Nutritional Anthropology

The Bond Effect
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Chapter 9
Disease and the Bond Effect

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. [1]. 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. [2]. 

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 Immune System—An Overview

The immune system comprises many components working together. White blood cells known as phagocytes gobble up and kill offending cells by digesting them. T-cells and B-cells are known as “killer cells,” which reside in the lymphatic system and bloodstream. They lock on to enemy cells and kill them by making them commit suicide. For all this to work properly, the immune system has to recognize which cells are legitimate and which ones are enemy. Alarms and signals must pass correctly between different elements of the immune system. The lymphatic system and bloodstream must pump these immune system cells quickly to the place where they are needed.

The immune system is an incredibly complex arrangement of parts. It can recognize and remember millions of different enemies, and it can produce secretions and cells to wipe out every one of them. The secret to its success is an elaborate and dynamic communications network. Millions of cells gather like clouds of bees swarming around a honey pot and pass information back and forth [3]. They must work together as a team for it to be 100% efficient.

Here is the essential thought to remember: the way we live our lives today depresses the efficiency of the immune system. In addition, lifestyle errors often cause it to go berserk—it attacks friendly cells and ignores enemy ones. Finally, by “living dirty,” we often overload the immune system with too many tasks. We will find many instances of how our weakened, raggle-taggle, overworked immune systems allow disease to take hold. And sometimes our deranged immune systems actually cause disease.<

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.

In 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. [4].

Until recently, conventional medicine has not paid a lot of attention to repairing the defenses, let alone mobilizing the body’s remarkable powers of

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self-repair. 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 that way.

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

The 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.

The 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.

Strategy 2 Maintain a Low Percentage of Body Fat

We 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%. West-

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erners 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 mass.

Strategy 3 Eat a Diet Rich in Non-Starchy Plant Food

Most 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.

Strategy 4 Eat a Low-Fat Diet with Essential Fatty Acids in Balance

The 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.

Strategy 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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The 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.

Strategy 6 Physical Activity

Physical 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.

Strategy 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. [5]. In another study, men who had the most exposure to sunlight had the least risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer later in life. [6]. Other research shows that adults with good levels of vitamin D have half the risk of colon cancer. [7]. Recent studies reinforce the message: sunshine helps melanoma sufferers recover and it prevents people getting lymphatic cancer. [8]. Dr. William Grant estimates the yearly toll at 100,000 cases and 40,000 deaths from lack-of-sunshine cancers. [9]. 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 

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of 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.

Strategy 8 Reduce Chronic Stress

The 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. [10].

Put 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.” [11]. 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.

Breast Cancer

Everything 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. [12] Those who have good levels of the omega-3 oils, whether fish oils or alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), have a lower risk. [13].

Breast 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 [14]. 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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A 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 [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.

Why 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 [16].

In 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 [17] 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.

Finally, 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.

Lung Cancer

Lung 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. [18]. In general, researchers find that the micronutrient connection is critical. [19]. 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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Colon Cancer

With 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.

It 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 [20]. So, too, are high-fat diets, the consumption of saturated fats and trans-fats, and diets that are dominant in omega-6 oils [21].

Of 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.

Prostate Cancer

Asian men have much lower rates of prostate cancer than Western men  [22]. 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 [23]. In contrast, a high intake of omega-6 oils encourages prostate cancer [24].

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 [25].

Sunshine 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 [26]. 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 [27]. Dr. Giles speculates that frequent ejaculation keeps carcinogens from accumulating in the prostate gland.


Heart 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 [28]. They were unknown among primitive tribes, such as the Australian Aborigines, the Tarahumara hill tribe of Mexico, the Eskimos, and

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the San Bushman [29] 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 [30]. As recently as the 1930s, heart disease was rare in America [31]. Even today, Okinawans and Cretans do not suffer these diseases. As far as we can tell, they were unknown amongst our Pleistocene forebears.

What 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.

