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Old 08-24-2009, 08:18 AM
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Possible to thrive on a meat-only diet?


I often hear of the Inuit eating a diet based primarily on arctic animals and sea life. Does this mean they don't eat ANY vegetables at all during an average year?

If so, are they healthy? How do they get their fiber, vitamins, etc.? Are there examples of this in other countries or cultures, and does this require special genetic adaptations, or...?

(Atkins would be proud )
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Old 08-24-2009, 08:48 AM
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I often hear of the Inuit eating a diet based primarily on arctic animals and sea life. Does this mean they don't eat ANY vegetables at all during an average year?

If so, are they healthy? How do they get their fiber, vitamins, etc.? Are there examples of this in other countries or cultures, and does this require special genetic adaptations, or...?

(Atkins would be proud )
Vitamins are plentiful if you eat the right parts of the animal -- most are stored in either the liver or fat. You just have to go straight for the organ meats, instead of throwing them out like we do. Muscle has lots of protein, and is more palatable to the modern tongue, but otherwise isn't as nutritious as the rest of the animal.

And I think that humans can survive without fiber.
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Old 08-24-2009, 09:07 AM
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Cuz I was curious, I found this article from Discover magazine which answers your question in a lot of depth.

Short answer: Vitamins A and D are plentiful in the fats and organ meats. Vitamin C isn't plentiful by our standards, but you can get enough. Something like one eighth of our "recommended daily allowance" of vitamin C is enough to ward off scurvy.

And eating nothing but protein can lead to toxicity, so the Inuit have to get most of their calories from fat.

Last edited by lazybratsche; 08-24-2009 at 09:08 AM.
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Old 08-24-2009, 11:43 AM
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Owsley Stanly has eaten nothing but meat, eggs, and dairy products for the last 50 years (he was born in 1935) and is still reasonably healthy.
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Old 08-24-2009, 01:52 PM
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They did gather some roots and berries and ate the stomach contents of caribou.

Raw or very rare meat has some Vitamin C.

Fat will act as a fiber substitute.

The fats from wild game are hwaaaay better for you than fats from feedlot fattened animals or those horrible partially hydrogenated fats, aka trans fats.

Great cite, lazybratsche.
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Old 08-24-2009, 02:02 PM
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The fats from wild game are hwaaaay better for you than fats from feedlot fattened animals or those horrible partially hydrogenated fats, aka trans fats.
Almost anything's better for you than trans fats, but could we have a cite that some natural animal fats are better than others?
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Old 08-24-2009, 02:22 PM
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Almost anything's better for you than trans fats, but could we have a cite that some natural animal fats are better than others?
Well, for starters, modern corn-fed beef have higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids, are thought to play a role in inflammation. Animals fed on grass (and by extension I'd presume wild diets) don't exhibit this.
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Old 08-24-2009, 02:25 PM
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Almost anything's better for you than trans fats, but could we have a cite that some natural animal fats are better than others?
From the cite by lazybratsche:


"A key difference in the typical Nunavik Inuitís diet is that more than 50 percent of the calories in Inuit native foods come from fats. Much more important, the fats come from wild animals.....

Wild-animal fats are different from both farm-animal fats and processed fats, says Dewailly. Farm animals, cooped up and stuffed with agricultural grains (carbohydrates) typically have lots of solid, highly saturated fat.
Wild animals that range freely and eat what nature intended, says Dewailly, have fat that is far more healthful. Less of their fat is saturated, and more of it is in the monounsaturated form (like olive oil). Whatís more, cold-water fishes and sea mammals are particularly rich in polyunsaturated fats called n-3 fatty acids or omega-3 fatty acids. These fats appear to benefit the heart and vascular system. But the polyunsaturated fats in most Americansí diets are the omega-6 fatty acids supplied by vegetable oils. By contrast, whale blubber consists of 70 percent monounsaturated fat and close to 30 percent omega-3s, says Dewailly"
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Old 08-25-2009, 02:11 AM
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Hunter-gatherers don't eat meat, they eat animals. Lean muscle tissue is the least desirable part of an animal for them while fat, in the form of subcutaneous and organ fat, marrow, brain etc. is where it's at. Eating just lean meat will quickly lead to severe diarrea and death ("rabbit starvation"). Fat dissipates protein toxicity, tastes better and contains more energy. Also, I can attest from personal experience that nothing boosts one's morale in the cold winter woods more than a mouthful of hot animal fat.

