is quite clear
that the effects of any one action are so mind-bogglingly complex that
the outcomes are impossible to predict. In this sense, it is a
you might reasonably assume that conventional health doctrine would be
cautious about how it suggests interfering with these exquisitely
delicate and processes. On the contrary, the advice focuses, to the
point of fixation, on one tiny part of the big picture—the supply of
just one building material: calcium. Eat more calcium, so the thinking
goes, and more of it must end up in your bones, which should be a good
thing. At least it should be in the West, where the disease of
osteoporosis has reached epidemic proportions. But scientists have known
for some time that this doctrine (calcium in your mouth equals calcium
in your bones) is simplistic. Worse, by putting itself forward as the
solution, it diverts attention from the true causes of osteoporosis.
to received wisdom, women who drink two or more glasses of milk a day
are 40% more likely to suffer hip fractures than those who drink no
milk. . Researchers found no signs of osteoporosis in the San
Bushmen, even though they do not drink milk or swallow calcium pills.
. The populations of
and the Bond Effect 267
and Africa who, although consuming low levels of calcium, nevertheless
do not suffer from bone fractures. . Eskimos have poor bone health
in spite of a high calcium intake. Finally, just because calcium gets
into the bloodstream, it does not mean that the body uses it to build
bones. On the contrary, the body is quite capable of laying down calcium
just where you do not want it. For example, in the arteries and heart
valves (as plaque), . in the kidneys (as stones), . in the
breasts (as nodules triggering cancers), and in the joints (as painful
spurs). All this can happen while the bones themselves are losing
calcium. Clearly something is very wrong with the conventional doctrine.
is another important phenomenon. People build up bone mass until the age
of about 35. This happens without any particular measures made by the
individual, although certain lifestyles are better at building up this
bone “capital” than others. After the age of 35, many people in
Western societies start to lose bone. Even Eskimo children build bone
before they succumb to osteoporosis later in life. The point is this:
people do not suddenly reduce their calcium intake at the age of 35;
some other, powerful factors are at work.
is a disease whereby the girders of the lattice become progressively
thinner to the point where the structure breaks too easily, but why
would the girders become thinner? The fundamental answer is that
osteoclasts are destroying bone faster than the osteoblasts are building
it. Why does this happen?
in the Development of Osteoporosis
1—Acid/Alkali Imbalance. A high-protein, acidic diet,
commonplace in Western societies, is a factor in osteoporosis. In a diet
that is relentlessly acidic, the body compensates by drawing calcium out
of the bone bank. Put another way, it instructs the osteoclasts to work
harder dissolving bone, thereby putting the released calcium into the
bloodstream. This neutralizes the excess acidity and the kidneys then
eject the waste products in the urine. Where does this acidity come
from? High protein intake is a major reason, a mechanism called
“protein- induced calciuria.” . The consumption of starches
causes a smaller, yet significant acidifying effect. They are less
acidic than protein, but they contribute nothing to reducing acidity and
get in the way of foods that could— fruits, salads, and vegetables.
Secondly, protein has a particular effect on the kidneys. Kidneys filter
waste matter from the bloodstream and dump it into the urine. The
kidneys’ filters should not be so porous that they let through
“good” substances, but only eliminate waste products. However, the
kidneys lose this fine-tuning under the pressure of abnormally high
levels of protein, and they start to leak calcium. Here we have a major
explanation for why Eskimos suffer osteoporosis—they consume a very
high protein, and acidic, diet.
2—Lack of Micronutrients.
Low consumption of fruit, salads, and vegetables is a factor in
osteoporosis. Studies show that healthy bone building is dependant on a
high intake of fruits. . There are over 20,000 active compounds
fruits and they are far from all being identified and evaluated.
Certainly, adequate intakes of potassium, zinc, magnesium, fiber, and
vitamin C are important, but not sufficient. Other studies show that
vegetarians who consume plenty of green plant food have healthier bones.