Sometimes, 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 attack.

>Aspirin and Heart Disease

Various studies have demonstrated that aspirin quenches many of the “bad” prostaglandins. This remarkable result led doctors to recommend that cardiac patients should take an aspirin a day as a preventative measure. And it works: heart attacks can be reduced by up to 40% in vulnerable patients. So, doctors started recommending that even perfectly healthy people should regularly take aspirin “just in case.”

However, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Aspirin works by knocking out all prostaglandins, both good and bad. Blood may then clot poorly (giving rise to internal bleeding) and stomach acidity is disrupted (leading to ulcers). Over the longer term, the immune system is depressed and sensitivity to allergies is increased. In fact, aspirin, while fulfilling a great role for emergency relief, does not deal with the fundamental problems. The good news is, we have the ideal drug right in front of us: our food. Get that right and the fundamental problems disappear.<

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High 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 [32].

A 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 [33]. 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.

Some 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 [34]. 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 [35] 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 [36]

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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 [37] 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 [38].

Proteins, Amino Acids, and Homocysteine Proteins are composed of a cocktail of compounds called amino acids. The composition of the cocktail varies with the foodstuff. Eight of these amino acids are essential: the body must obtain them from food. One of these essential amino acids is called methionine. When methionine is digested, it produces a toxic waste product called homocysteine. Proteins of animal origin tend to contain much more methionine than proteins of plant origin. Compared to plant proteins, animal proteins, therefore, produce a higher toxic load of homocysteine.

 Research 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 [39]. 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 [40].

The Role of Cholesterol

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 [42]. 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 [43].

Cholesterol 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?”

Our 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?

The 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.

 Erectile Dysfunction (Impotence)

As Shakespeare’s drunken porter in Macbeth said about strong drink: “It provokes, and it unprovokes; it provokes the desire but it takes away the performance.” We might suppose that the porter recovered his powers when he sobered up. However, for many men, sexual performance is a constant source of difficulty.

There are several reasons why this might be, but one biological reason is fundamental. If the artery in the penis has blockages, it cannot rise to the occasion. The blockages, of course, are of the same nature as blockages in arteries elsewhere in the body: in the heart, lungs, and brain. The phrase applied to this condition, “hardening of the arteries,” seems like a bad joke in this context. In other words, erectile dysfunction is very often a symptom of cardiovascular disease. The linkage is so strong that researchers say that erectile dysfunction is the earliest predictor of looming cardiovascular trouble [41]. For erectile dysfunction, then, the wisest and most urgent course is to follow the guidelines for cardiovascular disease.

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The 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.

Nevertheless, 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.

In contrast, bad cholesterol is reduced by a diet rich in soluble fiber [44]. 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.

Contrary to the prevalent myth, consuming high-cholesterol foods like eggs has little effect on cholesterol levels, if the diet conforms to the Savanna Model [45]. 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 [46]. The message is the same: give the body the right tools and signals, and it sorts out these matters just fine.

So, 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 [47]. 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” [48]. 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.

Twelve Ways to Combat Cardiovascular Disease

1. Adopt a low-glycemic diet.

2. Consume a diet rich in non-starchy plant foods.

3. Consume animal protein only modestly.

4. Avoid dairy products.

5. Consume a diet low in animal fat and palm oil.

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6. Adopt a diet that eliminates hydrogenated and trans-fats.

7. Consume a diet that severely limits omega-6 oils.

8. Consume a diet rich in omega-3 oils.

9. Stop smoking.

10. Reduce salt intake to a minimum.

11. Practice at least the minimum amount of physical activity.

12. Change the way you lead your life to make it less stressful.

 We 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.



There 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!

One 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.

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Constipation and Diverticulosis

Over-the-counter 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.

Again, 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.

A 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.

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

(Irritable Bowel, Crohn’s Disease, Colitis, Celiac Disease)

Medical 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.

Antinutrient Connection. 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.

