Jan 31, 2018

Zero Carb - Month 1

I haven't blogged in a while. Life seems to get busier the older I get. But I do have a new topic I'd like to record.

Zero Carb.

It's a shitty name for a relatively poorly marketed idea. The idea is pretty simple. To optimize health we should only eat from the animal kingdom. Anything goes. Beef, lamb, fish, pork. But also organ meats, skin, insects, etc. I would say there are two types of practitioners of ZC. The first tends to just eat traditional muscle meats. The second tends to incorporate lots of non-muscle meat with a focus on liver.

Both camps tend to view plant foods as potentially problematic from both an inflammatory perspective and from a low nutrition perspective. I would say almost everyone I've read used to be a vegetarian or vegan. And many of these people had chronic health problems. ZC was their attempt at finding a solution.

There are two intriguing things about this diet.
  1. Everyone seems to find the ZC diet fixes their issues.
  2. No one I know that does ZC goes back to a more normal diet. 
This is all the more amazing because the diet is seemingly very restrictive. The ailments I'm seeing vary from depression to skin diseases/issues to chronic and worrying GI tract issues. In some cases these ailments have had significant and deep impacts on their lives. And ZC was tried almost out of exasperation in many cases. But it's telling that it has worked for these people. And others have gone on to suggest it gets rid of their grey hair and their skin improves and so forth. It's intriguing right?

So what does the science say? It says nothing. This is such a wacky diet that no one really bothers to do research on it. And in some cases it does seem that some people need to be exceptionally strict for the positive results to show themselves. Any amount of vegetable matter throws them back into the recurring ailment loop.

So what are the reasons this might work? There are a few that I've heard.
  1. Caveman Grok did not idly find broccoli and wheat and cabbage and carrots around and was unlikely to have eaten them in bulk. Some anthropologists also contend that we weren't good hunters and probably we tended to feast on picked over carcasses which means we used our brains to open up skulls and bones instead of eating muscle meat. As humans we are likely omnivores but our energy expensive brains require more than foraging. We need fat. Cows eat all day for a reason. Grass has low energy value but they don't have big hungry brains so it works. Supporting a large brain likely moved us up the food chain to denser energy packs (e.g., animals). We also have quite a different GI tract than our nearest ancestors the simians. Like cows, apes have anatomical structures (go read about cecum) to facilitate bacterial consumption of plant life. These bacteria generally convert plant life into fats that these animals' bodies absorb. We don't really have that infrastructure anymore. We don't seem designed to be purely vegetarian or even mildly vegetarian.
  2. If you were starting from scratch and you had to build a human in a laboratory would you gather up plants or other mammals. In other words why do we think humans would benefit from human phytochemicals and chlorophyll and other things in plants? The raw materials for building mammals is the same.  The bioavailability of those chemicals in animals is enormous compared to plants. The energy density is much higher. In fact it's clear from a micronutrient perspective animal foods are much better for us.
  3. All of the research suggesting meat is bad for you is wrong. I truly believe this. It is all epidemiological and plain wrong. 
  4. Most of the plants in the world are poisonous to us. We can't eat most tomatoes or potatoes or mushrooms. They will kill us. They employ alkaloids, cyanogenic glycosides, terpenoids, phenolics. You wouldn't go outside and start eating most plants. In fact 99% of the plants in the vicinity of where you leave would kill you or make you sick. Plants don't want to be eaten but they have no mobility so they generally create toxicity and poisons as a way of stopping things from eating them. Animals also don't want to be eaten but they use other methods such as mobility, intelligence, and breeding to maintain their gene pool. Why do we think plants are good? We believe they are natural and clean and healthy. But we don't really have any good fundamental research to prove it. Again people are using epidemiological studies to show they are healthy. I would argue these experiments are all confounded. There is one study that was done attempting to show vegetables and green tea reduced oxidative stress but actually proved the opposite. Removal of fruits and vegetables REDUCED oxidative stress. This makes complete sense to me because you are removing a chemically inflammatory food.
  5. Fiber probably isn't necessary or even good for us. Fiber is ironically clearly tied to inflammatory bowel diseases. Isn't fiber necessary for your gut bacteria? Possibly if you are eating fiber but if you don't eat fiber there's actually no need for it. In fact mice with bacteria free guts live longer and have healthier metabolisms.
  6. Many cultures were effectively ZC including Inuits, Plains Indians, Masai, Mongolians, and South American gauchos.
So now what? Well I think like all things in health we just don't know. There's only one way to find something out, and that is to do self-experiments and to be honest and objective about the results.

To that end I started a ZC diet on 1/1/2018. It's been almost exactly one month. I mainly eat ribeyes and ground beef. I tend to salt and pepper and butter it. I do eat pate for the liver component. I drink coffee (plant based) and Diet Coke and water. I also eat eggs, cheese, and sardines (which contains olive oil). So not perfectly ZC but close. What have I noticed?
  1. I don't notice much of a change health wise. I don't notice changes in skin or joints or hair or anything at this point. I'll keep monitoring it but so far nothing.
  2. I have lost some weight as you'd expect. But I get that eating plants too as long as I'm low-carb.
  3. I have better energy levels as you'd expect. Again low-carb does this.
  4. My GI system went haywire for literally 1 month. It has only just settled down. You might think this is related to no fiber and it probably is in a weird way. I'm guessing a lot of my gut biome died. Given today's headline that might be considered bad but I'm not so sure. I think it may be tautological that since we have fiber gut bacteria we need to keep feeding them.
  5. I believe, although it's hard to tell, that my body odor has decreased significantly. If I don't shower for 2 days for example I don't notice an intense gaminess that used to be present in that time frame.
  6. Life is easier on ZC. That may be surprising but it's easier to shop, cook, and I eat a lot less. And perhaps most surprisingly I think it's actually cheaper. I tend to waste zero food. I eat a lot of muscle meat and I don't trim and I eat all the fat. Nothing really goes in the garbage. If I buy too much then I tend to eat it all and not eat much the next day. All told, and with a good eye for deals nowadays, I spend about $10 per day on food.
  7. I don't crave anything anymore. I don't even think about bread items or sugar. Not at all. If you surrounded me in carbs I wouldn't be tempted in the least.
My plans are to keep trying this for 4 months. Some people claim you need to do it for 6 months to see real changes but I think 4 should be plenty.  Tomorrow I'm going to remove dairy and start an exercise regime. I think in March I'll quit coffee which by definition is plant based. I'll make another post at the end of February.

More information? I like Amber O'Hearn because she's measured and reasonably fact-based. A lot of people in the ZC community are not surprisingly over-the-top and frankly don't understand science. They just know it works but that doesn't help me get educated.

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