. Vitamin K, readily found in leafy vegetables, is a powerful
bone-building helper. . It is not good enough to take vitamin and
mineral supplements. You have to consume the fruits and vegetables
themselves to get the benefit of all the bone-building compounds.
3—Essential Fatty Acids Out of Balance. Domination of omega-6 oils over
omega-3 oils is a factor in osteoporosis.The hormones (prostaglandins)
made by essential fatty acids have a powerful effect on bone building.
Omega-6 oils speed up bone destruction; omega-3 oils speed up bone
building. . One reason why osteoporosis has become so prevalent
since World War II is that the omega-6 vegetable oils (corn oil, peanut
oil, and sunflower oil) became commonplace at that time. In parallel,
sources of omega-3 oils have dwindled.
Domination of salt over potassium (instead of the other way around) is a
factor in osteoporosis. Excess salt causes the kidneys to raid the
calcium bank to show this unwanted mineral, sodium, the back door. .
The ratio between salt and the mineral potassium should be kept at no
more than 1 to 5. . Potassium is chiefly found in fruits, salads, and
vegetables. The ratio between potassium and sodium in Western diets is
not only unbalanced, it is upside-down: instead of 1 to 5, it is 5 to 1.
Not many people know that they consume phosphorus in large quantities.
Why might this be a problem? Bone-remodeling cells listen to the signals
carried by the powerful hormone PTH, secreted by the parathyroid gland.
They prompt osteoclasts to speed up their bone-destroying efforts. Why
would the parathyroid gland send those instructions? An excess of
phosphorus in the diet stimulates the parathyroid gland to go into
overdrive, churning out instructions to destroy bone. So, how do we let
phosphorus into our lives? Consumption of phosphorus-containing cola has
increased from near zero to over 48 gallons per American per year just
in living memory. Colas contain phosphorus in the form of phosphoric
acid, and the consumption of colas promotes bone disease. .
6—Deficiency of Sunshine and the Sunshine Vitamin. Lack of appropriate
sunshine is a factor in osteoporosis. One of the major effects of
sunshine is to produce vitamin D in the skin. Vitamin D is an essential
active ingredient in bone remodeling. In some circumstances, it
increases bone building, while in others it increases bone destruction.
It is important to get the doses just right at the right times. This is
an important example of how it is impossible to micromanage these
processes. Yet, if we live the way nature intended, the body sorts it
out just right and we grow healthy bones.
7—Lack of Physical Activity.
Lack of suitable physical activity is
and the Bond Effect 269
factor in osteoporosis. The human organism has come to depend on a
certain level of physical activity. The jolting of rhythmic jogging
creates microscopic fractures in the bone lattice. This signals the
osteoblasts to speed up and build stronger bone. In one study, elderly
women benefited from as little as one hour per week of lower-intensity
activity—42% lower risk of hip fracture and 33% lower risk of vertebra
fracture. . In contrast, people who do little activity (astronauts
in space are an extreme example) find that their bones start to
The antinutrients in grains and their acidification of the blood can
encourage osteoporosis. . The effect is particularly marked in those
who have acute sensitivity to gluten. .
9—High Blood Sugar.
High blood sugar levels, notably in diabetics, can aggravate
Chronic alcoholism and even binge drinking destroy bones. .
11—Vitamin C Deficiency.
Lack of vitamin C can lead to osteoporosis. This deficiency is
surprisingly common in some populations, particularly in inner cities,
who eat hardly any fresh fruit, salads, and vegetables.
An excessive intake of iron leads to osteoporosis. This can happen in
some communities that use iron cooking pots, anyone who supplements with
iron, or sufferers of the condition called hemochromatosis, whose bodies
do not know how to handle iron in the diet.
Overdosing on calcium supplements can have a number of drawbacks. The
main ones are kidney stones, the depletion of other essential minerals
like zinc and magnesium, . and toxic levels of blood calcium leading
to kidney failure. .
14—Vitamin D Overload.