Bad 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 pepper.

Allergen Connection. 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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or 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 [49].

Plant Food Connection. 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.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (Heartburn, Acid Reflux)

Heartburn 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 [50]. The chief decisive factors are good food combining and the absence of dairy products.

Researchers 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 [51].


Sometimes 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.

The 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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Rogue 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”).

Allergen Diseases

What 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 [52]. 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.

Of 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.

Usually, 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.

Many 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.

A 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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>Histamine and Allergic Reactions Histamine is a substance that is released from the body’s tissues during conditions of stress, inflammation, and allergy. It provokes the familiar allergic reaction of runny nose, watery eyes, and tissue swelling. Many allergy sufferers are familiar with “anti-histamine” medications designed to neutralize the histamines produced by the immune system.<

This 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.


Allergy 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 precipitously.

Allergen Connection. 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:

Grains. All grains (wheat, rye, barley, corn, rice, oats, etc.) are allergenic.

Milk 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.

Legumes. 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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were due to soy [53]. The amount of soy needed to kill was small: between 0.25–2.0 teaspoons.

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 [54].

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 [55].

Stress Connection. 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 reactions.330

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 [56].


Asthma 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 [57]. What has changed so much to cause this?

Essential 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 [58]. 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.

Colon Health Connection. A leaky colon increases the risk of asthma [59]. Allergen Connection. The consumption of dairy products increases the risk of getting asthma [60]

Non-Starchy Plant Food Connection. Studies show that lung performance is better in those who eat fresh fruit at least once a day, [61]. those who eat at least five apples a week, [62] and those who have a high intake of fruit and vegetables [63]. In other words, poor lung function, including asthma, is in large part due to a deficiency of plant food micronutrients.

Sunshine Connection. Dr. Peter Black of Auckland University, in New Zealand, found that the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D, improved lung function, even in ex-smokers. [65]

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Migraine is a mechanism in the brain that becomes activated in response to various trigger factors, such as routine stress, hormonal fluctuations, sleep disturbances, certain foods, or even changes in weather conditions. The migraine mechanism involves many parts of the brain, various neurotransmitters, and, ultimately, the activation of nerves and swelling and inflammation of blood vessels around the head. The greater the degree of blood vessel swelling and inflammation, the worse the headache.

Allergy Connection. 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 [66].

Dairy. Dairy, in particular dairy protein [67]. 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 [68].

Non-Starchy Plant Food Connection. A low plant food diet, deficient in micronutrients, notably magnesium [69] and riboflavin (vitamin B2),[70] sharply increases the likelihood of developing a migraine.

Blood Sugar Control Connection. High abnormal insulin levels have the effect of manufacturing abnormal levels of histamine. Diabetics are much more vulnerable to migraine [71]. The low glycemic diet is how nature intended.

Autoimmune Diseases

In autoimmune diseases, the immune system turns against the body’s own organs and tissues. Many of the same processes are at work as for allergen diseases.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Rheumatoid 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 [72] Studies over the years point to three main factors causing rheumatoid arthritis.

Fatty Acid Connection. 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

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mucus. 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. [73] 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. [74] 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. [75]. There is only one source of the cocktail of antioxidants that works: non-starchy plant food. [76].

Allergen Connection. Arthritis is often triggered by an allergic reaction. Some of the most common suspected allergens are grains, especially gluten, [77] and milk and dairy [78].


Osteoarthritis (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. [79]. 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 Connection. Grain antinutrients, notably lectins, depress cartilage building.

Mechanical Load Connection. 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%. [80]. 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.

Essential Fatty Acid Connection. Omega-6 oils depress the hormones that build bone and cartilage, while omega-3 oils encourage bone and cartilage building. [81]. 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.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune-induced inflammation that destroys

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the 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. [84].

Colon Health Connection. 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 themselves. [85].