Arctic plants have a much higher vitamin C content than their more southern relatives: a little goes a long way. Arctic sea mammals have appreciable vitamin C in their raw skin, as well.
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Old 08-25-2009, 02:49 AM
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Unca Cecil on Eskimos and the all meat diet
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Old 08-25-2009, 06:49 PM
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In Western Alaska the natives got some berries from somewhere and beat them up with fat and made a candy bar like treat that was very popular with those who wanted to try the old traditional foods.

A curiosity that I have never seen explained, in the records found in transcription at the UAF library, the early European explorers reported scurvy worse in the late fall and early spring than it was in midwinter. I never found where anyone conjectured an explanation.

Last edited by janeslogin; 08-25-2009 at 06:50 PM.
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Old 08-25-2009, 06:53 PM
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Still, aren't there long-term complications from a high-protein diet?
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Old 08-25-2009, 07:17 PM
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Also keep in mind that eating a lot of fat and other high-calory foods is offset by the need to keep warm and work in extremely cold climates. Though I don't know how that relates to protein.
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Old 08-26-2009, 01:32 AM
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Still, aren't there long-term complications from a high-protein diet?
None that have been shown through solid studies or that don't have other likely proximate causes.
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Old 08-26-2009, 02:00 AM
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A curiosity that I have never seen explained, in the records found in transcription at the UAF library, the early European explorers reported scurvy worse in the late fall and early spring than it was in midwinter. I never found where anyone conjectured an explanation.
Early spring is exactly when I would expect scurvy to be worst. The body doesn't store vitamin C, but it takes along time to deplete the stuff in circulation and for the symptoms of deficiency to be seen. So you would expect the symptoms to be worst at the end of a prolonged period without vegetable foods, which would logically be the end of winter and beginning of spring. Most of the common edible plants aren't available until late spring or early summer at the earliest, so in early spring you would have had 6 months of so of no fresh vegetables available.

Late autumn is harder to explain. One would assume that by this stage an explorer living off the land would have been making the most of the berry harvest for several weeks at least, and other plant foods for several months.
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Old 08-26-2009, 08:15 AM
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A couple more quotes from the article I cited.

On Vitamin C sources:

Quote:
Thick skinned, chewy, and collagen rich, raw muktuk [whale skin and blubber] can serve up an impressive 36 milligrams in a 100-gram piece, according to Fediuk’s analyses. “Weight for weight, it’s as good as orange juice,” she says. Traditional Inuit practices like freezing meat and fish and frequently eating them raw, she notes, conserve vitamin C, which is easily cooked off and lost in food processing.
On the limits for protein consumption:

Quote:
In general, hunter-gatherers tend to eat more animal protein than we do in our standard Western diet, with its reliance on agriculture and carbohydrates derived from grains and starchy plants. Lowest of all in carbohydrate, and highest in combined fat and protein, are the diets of peoples living in the Far North, where they make up for fewer plant foods with extra fish. What’s equally striking, though, says Cordain, is that these meat-and-fish diets also exhibit a natural “protein ceiling.” Protein accounts for no more than 35 to 40 percent of their total calories, which suggests to him that’s all the protein humans can comfortably handle.

This ceiling, Cordain thinks, could be imposed by the way we process protein for energy. The simplest, fastest way to make energy is to convert carbohydrates into glucose, our body’s primary fuel. But if the body is out of carbs, it can burn fat, or if necessary, break down protein. The name given to the convoluted business of making glucose from protein is gluconeogenesis. It takes place in the liver, uses a dizzying slew of enzymes, and creates nitrogen waste that has to be converted into urea and disposed of through the kidneys. On a truly traditional diet, says Draper, recalling his studies in the 1970s, Arctic people had plenty of protein but little carbohydrate, so they often relied on gluconeogenesis. Not only did they have bigger livers to handle the additional work but their urine volumes were also typically larger to get rid of the extra urea. Nonetheless, there appears to be a limit on how much protein the human liver can safely cope with: Too much overwhelms the liver’s waste-disposal system, leading to protein poisoning—nausea, diarrhea, wasting, and death.
The way I would read that is that there's a limit to daily protein consumption, but as long as you're under that limit there won't be long-term effects.
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