Overdosing on vitamin D either in food or in supplements promotes bone
thinning. Vitamin D is such an important compound for bone building that
people mistakenly self-medicate with pills and overdo it. Vitamin D in
excess is toxic to the bones and promotes the development of
Reassurances About Osteoporosis
the lifestyle factors outlined above can help you maintain good bone
health right up to old age. It is not a coincidence that these factors
are, without exception, measures that fit into the Savanna Model. There
are many misconceptions about what factors might be harmful to bone
health. Here we provide some reassurances.
The savannas of east Africa are regions of high fluoride availability,
particularly in the water. In such circumstances, we would predict that
organism came to depend on it. Indeed, tests show that the human
skeleton does well on a good fluoride intake. . This is not an
argument to go out and take fluoride supplements, but rather a
reassurance that, if your water is fluoridated or you use fluoridated
toothpaste, it is fine to accept it.
Moderate consumption of caffeine, such as two cups of American coffee
per day, is harmless to calcium metabolism. .
Moderate consumption of alcohol, such as one glass of wine per day, is
innocuous and can even be modestly helpful. .
If anyone still needed convincing that osteoporosis is a hormonal
problem, just consider this: the only medication prescribed by doctors
that is truly helpful is the hormone estrogen. Estrogen is used
successfully to slow the deterioration in bone health of menopausal
women. But if you get your lifestyle patterns right, osteoporosis will
be a non-issue.
We all have the idea that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding have
an extra need for calcium. After all, they are building bones in a fetus
or making milk for a nursing baby. So, does the mother need to consume
more calcium? The San mothers certainly did not do anything special and
we can suppose that our Pleistocene ancestors did not either. Humans
have no instinct whatsoever to seek out calcium-rich foods. Pregnant and
nursing mothers’ bodies take no account whatsoever of any increase in
Instead, the mother’s body meets the demand for extra calcium by triggering three main activities. First, specialized hormones instruct the intestines to absorb a higher percentage of calcium from the ordinary foods that she eats. Second, the kidneys are instructed to recover a higher percentage of calcium from the urine. . Third, specialized hormones instruct the osteoclasts to release calcium from the bone bank. Nothing that the mother eats, supplements, or does changes this process. Whatever she does, her bones lose mass, but as soon as menstruation restarts, the hormones go into reverse. In no time at all, her bones recover their normal density. . Even though doctors conventionally prescribe calcium pills during this time, they are ineffective and can even be harmful. .
This is a graphic illustration of how little control we can exercise over the way our bodies maintain bone health. Our interventions, albeit well-intentioned, are usually in vain and might make matters worse. Also, we can draw a lesson from our Pleistocene past: our ancestors (quite naturally) spaced their pregnancies by some four years, which gives the bones ample time to recover before the next pregnancy. The good news is that women who have had several pregnancies are at no greater risk for osteoporosis. .
THE BOND EFFECT AND YOUR HEALTH
This book has been a quest to discover our human heritage, notably as it applies
Disease and the Bond Effect 271
to our health, both physical and mental. We have used these discoveries to establish the right lifestyle pattern for human beings. On the way, we highlighted how the mismatch between today’s lifestyle and our savanna-bred ideal makes us sick in various ways. We’ve seen how the major health problems that trouble us today are, indeed, “diseases of civilization.”
However, there is no “magic bullet” to fix every disease. The human body is an extraordinary collection of incredibly intricate processes whose detail is impossible to comprehend. Fortunately, we do not need to micromanage these processes but rather focus on the big picture. Get that right, and the body, with its savanna programming, does the rest. That is the Bond Effect in action.
All this might sound too good to be true. To deflect any accusations of hubris, we acknowledge that not every condition can be cured by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Nevertheless, whether we are sick or healthy lies largely under our own control. All the evidence points to one simple conclusion: whether you are worried about cancer or heart disease or osteoporosis, the remedy is the same—adopt the Savanna Model.
|On to Chapter Ten (Conclusion)|