Fatty Acid Connection. For a long time, scientists have suspected that omega-3 essential fatty acids play a vital role in the maintenance of the myelin sheath. [86]. 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. [87].  Surprisingly, no one has done a high-quality clinical trial to answer the question once and for all. [88].  Nevertheless, many studies are suggestive of the importance of having a good omega-3 oil intake and avoiding overloading on omega-6 oils. [89].  In other words, get the essential fatty acids in balance.

Sunshine Connection. 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. [90].  In confirmation, researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that vitamin D puts a restraining order on the killer T-cells. [91].

Ways to Alleviate Immune System Dysfunction

Allergic 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.

1. 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. 

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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. [92].

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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. [93]. 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. [94]. 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. [95]. 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. [96]. Antioxidants play a role in protecting brain tissue from oxidation, [97]. 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. [98].

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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. [99]. 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. [100].

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. [101]. 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. [102]. 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. [103]. 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. [104].

High-Glycemic Diet. High insulin levels stimulate a protein called tau, 

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which tangles brain cells into Alzheimer knots. [105]. 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. [106]. 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. [108].

Low Consumption of Plant Micronutrients. High levels of homocysteine increase brain inflammation and are a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. [109]. A high intake of plant food micronutrients is required to clear homocysteine from the blood.

Lowering 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. [110]. Both a high consumption of omega-3 oils, including fish and fish oils, [111]. and the absence of saturated fats help lower your risk. [112].

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. [113]. A low-calorie diet is also protective [114] and it is important to avoid a high-glycemic diet.

High 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. [115]. Alzheimer’s patients have lower antioxidant levels in their blood than healthy people; [116]. 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. [117]. A vegetarian diet is less risky than a high-meat diet for Alzheimer’s disease. [118].

Physical Exercise. 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. [119]. 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

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production 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 does too.

Brain Exercise. ”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.

Can 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. [120].  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.”

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD 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?

Some 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. [121]. So, too, are those who consume a lot of sugar. [122]. Additives have also been linked to ADHD. [123] 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. [124].

At 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. [125].

Other studies find that ADHD sufferers have low essential fatty acids, [126]. par-

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ticularly a poor omega-3 intake, [127]. and an imbalance of omega-6 oils. [128]. They have micronutrient deficiencies in minerals such as zinc, iron, and magnesium. [129].

There 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. [130].

ADHD 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.


In the past century, the prevalence of severe depression has increased dramatically, as much as 20-fold since 1945. [131]. Not only have the numbers risen, sufferers are getting younger, with more cases reported in adolescents and young adults. [132]. These increases are not due to better diagnosis—rather, there has been a genuine rise in the numbers of individuals suffering from depression. [133]. 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 occurred simultaneously.

Essential 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 much.

Post-natal depression is 50 times more common in countries with low levels of seafood consumption. [134]. Eskimos, when they abandon their traditional, omega-3-rich fish diet for industrial foods, suffer more depression. [135]. Another study on Finns, which compared high fish consumers with those who were not, had a similar result. [136].

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What 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. [137]. Many other studies have confirmed the importance of boosting omega-3 consumption and driving omega-6 down. [138].

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.[139].

Blood 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.”

Lifestyle Connection. 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. [140]. Sunlight even helps the body clock stay synchronized. Exercise, particularly with depressed people, helps lift them out of their moodiness. [141]. 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.

There 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.


The 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

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century. 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. [142]. According to the World Health Organization, “This undoubtedly means that environment plays a crucial role as an outcome determinant in schizophrenia.” [143].

Essential 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. [144]. One of the fish oils, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), seems to play a crucial role. [145]. 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. [146].

Sugar Connection. 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.” [147].

Antinutrient and Allergen Connection. A number of studies suggest a link between schizophrenia and the consumption of grains. [148]. Furthermore, the incidence of schizophrenia is 30 times greater in patients with celiac disease (gluten allergy). [149]. The same analysis that found links with sugar intake also found connections with dairy intake. [150]. Similarly, a milk-free diet yields much quicker remission. [151].

The 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.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinsonism 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

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movement, 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 Parkinson’s disease.

Allergen Connection. A number of studies point to dairy consumption as a major risk factor. [152]. 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. [153].

Low 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. [154]. 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. [155]. 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 the brain?

Bad Fat Connection. Many studies conclude that diets high in animal fat are associated with a substantial increase in risk for Parkinson’s disease. [156].

Parkinson’s 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. [157]. 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.

Autism The 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. [158]. 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. [159]. Grains, notably the allergen gluten, are another. [160]. “Bad” bacteria in an unhealthy colon release toxins that favor autism. [161].

There 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

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brain 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. [162]. 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.

Achieving Brain Health

The 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 us.

Already 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.

That 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.

The 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.

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Obesity 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.

Unlike 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.

Hunger Signals

Our bodies rely on a complex interplay of signals to regulate food consumption. Hormones and nerves are constantly relaying “eat” or “don’t eat” messages to our brain and back again to various parts of our digestive system. [163]. The details of this “chaotic” system are still not fully known and they are extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to analyze. However, one thing is clear: a wide variety of factors disturb the naturally adapted “eat” or “don’t eat” instructions. To date, two dozen chemical agents have been identified that stimulate appetite, and a similar number that suppress appetite. These agents, many of them hormones, have names like ghrelin, PYY, agouti, and leptin. These complex signals get misrouted when we live in ways they do not recognize. For example, compared with other people, the obese remain hungry longer and don’t feel full as quickly. [164]. Lack of sleep generates signals that drive up hunger pangs. [165].

Pharmaceutical companies are trying to find drugs to change these signals, but with little prospect of success. The chaotic nature of the interactions means that they cannot be micromanaged. Of course, we advocate dealing with root causes and not trying to second-guess nature. Appetite signals go haywire because our whole lifestyle is out of whack. Get it back into line with the Savanna Model and appetite sensations will fall into line too.

Today, 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 the

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fridge 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 we eat.


Carrying 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. [166].

In 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 food.

There 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.

In 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.

The 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-

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tions 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 insulin.

So, 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 amounts.

Finally, 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. [167]. 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.

Our 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 all.

Seven Ways to Reduce Obesity

These steps for reducing obesity are all in accordance with the Savanna Model.

1. Consume a strictly low-glycemic diet (no starches or sugars).

2. Adopt a low-fat diet.

3. Consume protein-rich foods modestly.

4. 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.

5. 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

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more 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. [168]. In particular, glucagon is encouraged to withdraw fat from the fat-cell bank. Physical activity also suppresses appetite, especially in obese people. [169].

6. Feel hungry several times a day.

7. Get proper sleep.


Diabetes 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 disease.

Type 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 ailments.

Diabetes 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 of  

Insulin Medication

An outstanding event of early 20th century medicine was the discovery of insulin by the Canadians Sir Frederick Banting, Charles H. Best, and J.J.R. Macleod in 1921. Almost overnight, the fate of diabetics changed from a sentence of almost certain death to a prospect of a long and healthy life. For many decades, it was thought that insulin was a miracle cure. However, the medical establishment has come to realize that there is a dark side to insulin injections. As a powerful hormone, insulin acts on all sorts of other body functions that give rise to the higher risk of cardiovascular and many other diseases. Perhaps half the number of diabetics do not actually need insulin injections at all. In spite of that, their risks are hardly lower. They still have insulin levels out of control and similar risks of disease.<

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 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 [170]. 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 [171].

Diabetes was unknown among hunter-gatherers like the San Bushman and the Australian Aborigines. [172]. 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. [173].

Eskimos, Aborigines, Polynesians, and American Indians develop high rates of diabetes as soon as they adopt a Western diet. [174]. 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. [175]. 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 societies.

So, 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. [176]. Everyone on this planet could avoid type 2 diabetes if they adopted a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

The 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.

Ways to Beat Back Diabetes

1. Consume a low-glycemic diet. This is by far the most important action you

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can take. The Savanna Model is not only right for diabetics in this regard, it is right for every human on the planet.

2. Exercise has a restorative effect on glucose tolerance. Read chapter 8 and make sure that you exercise at least to the minimum shown there.

3. Lose weight! Diabetics find that their blood sugar is much better controlled when their body fat percentage is down to hunter-gatherer levels.

4. 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. [177]. These confirm other studies suggesting that insulin sensitivity is improved when omega-3 intake is increased. [178]. Follow the Savanna Model and make sure you have the omega-6 to omega-3 intakes in balance.

5. Reduce total consumption of fat and saturated fat. Studies show high levels of fat and of saturated fat are risk factors. [179].

6. Have a good consumption of soluble plant fiber and antioxidants from plant food. [180].

7. Avoid smoking. Studies on smokers show that they have double the risk of developing diabetes compared to non-smokers and former smokers. [181].

8. Get enough sunshine. Studies show that diabetes is aggravated by a deficiency of the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D. [182]. 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.


Bone 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 collagen.

In 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

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understand why this girder-thinning happens, let’s look at how the bone latticework is supposed to be maintained.

Bone 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.

Osteoblasts 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.

One 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 calcium out.

We 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 “chaotic” system.

So, 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.

Contrary 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. [183]. Researchers found no signs of osteoporosis in the San Bushmen, even though they do not drink milk or swallow calcium pills. [184]. The populations of

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Asia and Africa who, although consuming low levels of calcium, nevertheless do not suffer from bone fractures. [185]. 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), [186]. in the kidneys (as stones), [187]. 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.

There 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.

Osteoporosis 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?

Factors in the Development of Osteoporosis

Factor 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.” [188]. 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.

Factor 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. [189]. There are over 20,000 active compounds

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in 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. [190]. Vitamin K, readily found in leafy vegetables, is a powerful bone-building helper. [191]. 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.

Factor 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. [192]. 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.

Factor 4—Excess Salt. 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. [193]. The ratio between salt and the mineral potassium should be kept at no more than 1 to 5. [194]. 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.

Factor 5—Excess Phosphorus. 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. [195].

Factor 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.

Factor 7—Lack of Physical Activity. Lack of suitable physical activity is

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a 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. [196]. In contrast, people who do little activity (astronauts in space are an extreme example) find that their bones start to dissolve.

Factor 8—Grains. The antinutrients in grains and their acidification of the blood can encourage osteoporosis. [197]. The effect is particularly marked in those who have acute sensitivity to gluten. [198].

Factor 9—High Blood Sugar. High blood sugar levels, notably in diabetics, can aggravate osteoporosis. [199].

Factor 10—Alcohol Abuse. Chronic alcoholism and even binge drinking destroy bones. [200].

Factor 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.

Factor 12—Iron Overload. 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.

Factor 13—Calcium Overload. 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, [201]. and toxic levels of blood calcium leading to kidney failure. [202].

Factor 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 osteoporosis. [203].

Some Reassurances About Osteoporosis

Changing 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.

Fluoride. The savannas of east Africa are regions of high fluoride availability, particularly in the water. In such circumstances, we would predict that the

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human organism came to depend on it. Indeed, tests show that the human skeleton does well on a good fluoride intake. [204]. 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.

Caffeine. Moderate consumption of caffeine, such as two cups of American coffee per day, is harmless to calcium metabolism. [205].

Alcohol. Moderate consumption of alcohol, such as one glass of wine per day, is innocuous and can even be modestly helpful. [206].

Estrogen Therapy. 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.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding. 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 calcium intake.

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. [207]. 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. [208]. Even though doctors conventionally prescribe calcium pills during this time, they are ineffective and can even be harmful. [209]. 

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. [210]. 


This book has been a quest to discover our human heritage, notably as it applies

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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. 

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